Code of Virginia

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Code of Virginia
Title 55.1. Property and Conveyances
Chapter 12. Virginia Residential Landlord and Tenant Act
10/22/2021

Article 1. General Provisions.

§ 55.1-1200. Definitions.

As used in this chapter, unless the context requires a different meaning:

"Action" means any recoupment, counterclaim, setoff, or other civil action and any other proceeding in which rights are determined, including actions for possession, rent, unlawful detainer, unlawful entry, and distress for rent.

"Application deposit" means any refundable deposit of money, however denominated, including all money intended to be used as a security deposit under a rental agreement, or property, that is paid by a tenant to a landlord for the purpose of being considered as a tenant for a dwelling unit.

"Application fee" means any nonrefundable fee that is paid by a tenant to a landlord or managing agent for the purpose of being considered as a tenant for a dwelling unit.

"Assignment" means the transfer by any tenant of all interests created by a rental agreement.

"Authorized occupant" means a person entitled to occupy a dwelling unit with the consent of the landlord, but who has not signed the rental agreement and therefore does not have the financial obligations as a tenant under the rental agreement.

"Building or housing code" means any law, ordinance, or governmental regulation concerning fitness for habitation or the construction, maintenance, operation, occupancy, use, or appearance of any structure or that part of a structure that is used as a home, residence, or sleeping place by one person who maintains a household or by two or more persons who maintain a common household.

"Commencement date of rental agreement" means the date upon which the tenant is entitled to occupy the dwelling unit as a tenant.

"Community land trust" means a community housing development organization whose (i) corporate membership is open to any adult resident or organization of a particular geographic area specified in the bylaws of the organization and (ii) board of directors includes a majority of members who are elected by the corporate membership and are composed of tenants, corporate members who are not tenants, and any other category of persons specified in the bylaws of the organization and that:

1. Is not sponsored by a for-profit organization;

2. Acquires parcels of land, held in perpetuity, primarily for conveyance under long-term ground leases;

3. Transfers ownership of any structural improvements located on such leased parcels to the tenant; and

4. Retains a preemptive option to purchase any such structural improvement at a price determined by formula that is designed to ensure that the improvement remains affordable to low-income and moderate-income families in perpetuity.

"Damage insurance" means a bond or commercial insurance coverage as specified in the rental agreement to secure the performance by the tenant of the terms and conditions of the rental agreement and to replace all or part of a security deposit.

"Dwelling unit" means a structure or part of a structure that is used as a home or residence by one or more persons who maintain a household, including a manufactured home, as defined in § 55.1-1300.

"Effective date of rental agreement" means the date on which the rental agreement is signed by the landlord and the tenant obligating each party to the terms and conditions of the rental agreement.

"Essential service" includes heat, running water, hot water, electricity, and gas.

"Facility" means something that is built, constructed, installed, or established to perform some particular function.

"Good faith" means honesty in fact in the conduct of the transaction concerned.

"Guest or invitee" means a person, other than the tenant or an authorized occupant, who has the permission of the tenant to visit but not to occupy the premises.

"Interior of the dwelling unit" means the inside of the dwelling unit, consisting of interior walls, floor, and ceiling, that enclose the dwelling unit as conditioned space from the outside air.

"Landlord" means the owner, lessor, or sublessor of the dwelling unit or the building of which such dwelling unit is a part. "Landlord" also includes a managing agent of the premises who fails to disclose the name of such owner, lessor, or sublessor. Such managing agent shall be subject to the provisions of § 16.1-88.03. "Landlord" does not include a community land trust.

"Managing agent" means the person authorized by the landlord to act as the property manager on behalf of the landlord pursuant to the written property management agreement.

"Mold remediation in accordance with professional standards" means mold remediation of that portion of the dwelling unit or premises affected by mold, or any personal property of the tenant affected by mold, performed consistent with guidance documents published by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, or the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (Bioaerosols: Assessment and Control); Standard and Reference Guides of the Institute of Inspection, Cleaning and Restoration Certification (IICRC) for Professional Water Damage Restoration and Professional Mold Remediation; or any protocol for mold remediation prepared by an industrial hygienist consistent with such guidance documents.

"Multifamily dwelling unit" means more than one single-family dwelling unit located in a building. However, nothing in this definition shall be construed to apply to any nonresidential space in such building.

"Natural person," wherever the chapter refers to an owner as a "natural person," includes co-owners who are natural persons, either as tenants in common, joint tenants, tenants in partnership, tenants by the entirety, trustees or beneficiaries of a trust, general partnerships, limited liability partnerships, registered limited liability partnerships or limited liability companies, or any other lawful combination of natural persons permitted by law.

"Notice" means notice given in writing by either regular mail or hand delivery, with the sender retaining sufficient proof of having given such notice in the form of a certificate of service confirming such mailing prepared by the sender. However, a person shall be deemed to have notice of a fact if he has actual knowledge of it, he has received a verbal notice of it, or, from all of the facts and circumstances known to him at the time in question, he has reason to know it exists. A person "notifies" or "gives" a notice or notification to another by taking steps reasonably calculated to inform another person, whether or not the other person actually comes to know of it. If notice is given that is not in writing, the person giving the notice has the burden of proof to show that the notice was given to the recipient of the notice.

"Organization" means a corporation, government, governmental subdivision or agency, business trust, estate, trust, partnership, or association; two or more persons having a joint or common interest; any combination thereof; and any other legal or commercial entity.

"Owner" means one or more persons or entities, jointly or severally, including a mortgagee in possession, in whom is vested:

1. All or part of the legal title to the property; or

2. All or part of the beneficial ownership and a right to present use and enjoyment of the premises.

"Person" means any individual, group of individuals, corporation, partnership, business trust, association, or other legal entity, or any combination thereof.

"Premises" means a dwelling unit and the structure of which it is a part, facilities and appurtenances contained therein, and grounds, areas, and facilities held out for the use of tenants generally or whose use is promised to the tenant.

"Processing fee for payment of rent with bad check" means the processing fee specified in the rental agreement, not to exceed $50, assessed by a landlord against a tenant for payment of rent with a check drawn by the tenant on which payment has been refused by the payor bank because the drawer had no account or insufficient funds.

"Readily accessible" means areas within the interior of the dwelling unit available for observation at the time of the move-in inspection that do not require removal of materials, personal property, equipment, or similar items.

"Rent" means all money, other than a security deposit, owed or paid to the landlord under the rental agreement, including prepaid rent paid more than one month in advance of the rent due date.

"Rental agreement" or "lease agreement" means all rental agreements, written or oral, and valid rules and regulations adopted under § 55.1-1228 embodying the terms and conditions concerning the use and occupancy of a dwelling unit and premises.

"Rental application" means the written application or similar document used by a landlord to determine if a prospective tenant is qualified to become a tenant of a dwelling unit.

"Renter's insurance" means insurance coverage specified in the rental agreement that is a combination multi-peril policy containing fire, miscellaneous property, and personal liability coverage insuring personal property located in dwelling units not occupied by the owner.

"Residential tenancy" means a tenancy that is based on a rental agreement between a landlord and a tenant for a dwelling unit.

"Roomer" means a person occupying a dwelling unit that lacks a major bathroom or kitchen facility, in a structure where one or more major facilities are used in common by occupants of the dwelling unit and other dwelling units. "Major facility" in the case of a bathroom means a toilet and either a bath or shower and in the case of a kitchen means a refrigerator, stove, or sink.

"Security deposit" means any refundable deposit of money that is furnished by a tenant to a landlord to secure the performance of the terms and conditions of a rental agreement, as a security for damages to the leased premises, or as a pet deposit. However, such money shall be deemed an application deposit until the commencement date of the rental agreement. "Security deposit" does not include a damage insurance policy or renter's insurance policy, as those terms are defined in § 55.1-1206, purchased by a landlord to provide coverage for a tenant.

"Single-family residence" means a structure, other than a multifamily residential structure, maintained and used as a single dwelling unit, condominium unit, or any other dwelling unit that has direct access to a street or thoroughfare and does not share heating facilities, hot water equipment, or any other essential facility or essential service with any other dwelling unit.

"Sublease" means the transfer by any tenant of any but not all interests created by a rental agreement.

"Tenant" means a person entitled only under the terms of a rental agreement to occupy a dwelling unit to the exclusion of others and includes a roomer. "Tenant" does not include (i) an authorized occupant, (ii) a guest or invitee, or (iii) any person who guarantees or cosigns the payment of the financial obligations of a rental agreement but has no right to occupy a dwelling unit.

"Tenant records" means all information, including financial, maintenance, and other records about a tenant or prospective tenant, whether such information is in written or electronic form or any other medium.

"Utility" means electricity, natural gas, or water and sewer provided by a public service corporation or such other person providing utility services as permitted under § 56-1.2. If the rental agreement so provides, a landlord may use submetering equipment or energy allocation equipment as defined in § 56-245.2 or a ratio utility billing system as defined in § 55.1-1212.

"Visible evidence of mold" means the existence of mold in the dwelling unit that is visible to the naked eye by the landlord or tenant in areas within the interior of the dwelling unit readily accessible at the time of the move-in inspection.

"Written notice" means notice given in accordance with § 55.1-1202, including any representation of words, letters, symbols, numbers, or figures, whether (i) printed in or inscribed on a tangible medium or (ii) stored in an electronic form or any other medium, retrievable in a perceivable form, and regardless of whether an electronic signature authorized by the Uniform Electronic Transactions Act (§ 59.1-479 et seq.) is affixed.

1974, c. 680, § 55-248.4; 1977, c. 427; 1987, c. 428; 1990, c. 55; 1991, c. 205; 1999, cc. 77, 258, 359, 390; 2000, cc. 760, 816; 2002, c. 531; 2003, cc. 355, 425, 855; 2004, c. 123; 2007, c. 634; 2008, cc. 489, 640; 2010, cc. 180, 550, § 55-221.1; 2012, c. 788; 2013, c. 563; 2014, c. 651; 2015, c. 596; 2016, c. 744; 2017, c. 730; 2019, cc. 5, 45, 477; 2021, Sp. Sess. I, c. 427.

§ 55.1-1201. Applicability of chapter; local authority.

A. This chapter shall apply to all jurisdictions in the Commonwealth and may not be waived or otherwise modified, in whole or in part, by the governing body of any locality or its boards or commissions or other instrumentalities or by the courts of the Commonwealth. Occupancy in a public housing unit or other housing unit that is a dwelling unit is subject to this chapter; however, if the provisions of this chapter are inconsistent with the regulations of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, such regulations shall control.

B. The provisions of this chapter shall apply to occupancy in all single-family and multifamily dwelling units and multifamily dwelling units located in the Commonwealth.

C. The following tenancies and occupancies are not residential tenancies under this chapter:

1. Residence at a public or private institution, if incidental to detention or the provision of medical, geriatric, educational, counseling, religious, or similar services;

2. Occupancy by a member of a fraternal or social organization in the portion of a structure operated for the benefit of the organization;

3. Occupancy by an owner of a condominium unit or a holder of a proprietary lease in a cooperative;

4. Occupancy in a campground as defined in § 35.1-1;

5. Occupancy by a tenant who pays no rent pursuant to a rental agreement;

6. Occupancy by an employee of a landlord whose right to occupancy in a multifamily dwelling unit is conditioned upon employment in and about the premises or a former employee whose occupancy continues less than 60 days; or

7. Occupancy under a contract of sale of a dwelling unit or the property of which it is a part, if the occupant is the purchaser or a person who succeeds to his interest.

D. The following provisions apply to occupancy in a hotel, motel, extended stay facility, etc.:

1. A guest who is an occupant of a hotel, motel, extended stay facility, vacation residential facility, including those governed by the Virginia Real Estate Time-Share Act (§ 55.1-2200 et seq.), boardinghouse, or similar transient lodging shall not be construed to be a tenant living in a dwelling unit if such person does not reside in such lodging as his primary residence. Such guest shall be exempt from this chapter, and the innkeeper or property owner, or his agent, shall have the right to use self-help eviction under Virginia law, without the necessity of the filing of an unlawful detainer action in a court of competent jurisdiction and the execution of a writ of eviction issued pursuant to such action, which would otherwise be required under this chapter.

2. A hotel, motel, extended stay facility, vacation residential facility, including those governed by the Virginia Real Estate Time-Share Act (§ 55.1-2200 et seq.), boardinghouse, or similar transient lodging shall be exempt from the provisions of this chapter if overnight sleeping accommodations are furnished to a person for consideration if such person does not reside in such lodging as his primary residence.

3. If a person resides in a hotel, motel, extended stay facility, vacation residential facility, including those governed by the Virginia Real Estate Time-Share Act (§ 55.1-2200 et seq.), boardinghouse, or similar transient lodging as his primary residence for 90 consecutive days or less, such lodging shall not be subject to the provisions of this chapter. However, the owner of such lodging establishment shall give a five-day written notice of nonpayment to a person residing in such lodging and, upon the expiration of the five-day period specified in the notice, may exercise self-help eviction if payment in full has not been received.

4. If a person resides in a hotel, motel, extended stay facility, vacation residential facility, including those governed by the Virginia Real Estate Time-Share Act (§ 55.1-2200 et seq.), boardinghouse, or similar transient lodging as his primary residence for more than 90 consecutive days or is subject to a written lease for more than 90 days, such lodging shall be subject to the provisions of this chapter.

5. Nothing herein shall be construed to preclude the owner of a lodging establishment that uses self-help eviction pursuant to this section from pursuing any civil or criminal remedies under the laws of the Commonwealth.

E. Nothing in this chapter shall prohibit a locality from establishing a commission, reconciliatory in nature only, or designating an existing agency, which upon mutual agreement of the parties may mediate conflicts that may arise out of the application of this chapter, nor shall anything in this chapter be deemed to prohibit an ordinance designed to effect compliance with local property maintenance codes. This chapter shall supersede all other local ordinances or regulations concerning landlord and tenant relations and the leasing of residential property.

1974, c. 680, § 55-248.3; 1977, c. 427; 2000, c. 760, § 55-248.3:1; 2001, c. 416; 2017, c. 730; 2018, cc. 50, 78, 221; 2019, cc. 180, 700, 712.

§ 55.1-1202. Notice.

A. If the rental agreement so provides, the landlord and tenant may send notices in electronic form; however, any tenant who so requests may elect to send and receive notices in paper form. If electronic delivery is used, the sender shall retain sufficient proof of the electronic delivery, which may be an electronic receipt of delivery, a confirmation that the notice was sent by facsimile, or a certificate of service prepared by the sender confirming the electronic delivery.

B. In the case of the landlord, notice is served on the landlord at his place of business where the rental agreement was made or at any place held out by the landlord as the place for receipt of the communication.

In the case of the tenant, notice is served at the tenant's last known place of residence, which may be the dwelling unit.

C. Notice, knowledge, or a notice or notification received by an organization is effective for a particular transaction from the time it is brought to the attention of the person conducting that transaction, or from the time it would have been brought to his attention if the organization had exercised reasonable diligence.

D. No notice of termination of tenancy served upon a tenant by a public housing authority organized under the Housing Authorities Law (§ 36-1 et seq.) shall be effective unless it contains on its first page, in type no smaller or less legible than that otherwise used in the body of the notice, the name, address, and telephone number of the legal aid program, if any, serving the jurisdiction in which the premises is located.

No notice of termination of tenancy served upon a tenant receiving tenant-based rental assistance through (i) the Housing Choice Voucher Program, 42 U.S.C. § 1437f(o), or (ii) any other federal, state, or local program by a private landlord shall be effective unless it contains on its first page, in type no smaller or less legible than that otherwise used in the body of the notice, the statewide legal aid telephone number and website address.

E. The landlord may, in accordance with a written agreement, delegate to a managing agent or other third party the responsibility of providing any written notice under this chapter. The landlord may also engage an attorney at law to prepare or provide any written notice under this chapter or legal process under Title 8.01. Nothing herein shall be construed to preclude use of an electronic signature as defined in § 59.1-480, or an electronic notarization as defined in § 47.1-2, in any written notice under this chapter or legal process under Title 8.01.

1974, c. 680, § 55-248.6; 1982, c. 260; 1993, c. 754; 1998, c. 260; 2000, c. 760; 2008, cc. 489, 640; 2017, c. 730; 2019, c. 712; 2020, cc. 182, 183.

§ 55.1-1203. Application; deposit, fee, and additional information.

A. Any landlord may require a refundable application deposit in addition to a nonrefundable application fee. If the applicant fails to rent the unit for which application was made, from the application deposit the landlord shall refund to the applicant within 20 days after the applicant's failure to rent the unit or the landlord's rejection of the application all sums in excess of the landlord's actual expenses and damages together with an itemized list of such expenses and damages. If, however, the application deposit was made by cash, certified check, cashier's check, or postal money order, such refund shall be made within 10 days of the applicant's failure to rent the unit if the failure to rent is due to the landlord's rejection of the application. If the landlord fails to comply with this section, the applicant may recover as damages suffered by him that portion of the application deposit wrongfully withheld and reasonable attorney fees.

B. A landlord may request that a prospective tenant provide information that will enable the landlord to determine whether each applicant may become a tenant. The landlord may photocopy each applicant's driver's license or other similar photo identification, containing either the applicant's social security number or control number issued by the Department of Motor Vehicles pursuant to § 46.2-342. However, a landlord shall not photocopy a U.S. government-issued identification so long as to do so is a violation of 18 U.S.C. § 701. The landlord may require, for the purpose of determining whether each applicant is eligible to become a tenant in the landlord's dwelling unit, that each applicant provide a social security number issued by the U.S. Social Security Administration or an individual taxpayer identification number issued by the U.S. Internal Revenue Service.

C. An application fee shall not exceed $50, exclusive of any actual out-of-pocket expenses paid by the landlord to a third party performing background, credit, or other pre-occupancy checks on the applicant. However, where an application is being made for a dwelling unit that is a public housing unit or other housing unit subject to regulation by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, an application fee shall not exceed $32, exclusive of any actual out-of-pocket expenses paid to a third party by the landlord performing background, credit, or other pre-occupancy checks on the applicant.

D. A landlord shall consider evidence of an applicant's status as a victim of family abuse, as defined in § 16.1-228, to mitigate any adverse effect of an otherwise qualified applicant's low credit score. In order to establish the applicant's status as a victim of family abuse, an applicant may submit to the landlord (i) a letter from a sexual and domestic violence program, a housing counselor certified by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, or an attorney representing the applicant; (ii) a law-enforcement incident report; or (iii) a court order. If a landlord does not comply with this section, the applicant may recover actual damages, including all amounts paid to the landlord as an application fee, application deposit, or reimbursement for any of the landlord's out-of-pocket expenses that were charged to the prospective tenant, along with attorney fees.

1977, c. 427, § 55-248.6:1; 1985, c. 208; 1993, c. 382; 2000, c. 760; 2003, c. 416; 2008, c. 489; 2011, c. 766; 2013, c. 563; 2019, c. 712; 2020, c. 388.

§ 55.1-1204. Terms and conditions of rental agreement; payment of rent; copy of rental agreement for tenant.

A. A landlord and tenant may include in a rental agreement terms and conditions not prohibited by this chapter or other rule of law, including rent, charges for late payment of rent, the term of the agreement, automatic renewal of the rental agreement, requirements for notice of intent to vacate or terminate the rental agreement, and other provisions governing the rights and obligations of the parties.

B. A landlord shall offer a prospective tenant a written rental agreement containing the terms governing the rental of the dwelling unit and setting forth the terms and conditions of the landlord-tenant relationship and shall provide with it the statement of tenant rights and responsibilities developed by the Department of Housing and Community Development and posted on its website pursuant to § 36-139. The parties to a written rental agreement shall sign the form developed by the Department of Housing and Community Development and posted on its website pursuant to § 36-139 acknowledging that the tenant has received from the landlord the statement of tenant rights and responsibilities. The written rental agreement shall be effective upon the date signed by the parties.

C. If a landlord does not offer a written rental agreement, the tenancy shall exist by operation of law, consisting of the following terms and conditions:

1. The provision of this chapter shall be applicable to the dwelling unit that is being rented;

2. The duration of the rental agreement shall be for 12 months and shall not be subject to automatic renewal, except in the event of a month-to-month lease as otherwise provided for under subsection C of § 55.1-1253;

3. Rent shall be paid in 12 equal periodic installments in an amount agreed upon by the landlord and the tenant and if no amount is agreed upon, the installments shall be at fair market rent;

4. Rent payments shall be due on the first day of each month during the tenancy and shall be considered late if not paid by the fifth of the month;

5. If the rent is paid by the tenant after the fifth day of any given month, the landlord shall be entitled to charge a late charge as provided in this chapter;

6. The landlord may collect a security deposit in an amount that does not exceed a total amount equal to two months of rent; and

7. The parties may enter into a written rental agreement at any time during the 12-month tenancy created by this subsection.

D. Except as provided in the written rental agreement, or as provided in subsection C if no written agreement is offered, rent shall be payable without demand or notice at the time and place agreed upon by the parties. Except as provided in the written rental agreement, rent is payable at the place designated by the landlord, and periodic rent is payable at the beginning of any term of one month or less and otherwise in equal installments at the beginning of each month. If the landlord receives from a tenant a written request for a written statement of charges and payments, he shall provide the tenant with a written statement showing all debits and credits over the tenancy or the past 12 months, whichever is shorter. The landlord shall provide such written statement within 10 business days of receiving the request.

E. A landlord shall not charge a tenant for late payment of rent unless such charge is provided for in the written rental agreement. No such late charge shall exceed the lesser of 10 percent of the periodic rent or 10 percent of the remaining balance due and owed by the tenant.

F. Except as provided in the written rental agreement or, as provided in subsection C if no written agreement is offered, the tenancy shall be week-to-week in the case of a tenant who pays weekly rent and month-to-month in all other cases. Terminations of tenancies shall be governed by § 55.1-1253 unless the rental agreement provides for a different notice period.

G. If the rental agreement contains any provision allowing the landlord to approve or disapprove a sublessee or assignee of the tenant, the landlord shall, within 10 business days of receipt of the written application of the prospective sublessee or assignee on a form to be provided by the landlord, approve or disapprove the sublessee or assignee. Failure of the landlord to act within 10 business days is evidence of his approval.

H. The landlord shall provide a copy of any written rental agreement and the statement of tenant rights and responsibilities to the tenant within one month of the effective date of the written rental agreement. The failure of the landlord to deliver such a rental agreement and statement shall not affect the validity of the agreement. However, the landlord shall not file or maintain an action against the tenant in a court of law for any alleged lease violation until he has provided the tenant with the statement of tenant rights and responsibilities.

I. No unilateral change in the terms of a rental agreement by a landlord or tenant shall be valid unless (i) notice of the change is given in accordance with the terms of the rental agreement or as otherwise required by law and (ii) both parties consent in writing to the change.

J. The landlord shall provide the tenant with a written receipt, upon request from the tenant, whenever the tenant pays rent in the form of cash or money order.

1974, c. 680, § 55-248.7; 1977, c. 427; 1983, c. 39; 1988, c. 68; 2000, c. 760; 2003, c. 424; 2012, cc. 464, 503; 2013, c. 563; 2017, c. 730; 2019, cc. 5, 45, 712; 2020, cc. 985, 986, 998, 1231; 2021, Sp. Sess. I, c. 427.

§ 55.1-1205. Prepaid rent; maintenance of escrow account.

A landlord and a tenant may agree in a rental agreement that the tenant pay prepaid rent. If a landlord receives prepaid rent, it shall be placed in an escrow account in a federally insured depository authorized to do business in Virginia by the end of the fifth business day following receipt and shall remain in the account until such time as the prepaid rent becomes due. Unless the landlord has otherwise become entitled to receive any portion of the prepaid rent, it shall not be removed from the escrow account required by this section without the written consent of the tenant.

2002, c. 531, § 55-248.7:1; 2015, c. 596; 2017, c. 730; 2019, c. 712.

§ 55.1-1206. Landlord may obtain certain insurance for tenant.

A. A landlord may require as a condition of tenancy that a tenant have damage insurance and pay for the cost of premiums. As provided in § 55.1-1200, such payments shall not be deemed a security deposit, but shall be rent. However, as provided in § 55.1-1208, the landlord shall not require a tenant to pay both a security deposit and the cost of damage insurance premiums if the total amount of any security deposit and damage insurance premiums exceeds the amount of two months' periodic rent. The landlord shall notify a tenant in writing that the tenant has the right to obtain a separate policy from the landlord's policy for damage insurance. If a tenant elects to obtain a separate policy, the tenant shall submit to the landlord written proof of such coverage and shall maintain such coverage at all times during the term of the rental agreement. Where a landlord obtains damage insurance coverage on behalf of a tenant, the insurance policy shall provide coverage for the tenant as an insured. The landlord shall recover from the tenant the actual costs of such insurance coverage and may recover administrative or other fees associated with administration of a damage insurance policy, including a tenant opting out of the insurance coverage provided by the landlord pursuant to this subsection. If a landlord obtains damage insurance for his tenants, the landlord shall provide to each tenant, prior to execution of the rental agreement, a summary of the insurance policy or certificate evidencing the coverage being provided and upon request of the tenant make available a copy of the insurance policy. For a tenant that opts out of the landlord's damage insurance program, the landlord shall allow such tenant to either provide their own damage insurance policy or pay the full security deposit.

B. A landlord may require as a condition of tenancy that a tenant have renter's insurance as specified in the rental agreement. A landlord may require a tenant to pay for the cost of premiums for such renter's insurance obtained by the landlord, in order to provide such coverage for the tenant as part of rent or as otherwise provided in this section. As provided in § 55.1-1200, such payments shall not be deemed a security deposit but shall be rent. The landlord shall notify a tenant in writing that the tenant has the right to obtain a separate policy from the landlord's policy for renter's insurance. If a tenant elects to obtain a separate policy, the tenant shall submit to the landlord written proof of such coverage and shall maintain such coverage at all times during the term of the rental agreement. If a tenant allows his renter's insurance policy required by the rental agreement to lapse for any reason, the landlord may provide any landlord's renter's insurance coverage to such tenant. The tenant shall be obligated to pay for the cost of premiums for such insurance as rent or as otherwise provided herein until the tenant has provided written documentation to the landlord showing that the tenant has reinstated his own renter's insurance coverage.

C. If the landlord requires that such premiums be paid to the landlord prior to the commencement of the tenancy, the total amount of all security deposits, insurance premiums for damage insurance, and insurance premiums for renter's insurance shall not exceed the amount of two months' periodic rent. However, the landlord shall be permitted to add a monthly amount as additional rent to recover additional costs of renter's insurance premiums.

D. Where a landlord obtains renter's insurance coverage on behalf of a tenant, the insurance policy shall provide coverage for the tenant as an insured. The landlord shall recover from the tenant the actual costs of such insurance coverage and may recover administrative or other fees associated with the administration of a renter's insurance program, including a tenant opting out of the insurance coverage provided to the tenant pursuant to this subsection. If a landlord obtains renter's insurance for his tenants, the landlord shall provide to each tenant, prior to execution of the rental agreement, a summary of the insurance policy prepared by the insurer or certificate evidencing the coverage being provided and upon request of the tenant make available a copy of the insurance policy. Such summary or certificate shall include a statement regarding whether the insurance policy contains a waiver of subrogation provision. Any failure of the landlord to provide such summary or certificate, or to make available a copy of the insurance policy, shall not affect the validity of the rental agreement.

If the rental agreement does not require the tenant to obtain renter's insurance, the landlord shall provide a written notice to the tenant, prior to the execution of the rental agreement, stating that (i) the landlord is not responsible for the tenant's personal property, (ii) the landlord's insurance coverage does not cover the tenant's personal property, and (iii) if the tenant wishes to protect his personal property, he should obtain renter's insurance. The notice shall inform the tenant that any such renter's insurance obtained by the tenant does not cover flood damage and advise the tenant to contact the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) or visit the websites for FEMA's National Flood Insurance Program or for the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation's Flood Risk Information System to obtain information regarding whether the property is located in a special flood hazard area. Any failure of the landlord to provide such notice shall not affect the validity of the rental agreement. If the tenant requests translation of the notice from the English language to another language, the landlord may assist the tenant in obtaining a translator or refer the tenant to an electronic translation service. In doing so, the landlord shall not be deemed to have breached any of his obligations under this chapter or otherwise become liable for any inaccuracies in the translation. The landlord shall not charge a fee for such assistance or referral.

E. Nothing in this section shall be construed to prohibit the landlord from recovering from the tenant, as part of the rent, the tenant's prorated share of the actual costs of other insurance coverages provided by the landlord relative to the premises, or the tenant's prorated share of a self-insurance program held in an escrow account by the landlord, including the landlord's administrative or other fees associated with the administration of such coverages. The landlord may apply such funds held in escrow to pay claims pursuant to the landlord's self-insurance plan.

2004, c. 123, § 55-248.7:2; 2005, c. 285; 2010, c. 550; 2012, c. 788; 2015, c. 596; 2018, c. 221; 2019, cc. 386, 394, 712; 2020, c. 998; 2021, Sp. Sess. I, c. 427.

§ 55.1-1207. Effect of unsigned or undelivered rental agreement.

If the landlord does not sign and deliver a written rental agreement signed and delivered to him by the tenant, acceptance of rent without reservation by the landlord gives the rental agreement the same effect as if it had been signed and delivered by the landlord. If the tenant does not sign and deliver a written rental agreement signed and delivered to him by the landlord, acceptance of possession or payment of rent without reservation gives the rental agreement the same effect as if it had been signed and delivered by the tenant. If a rental agreement given effect pursuant to this section provides for a term longer than one year, it is effective for only one year.

1974, c. 680, § 55-248.8; 2019, c. 712.

§ 55.1-1208. Prohibited provisions in rental agreements.

A. A rental agreement shall not contain provisions that the tenant:

1. Agrees to waive or forgo rights or remedies under this chapter;

2. Agrees to waive or forgo rights or remedies pertaining to the 120-day conversion or rehabilitation notice required in the Virginia Condominium Act (§ 55.1-1900 et seq.) or the Virginia Real Estate Cooperative Act (§ 55.1-2100 et seq.) or under § 55.1-1410;

3. Authorizes any person to confess judgment on a claim arising out of the rental agreement;

4. Agrees to pay the landlord's attorney fees except as provided in this chapter;

5. Agrees to the exculpation or limitation of any liability of the landlord to the tenant arising under law or to indemnify the landlord for that liability or any associated costs;

6. Agrees as a condition of tenancy in public housing to a prohibition or restriction of any lawful possession of a firearm within individual dwelling units unless required by federal law or regulation;

7. Agrees to the payment of a security deposit, insurance premiums for damage insurance, and insurance premiums for renter's insurance prior to the commencement of the tenancy that exceed the amount of two months' periodic rent; or

8. Agrees to waive remedies or rights under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, 50 U.S.C. § 3901 et seq., prior to the occurrence of a dispute between landlord and tenant. Execution of leases shall not be contingent upon the execution of a waiver of rights under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act; however, upon the occurrence of any dispute, the landlord and tenant may execute a waiver of such rights and remedies as to that dispute in order to facilitate a resolution.

B. Any provision prohibited by subsection A that is included in a rental agreement is unenforceable. If a landlord brings an action to enforce any such provision, the tenant may recover actual damages sustained by him and reasonable attorney fees.

1974, c. 680, § 55-248.9; 1977, c. 427; 1987, c. 473; 1991, c. 720; 2000, c. 760; 2002, c. 531; 2003, c. 905; 2016, c. 744; 2019, c. 712; 2020, c. 998; 2021, Sp. Sess. I, cc. 427, 477, 478.

§ 55.1-1209. Confidentiality of tenant records.

A. No landlord or managing agent shall release information about a tenant or prospective tenant in the possession of the landlord or managing agent to a third party unless:

1. The tenant or prospective tenant has given prior written consent;

2. The information is a matter of public record as defined in § 2.2-3701;

3. The information is a summary of the tenant's rent payment record, including the amount of the tenant's periodic rent payment;

4. The information is a copy of a material noncompliance notice that has not been remedied or a termination notice given to the tenant under § 55.1-1245 and the tenant did not remain in the premises after such notice was given;

5. The information is requested by a local, state, or federal law-enforcement or public safety official in the performance of his duties;

6. The information is requested pursuant to a subpoena in a civil case;

7. The information is requested by a local commissioner of the revenue in accordance with § 58.1-3901;

8. The information is requested by a contract purchaser of the landlord's property, provided that the contract purchaser agrees in writing to maintain the confidentiality of such information;

9. The information is requested by a lender of the landlord for financing or refinancing of the property;

10. The information is requested by the commanding officer, military housing officer, or military attorney of the tenant;

11. The third party is the landlord's attorney or the landlord's collection agency;

12. The information is otherwise provided in the case of an emergency;

13. The information is requested by the landlord to be provided to the managing agent or a successor to the managing agent; or

14. The information is requested by an employee or independent contractor of the United States to obtain census information pursuant to federal law.

B. Any information received by a landlord pursuant to § 55.1-1203 shall remain a confidential tenant record and shall not be released to any person except in response to a subpoena.

C. A tenant may designate a third party to receive duplicate copies of a summons that has been issued pursuant to § 8.01-126 and of written notices from the landlord relating to the tenancy. Where such a third party has been designated by the tenant, the landlord shall mail the duplicate copy of any summons issued pursuant to § 8.01-126 or notice to the designated third party at the same time the summons or notice is mailed to or served upon the tenant. Nothing in this subsection shall be construed to grant standing to any third party designated by the tenant to challenge actions of the landlord in which notice was mailed pursuant to this subsection. The failure of the landlord to give notice to a third party designated by the tenant shall not affect the validity of any judgment entered against the tenant.

D. A landlord or managing agent may enter into an agreement with a third-party service provider to maintain tenant records in electronic form or other medium. In such case, the landlord and managing agent shall not be liable under this section in the event of a breach of the electronic data of such third-party service provider, except in the case of gross negligence or intentional act. Nothing in this section shall be construed to require a landlord or managing agent to indemnify such third-party service provider.

E. A tenant may request a copy of his tenant records in paper or electronic form. If the rental agreement so provides, a landlord may charge a tenant requesting more than one copy of his records the actual costs of preparing copies of such records. However, if the landlord makes available tenant records to each tenant by electronic portal, the tenant shall not be required to pay for access to such portal.

1985, c. 567, § 55-248.9:1; 2000, c. 760; 2003, c. 426; 2006, cc. 491, 667; 2008, c. 489; 2010, c. 550; 2015, c. 596; 2016, c. 744; 2018, c. 221; 2019, c. 712; 2020, c. 388.

§ 55.1-1210. Landlord and tenant remedies for abuse of access.

If the tenant refuses to allow lawful access, the landlord may obtain injunctive relief to compel access, or terminate the rental agreement. In either case, the landlord may recover actual damages and reasonable attorney fees. If the landlord makes an unlawful entry or a lawful entry in an unreasonable manner or makes repeated demands for entry that is otherwise lawful but that have the effect of unreasonably harassing the tenant, the tenant may obtain injunctive relief to prevent the recurrence of the conduct, or terminate the rental agreement. In either case, the tenant may recover actual damages and reasonable attorney fees.

2000, c. 760, § 55-248.10:1; 2019, c. 712.

§ 55.1-1211. Appointment of resident agent by nonresident property owner; service of process, etc., on such agent or on Secretary of the Commonwealth.

A. As used in this section, "nonresident property owner" means any nonresident individual or group of individuals who owns and leases residential real property.

B. Every nonresident property owner shall appoint and continuously maintain an agent who (i) if such agent is an individual, is a resident of the Commonwealth, or if such agent is a corporation, limited liability company, partnership, or other entity, is authorized to transact business in the Commonwealth and (ii) maintains a business office within the Commonwealth. Every lease executed by or on behalf of nonresident property owners regarding any such real property shall specifically designate such agent and the agent's office address for the purpose of service of any process, notice, order, or demand required or permitted by law to be served upon such nonresident property owner.

C. Whenever any nonresident property owner fails to appoint or maintain an agent, as required in this section, or whenever his agent cannot with reasonable diligence be found, then the Secretary of the Commonwealth shall be an agent of the nonresident property owner upon whom may be served any process, notice, order, or demand. Service may be made on the Secretary of the Commonwealth or any of his staff at his office who shall forthwith cause it to be sent by registered or certified mail addressed to the nonresident property owner at his address as shown on the official tax records maintained by the locality where the property is located.

D. The name and office address of the agent appointed as provided in this section shall be listed on a form provided by the State Corporation Commission and delivered to the office of the clerk of the State Corporation Commission for filing. Beginning July 1, 2022, the clerk of the State Corporation Commission shall charge a fee of $10 for the filing of a resident agent appointment.

E. No nonresident property owner shall maintain an action in the courts of the Commonwealth concerning property for which a designation is required by this section until such designation has been filed.

1973, c. 301, § 55-218.1; 1987, c. 360; 2006, c. 318; 2008, c. 119; 2019, cc. 365, 712; 2021, Sp. Sess. I, c. 427.

§ 55.1-1212. Energy submetering, energy allocation equipment, sewer and water submetering equipment, and ratio utility billing systems; local government fees.

A. As used in this section:

"Energy allocation equipment" means the same as that term is defined in § 56-245.2.

"Energy submetering equipment" has the same meaning ascribed to "submetering equipment" in § 56-245.2.

"Local government fees" means any local government charges or fees assessed against a residential building, including charges or fees for stormwater, recycling, trash collection, elevator testing, fire or life safety testing, or residential rental inspection programs.

"Ratio utility billing system" means a program that utilizes a mathematical formula for allocating, among the tenants in a residential building, the actual or anticipated water, sewer, electrical, oil, or natural gas billings billed to the residential building owner from a third-party provider of the utility service. Permitted allocation methods may include formulas based on square footage, occupancy, number of bedrooms, or some other specific method agreed to by the residential building owner and the tenant in the rental agreement or lease.

"Residential building" means all of the individual units served through the same utility-owned meter within a residential building that is defined in § 56-245.2 as an apartment building or house or all of the individual dwelling units served through the same utility-owned meter within a manufactured home park as defined in § 55.1-1300.

"Water and sewer submetering equipment" means equipment used to measure actual water or sewer usage in any residential building when such equipment is not owned or controlled by the utility or other provider of water or sewer service that provides service to the residential building.

B. Energy submetering equipment, energy allocation equipment, water and sewer submetering equipment, or a ratio utility billing system may be used in a residential building if clearly stated in the rental agreement or lease for the residential building. All energy submetering equipment and energy allocation equipment shall meet the requirements and standards established and enforced by the State Corporation Commission pursuant to § 56-245.3.

C. If energy submetering equipment, energy allocation equipment, or water and sewer submetering equipment is used in any residential building, the owner, manager, or operator of such residential building shall bill the tenant for electricity, oil, natural gas, or water and sewer for the same billing period as the utility serving the residential building, unless the rental agreement or lease expressly provides otherwise. The owner, manager, or operator of such residential building may charge and collect from the tenant additional service charges, including monthly billing fees, account set-up fees, or account move-out fees, to cover the actual costs of administrative expenses and billing charged to the residential building owner, manager, or operator by a third-party provider of such services, provided that such charges are agreed to by the residential building owner and the tenant in the rental agreement or lease. The residential building owner may require the tenant to pay a late charge of up to $5 if the tenant fails to make payment when due, which shall not be less than 15 days following the date of mailing or delivery of the bill sent pursuant to this section.

D. If a ratio utility billing system is used in any residential building, in lieu of increasing the rent, the owner, manager, or operator of such residential building may employ such a program that utilizes a mathematical formula for allocating, among the tenants in a residential building, the actual or anticipated water, sewer, electrical, oil, or natural gas billings billed to the residential building owner from a third-party provider of the utility service. The owner, manager, or operator of the residential building may charge and collect from the tenant additional service charges, including monthly billing fees, account set-up fees, or account move-out fees, to cover the actual costs of administrative expenses and billings charged to the residential building owner, manager, or operator by a third-party provider of such services, provided that such charges are agreed to by the residential building owner and the tenant in the rental agreement or lease. The residential building owner may require the tenant to pay a late charge of up to $5 if the tenant fails to make payment when due, which shall not be less than 15 days following the date of mailing or delivery of the bill sent pursuant to this section. The late charge shall be deemed rent (i) as defined in § 55.1-1200 if a ratio utility billing system is used in a residential multifamily dwelling unit subject to this chapter or (ii) as defined in § 55.1-1300 if a ratio utility billing system is used in a manufactured home park subject to the Manufactured Home Lot Rental Act (§ 55.1-1300 et seq.).

E. Energy allocation equipment shall be tested periodically by the owner, manager, or operator of the residential building. Upon the request by a tenant, the owner shall test the energy allocation equipment without charge. The test conducted without charge to the tenant shall not be conducted more frequently than once in a 24-month period for the same tenant. The tenant or his designated representative may be present during the testing of the energy allocation equipment. A written report of the results of the test shall be made to the tenant within 10 working days after the completion of the test.

F. The owner of any residential building shall maintain adequate records regarding energy submetering equipment, energy allocation equipment, water and sewer submetering equipment, or a ratio utility billing system. A tenant may inspect and copy the records for the leased premises during reasonable business hours at a convenient location within or serving the residential building. The owner of the residential building may impose and collect a reasonable charge for copying documents, reflecting the actual costs of materials and labor for copying, prior to providing copies of the records to the tenant.

G. Notwithstanding any enforcement action undertaken by the State Corporation Commission pursuant to its authority under § 56-245.3, tenants and owners shall retain any private right of action resulting from any breach of the rental agreement or lease terms required by this section or § 56-245.3, if applicable, to the same extent as such actions may be maintained for breach of other terms of the rental agreement or lease under this chapter, if applicable. The use of energy submetering equipment, energy allocation equipment, water and sewer submetering equipment, or a ratio utility billing system is not within the jurisdiction of the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services under Chapter 56 (§ 3.2-5600 et seq.) of Title 3.2.

H. In lieu of increasing the rent, the owner, manager, or operator of a residential building may employ a program that utilizes a mathematical formula for allocating the actual or anticipated local government fees billed to the residential building owner among the tenants in such residential building if clearly stated in the rental agreement or lease. Permitted allocation methods may include formulas based upon square footage, occupancy, number of bedrooms, or some other specific method agreed to by the residential building owner and the tenant in the rental agreement or lease. Such owner, manager, or operator of a residential building may also charge and collect from each tenant additional service charges, including monthly billing fees, account set-up fees, or account move-out fees, to cover the actual costs of administrative expenses for administration of such a program. If the building is residential and is subject to (i) this chapter, such local government fees and administrative expenses shall be deemed to be rent as defined in § 55.1-1200 or (ii) the Manufactured Home Lot Rental Act (§ 55.1-1300 et seq.), such local government fees and administrative expenses shall be deemed to be rent as defined in § 55.1-1300.

I. Nothing in this section shall be construed to prohibit an owner, manager, or operator of a residential building from including water, sewer, electrical, natural gas, oil, or other utilities in the amount of rent as specified in the rental agreement or lease.

1992, c. 766, § 55-226.2; 2003, c. 355; 2005, c. 278; 2010, c. 550; 2012, c. 338; 2014, c. 501; 2015, c. 596; 2017, c. 730; 2019, c. 712.

§ 55.1-1213. Transfer of deposits upon purchase.

The current owner of rental property shall transfer any security deposits and any accrued interest on the deposits in his possession to the new owner at the time of the transfer of the rental property. If the current owner has entered into a written property management agreement with a managing agent in accordance with the provisions of subsection E of § 54.1-2135, the current owner shall give written notice to the managing agent requesting payment of such security deposits to the current owner prior to settlement with the new owner. Upon receipt of the written notice, the managing agent shall transfer the security deposits to the current owner and provide written notice to each tenant that his security deposit has been transferred to the new owner in accordance with this section.

1984, c. 281, § 55-507; 2017, cc. 63, 402; 2019, c. 712.