Must a lease be written to be enforceable?

No. An oral lease is enforceable if the term set at the time it is entered into is for a period that does not exceed one year. However, as with any contract, it is advisable, for both the landlord and tenant, to have the terms in writing. 

What should I be concerned about when signing a lease?

As with any written contract, you should understand and agree with all of the terms. Leases usually are form contracts that may contain language not easily understood and that may unfairly favor the landlord. If you do not understand something, ask questions or seek help from a lawyer. Signing a lease begins a relationship with your landlord that will continue …

What are my obligations as a tenant?

Your chief obligations are to pay the rent and to maintain the property in the condition you received it, except normal wear and tear. A good tenant is mindful of neighbors’ rights as well. Generally, no other people may move in with you without a written change to the lease signed by you and the landlord. 

Are there specific laws in Virginia that govern landlord/tenant relationships?

Yes. The Virginia Residential Landlord Tenant Act (VRLTA) applies to all multi-family rentals and to single family rentals when a landlord owns more than two single-family dwellings. The VRLTA balances rights and obligations between tenant and landlord. Many rental properties use standard leases reflecting the terms of the VRLTA. Leases that do not fall under the VRLTA are governed by …

What is a security deposit and how is it used?

A security deposit is an amount of money, not to exceed two months’ rent, required by the landlord at the beginning of a lease term. It serves as security for the landlord to cover any damages to the leased property above and beyond normal wear and tear caused by the tenant or their guests or to cover unpaid rent and …

If I break a lease, for what amount can I be sued?

If you break a lease, your landlord may seek the loss of rent to the end of the lease term minus any amount received when the property is re-let (leased to another party). The landlord also can seek recovery for any damages to the property above ordinary wear and tear. 

How does a landlord terminate a lease for nonpayment of rent?

A landlord may terminate a lease for nonpayment of rent by giving notice to the tenant to either pay what is owed or leave the property. If the tenant pays within five days of receiving that notice, the tenant may remain. If payment is not made, the landlord may begin proceedings to evict the tenant by filing an “unlawful detainer” (eviction) …