Rental Report: How Does the Virginia Residential Landlord Tenant Act Affect You?

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Editor’s Note: This biweekly sponsored column is written by Rick Gersten, founder and CEO of Urban Igloo, a rental real estate firm that matches up renters with their ideal apartments, condos or houses. Please submit any questions in the comments section or via email.

The Virginia Residential Landlord Tenant Act (VRLTA) is the governing law with regards to landlord-tenant relations in the state of Virginia. Most residential rentals within the state are covered by the act, and those that are not, such as single family units where the landlord owns fewer than 10 dwellings, can still be covered as long as there is a clause in the lease that states VRLTA applies. Here are a few important clauses in the VRLTA every landlord or renter should understand.

Application Fees: A landlord is allowed to charge an application fee and hold an application deposit for their unit. If an applicant opts to not move forward with the unit, or if a landlord declines their application, the landlord must refund the application fee, less any costs or damages, to the applicant within 20 days. The costs and damages must be provided to the applicant in an itemized list.

Prepaid Rent: In Virginia, prepaid rent is allowed, however, all prepaid rent must be placed in an escrow account within five days of receipt, not to be removed until rent becomes due, or with consent of the tenant.

Insurance: The landlord may require the tenant to have renters insurance which should be noted in the lease agreement. The landlord may obtain insurance on behalf of the tenant and charge the tenant for the actual cost plus administrative fees.

Unsigned Rental Agreements: Occasionally, one party may not send back a signed lease agreement, or perhaps the landlord may have forgotten to provide a copy to the tenant. While this is a “no-no” under the VRLTA, it doesn’t mean the terms of the lease do not apply. If the landlord accepts rent from the tenant, or if the tenant takes possession of the unit and/or pays rent, the terms of the lease agreement still apply. Bottom line: Just because you forgot to sign, doesn’t make your obligations void. Make sure everyone has a copy of the signed agreement to save headaches later.

Special Clauses: Sometimes landlords or renters like to cherry pick lease language or add special clauses to override something in a standard lease document, however the VRLTA specifically states such language is prohibited.

Security Deposits: In Virginia, a landlord may hold a security deposit equal to two months’ of rent. A security deposit must be returned to the tenant within 45 days of lease termination, less any damages. The landlord is required to accrue interest on the security deposit, however no interest is due or payable back to the tenant unless the deposit is held for 13 months or more.

The above represents only a snippet of the VRLTA. These are the more common questions asked by either landlords or tenants. If you have additional questions, contact an attorney or the Arlington Housing Division at 703-228-3765.

Have a rental-related question you’d like Rental Report to answer? Email it to [email protected].

The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of

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