For Virginia landlords, collecting a security deposit from your tenant offers many benefits, such as the following:
- To cover unpaid utilities upon move-out. Usually, most or all utilities will be under the tenant’s name during the lease period. Should the tenant fail to pay for them, Virginia security deposit law allows the landlord to make appropriate deductions from the tenant’s security deposit to cover the cost of unpaid utility bills.
- To cover missed rent payments. Failure to pay rent is a breach of the rental contract. It’s probably one of the most common problems experienced by landlords. Should this situation occur, landlords are entitled to deduct part or all of the tenant’s security deposit to cover missed payments and late payment charges.
- To cover non-compliance loss or damage. If your tenant fails to comply with their obligations as a tenant, the security deposit may be used to cover any loss or damage as a result of this non-compliance.
- To cover property damage outside normal wear and tear. Any damage that occurs because of a tenant’s abuse or negligence during the course of the tenancy can be charged to the security deposit of the tenant.
- To cover other charges allowed in the rental agreement. Virginia landlords can include provisions in the rental agreement stating additional charges that may be legally deducted from a tenant's deposit.
A Guide to Virginia Security Deposit Law
As a Virginia residental landlord, it’s necessary to know the Virginia landlord-tenant law to avoid committing any unintentional violations. Under these laws, Virginia landlords are legally allowed to ask for security deposits from tenants. However, landlords are required to comply with the Virginia security deposit law to avoid any legal issues in the future.
A Virginia landlord should know and understand the following:
Security Deposit Limit
Most states limit how much a landlord can charge a tenant for a security deposit. In the state of Virginia, the security deposit has a maximum limit of two months’ worth of rent. A Virginia landlord should not charge more than this maximum security deposit amount.
In addition to the regular security deposit, a landlord may also ask for an additional pet deposit. Tenants with disabilities are allowed to have service animals without being charged an additional deposit. However, if the service animal causes any damage to the dwelling unit, the tenant should cover the cost of repairs.
The state of Virginia does not allow non-refundable fees. A landlord should refund the security deposits to the tenants at the end of their lease term, less the allowable deductions.
Storing a Security Deposit in Virginia
Some states may have rules regarding how a landlord should keep the deposit of a tenant. For example, in Florida, a landlord can choose to post a surety bond for the amount of the deposit. They can also choose to keep it in either interest or non-interest-yielding account.
However, there are no written Virginia security deposit laws or specific rules that a landlord must comply with when keeping the security deposit of a tenant. In addition, a landlord is not mandated to pay interest on tenants' security deposits.
Written Notice after Security Deposit Receipt
Under Virginia security deposit laws, landlords are not legally required to provide a written receipt for the security deposit.
Reasons to Withhold a Tenant’s Security Deposit in Virginia
Under certain conditions, landlords can keep all or a portion of a tenant’s security deposit. In the state of Virginia, the allowable deductions include:
- Unpaid rent with reasonable late rent payment charges specified in the rental agreement.
- Unpaid utility bills upon the end of the lease agreement.
- Other charges that are agreed upon by both parties in the rental agreement.
- Damages for breach of the lease contract or rental agreement.
- Loss or damage to the dwelling unit as a result of noncompliance with the tenants' obligations, such as the following:
- Non-compliance with the building and housing codes with regard to health and safety.
- Non-compliance with the rules and regulations stated in the rental agreement.
- Failure to maintain the cleanliness and safety of the premises.
- Failure to keep plumbing fixtures clean.
- Failure to dispose of the garbage safely.
- Failure to maintain carbon monoxide alarms.
- Failure to notify the landlord immediately if there are any insects or pests on the dwelling unit.
- Unreasonable use of all utilities like electricity, heating, ventilation, and plumbing.
- Performing any alterations without the prior written approval of the landlord.
- Destroying, defacing, or removing any part of the premises due to abusive behavior or negligence (beyond normal wear and tear).
- Not taking reasonable steps to prevent accumulation of moisture and mold growth and immediately inform the landlord of any possible mold growth.
- Failure to keep the peace and quiet and respect the neighbors.
It’s important to note that, in accordance with Virginia’s renters’ rights concerning security deposits, a Virginia landlord is not allowed to use the deposit to cover conditions that existed before the tenant moved into the rental unit.
A walk-through inspection is required under Virginia landlord-tenant law. The inspection helps to check the property's condition. The landlord must notify the tenant in writing within five days of receiving the tenant’s intent to vacate that the tenant has the right to be present when the landlord conducts the inspection of the rental unit.
The tenant who wishes to be present at the inspections should inform the landlord in writing, and the inspection must be done within 72 hours of the tenant’s moving-out date.
Security Deposit Refund in Virginia
According to Virginia law, once the lease ends, Virginia landlords have 45 days to return all or part of the tenant’s deposit. The landlord must provide a written notice containing an itemized list of the deductions together with the returned deposit. The landlord should deliver this to the tenant personally or through the mail.
If a landlord fails to return the securtiy deposit or what's left of it within the allowed time frame can result in a full refund to the tenant. In addition, property owners may also be charged with damages, costs of the lawsuit, and reasonable attorney fees as a penalty. The tenant may file a complaint in Virginia’s Small Claims Court for a maximum amount of $5,000.
Change in Property Ownership
Under Virginia law, if the dwelling unit is sold before the lease term ends, the new owner inherits the previous owner’s obligation to refund the tenant’s security deposit upon the end of the lease. It's the new property owner's responsibility to get the security deposit and its related records from the previous landlord.
Understanding Virginia security deposit law is an important aspect of managing rental property in the state. If you want more assistance navigating tenant-landlord relationships and Virginia laws, contact Vesta Property Management today!
Disclaimer: This blog should not be used as a substitute for legal advice from a licensed attorney in your state. Laws change, and this post might not be updated at the time of your reading. Please contact us for any questions you have in regards to this content or any other aspect of your property management needs.