Eviction Basics -Part 3

Understanding the process can lessen stress.


Mark T. Stewart, Esq.

4/1/20242 min read

The Virginia Eviction Process

Eviction is a type of lawsuit. To begin an eviction process, the landlord files a complaint, called an unlawful detainer, in either a district or circuit court in the county where the rental property is located. This complaint asks for an eviction order and explains why the landlord wants to evict the tenant. Before filing the complaint with the court, the landlord must give the tenant notice. The length of time the notice gives the tenant to act depends on the reason for eviction.

Once the landlord files the eviction complaint, the court gives the tenant a summons, telling them when and where to appear for the eviction hearing. In Virginia, the summons is usually served by the sheriff, but sometimes by a professional process server.

The eviction notice must be given to the tenant at least 10 days before the hearing. It can be given by hand-delivery, mail, posting at the rental property, or by court order in a newspaper. Tenants don’t have to file a response with the court, but to protect their interests, they must attend the hearing. The hearing is held 21 to 30 days after filing, and tenants can stay in the property during this time.

At the court hearing, the landlord must prove lease violations. The tenant can defend himself with any evidence he has. If the tenant doesn’t attend the hearing, the court may decide in favor of the landlord. This is called a default judgement.

The Tenant Gets to Tell His Side of the Story

If the tenant does appear at the hearing, the tenant can raise defenses or counterclaims to the eviction. Successful defenses deny the landlord’s claims and can stop the eviction. For instance, if the landlord claims property damage, the tenant may be able to show proof the damage existed before they moved in.

Tenants may also bring counterclaims, for example, alleging that the landlord breached the lease by failing to maintain the property. Such a counterclaim may not stop an eviction, but may reduce the amount of money owed.

Things that Occur after the Hearing

The court may decide the same day or later. If the tenant loses, the tenant can appeal within 10 days, by filing in circuit court and posting an appeal bond. If not appealed, the landlord can ask for an eviction writ. The sheriff delivers this within 15 to 30 days, giving tenants 72 hours to leave.

Communication Can be Key

Often, communication can help avoid eviction or lessen its impact. Tenants may be able to negotiate payment plans or agree to leave by a specific date. Keeping records, such as receipts or photos, to defend against eviction is crucial. Attending the hearing can help the tenant protect his rights.

Note: This post is intended for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Individuals should consult with a qualified attorney for legal guidance specific to their situation.