How to Serve a Five Day Notice in Virginia

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All states set terms for how a landlord can evict a tenant, and Virginia is no exception. It’s illegal to try to force a tenant off the premises without going through the proper legal channels, and doing so can cause the court to order the landlord to pay damages.

A landlord must receive approval from a Virginia judge to evict anyone from their property, and she must take certain steps to be able to get to court in the first place. The first of those steps is the five-day notice.

What Is a Five-Day Notice to a Tenant in Virginia?

The actual document is called a five-day "pay or quit" notice. As the name suggests, a five-day notice gives a tenant five days to pay his rent, and it advises him that the landlord will proceed to court with an eviction action if he doesn’t. This type of notice is only applicable to evictions based on nonpayment of rent.

The tenant has five days to either pay up or “quit” the premises by moving out. Saturdays, Sundays and holidays count unless they fall on the fifth day. In this case, the notice is valid through the next business day.

The five-day letter notice must provide all identifying information for the landlord, the landlord’s agent if applicable, the tenant and the dwelling. It must cite the date that it’s served on the tenant and clearly state that the tenant has failed to pay rent. It should identify the total amount due and to whom the money should be paid, and it must give the tenant five days to pay before the landlord will begin an eviction action. It should state the exact date of the fifth day.

Additional Statements and Documents

Unless the rental agreement provides for attorneys' fees, the landlord should also let the tenant know in the five-day letter if the landlord intends to seek attorney’s fees when and if they have to file an eviction action.

Landlords have the option of accepting rent during the five-day period “with reservation,” and this should be clearly stated in a separate document that accompanies the five-day notice. This means the landlord is reserving the right to evict even if rent is paid, typically because some other issue with the tenancy also exists and needs to be resolved.

How to Serve the Notice

Landlords have multiple options for service of a five-day notice. Perhaps the most foolproof is asking the county sheriff to deliver it for a small fee. Landlords can contact their local sheriff’s department to determine any procedural requirements that must be met, as they might vary by county.

Landlords can also mail the notice, and they might be best off using certified mail, return receipt requested. The date of mailing should be included in the five-day notice, and the landlord must file a “certificate of service” with the court. The certificate of service states, under penalty of perjury, that the notice was indeed mailed, as well as the date.

There’s no rule saying that landlords can’t personally hand deliver the notice, and they can even post it in a conspicuous place on the property as well, but they should also mail a copy by certified mail if they use this option and file a certificate of service.

What Happens Next?

The matter is considered resolved if the tenant pays up within five days, including any attorneys' fees, court costs or late fees – provided that the landlord hasn't also issued a statement of acceptance of the rent with reservation. This is called exercising the tenant's right of redemption.

The tenant can remain in residence after redemption, but they only have this right once every 12 months. If the tenant does it again, the process starts over, and the landlord can begin an eviction action with the court if the tenant doesn't comply with the five-day notice.

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