If you’re a Virginia-based landlord, you might experience some tenants breaking their lease early. It’s important that you know what is and isn’t considered legally breaking a lease in Virginia, and if you’re required by law to make a reasonable attempt to find a new tenant.
Being well-informed when it comes to your rights and your tenants’ rights under Virginia Landlord-Tenant Law is an important part of your role as a landlord, which is why we’ve put together a list of unjustified and justified reasons for an early termination of lease.
Rental Agreement in Virginia
Having a clear rental agreement is essential. When your tenant signs their lease, it’s your responsibility as a landlord to make sure they’re aware of the consequences and the cost of breaking a lease early. It’s also important to make sure they’re aware of their rights for justifiably breaking a rental lease.
Your rental agreement should state how much notice a tenant has to give you when ending their periodic lease. In the state of Virginia, your tenant should give you 120 days’ notice if the lease has no end date, and 30 days’ notice if they rent monthly. There is no statute if the tenant rents weekly.
The agreement should also include your responsibility as a landlord to make a reasonable effort to re-rent the unit once the lease has ended. If you re-rent the property quickly, the tenant will only be responsible for paying rent for the time the property was vacant.
Lastly, a solid lease agreement should include the tenant’s rights to sublet in Virginia. Virginia law does not prohibit subletting and your tenant can sublet unless otherwise stated in the lease agreement. If you’ve decided to allow tenants to sublet, you may also add a clause to obtain your approval before they can do so.
To request your approval for a sublet, the tenant must formally make the request and send it by certified mail. As a landlord, you have the power to reject the request, but make sure to keep in mind the 7 protected classes of the Fair Housing Law.
Breaking a Lease in VA: A Guide
Unjustified Reasons to Break a Lease in Virginia
The below reasons are usually not enough justification on their own to release a tenant from their lease. As a result, they provide no legal protection against penalties for breaking the lease.
- The tenant is moving in with a partner.
- The tenant is upgrading or downgrading.
- The tenant is moving to be closer to family.
- The tenant is relocating for a new job or school.
- The tenant bought their own property.
Breaking a rental lease early for any of the above reasons without court approval or in any conditions not previously outlined can have tangible consequences for tenants. If a tenant wants to break their lease for any of these reasons, they should ask for your agreement for a mutual termination.
Legal Reasons to Break a Lease in Virginia
As a landlord in Virginia, it’s important that you’re aware of the justified reasons for a tenant to cancel a lease agreement. Below, you’ll find justified reasons for the early termination of a lease:
1. Active Military Duty
If your tenant is an active service member who is relocated because of a permanent change of station or deployment, they’re protected by the service members of the Civil Relief Act or SCRA. This begins on the date of entering duty and ends between 30 to 90 days after their discharge date.
In accordance with this act, your tenants are required to meet the following criteria for terminating a rental agreement early:
- Proof or documentation that the lease was signed before entering active duty.
- Proof or documentation that they will be on active duty for the next 90 days at least.
- Provide a written notice with either the copy of the Permanent Change of Station or orders to deploy, or a letter from their corresponding officer indicating their pending deployment.
Once fulfilled, this doesn’t terminate the lease right away. The earliest the lease can be terminated is 30 days after the beginning of the next rent period.
For instance, if the notice was delivered on the 13th of May and the rent is due on the 1st of each month, the earliest time you can terminate the lease is July 1st. This means that the tenant must still pay rent for the month of June.
2. Domestic Violence
Tenants who are victims of domestic violence are protected by special rental provisions under Virginia law. If a tenant is experiencing a domestic violence situation, including stalking, and has expressed their intention to move out of the rental property, you have to be up to date with any special state laws that may be applicable to domestic violence situations.
Under Virginia law, victims of domestic violence have the right to terminate their lease with 30 days’ notice. The tenant is required to provide a copy of the order of protection and a copy of the conviction order.
3. Unit Is Uninhabitable
Every tenant has a right to stay in a livable unit. The state of Virginia, like most states, has certain standards for rental units when it comes to health and safety codes.
If a tenant has given their landlord proper notice and reasonable time to make repairs or address the issue, but the landlord has still failed to do so for some reason, this would be considered constructive eviction. When this happens, tenants are no longer required to follow the lease agreement since the landlord failed to fulfill their duties.
Now you’re well-versed when it comes to lease breakage in Virginia. If you have any questions, please reach out to Keyrenter Alexandria. We’re a leading property management company in Alexandria, Virginia, and have been working with landlords and investors for years. Contact us today at 703-520-5000.
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.