2006 Code of Virginia § 55-248.31 - Noncompliance with rental agreement; monetary penalty

55-248.31. Noncompliance with rental agreement; monetary penalty.

A. Except as provided in this chapter, if there is a material noncomplianceby the tenant with the rental agreement or a violation of 55-248.16materially affecting health and safety, the landlord may serve a writtennotice on the tenant specifying the acts and omissions constituting thebreach and stating that the rental agreement will terminate upon a date notless than 30 days after receipt of the notice if the breach is not remediedin 21 days, and that the rental agreement shall terminate as provided in thenotice.

B. If the breach is remediable by repairs or the payment of damages orotherwise and the tenant adequately remedies the breach prior to the datespecified in the notice, the rental agreement shall not terminate.

C. If the tenant commits a breach which is not remediable, the landlord mayserve a written notice on the tenant specifying the acts and omissionsconstituting the breach and stating that the rental agreement will terminateupon a date not less than 30 days after receipt of the notice.Notwithstanding anything to the contrary contained elsewhere in this chapter,when a breach of the tenant's obligations under this chapter or the rentalagreement involves or constitutes a criminal or a willful act, which is notremediable and which poses a threat to health or safety, the landlord mayterminate the rental agreement immediately and proceed to obtain possessionof the premises. For purposes of this subsection, any illegal drug activityinvolving a controlled substance, as used or defined by the Drug Control Act( 54.1-3400 et seq.), by the tenant, the tenant's authorized occupants, orthe tenant's guests or invitees, shall constitute an immediate nonremediableviolation for which the landlord may proceed to terminate the tenancy withoutthe necessity of waiting for a conviction of any criminal offense that mayarise out of the same actions. In order to obtain an order of possession froma court of competent jurisdiction terminating the tenancy for illegal drugactivity or for any other action that involves or constitutes a criminal orwillful act, the landlord shall prove any such violations by a preponderanceof the evidence. However, where the illegal drug activity is engaged in by atenant's authorized occupants, or guests or invitees, the tenant shall bepresumed to have knowledge of such illegal drug activity unless thepresumption is rebutted by a preponderance of the evidence. The initialhearing on the landlord's action for immediate possession of the premisesshall be held within 15 calendar days from the date of service on the tenant;however, the court shall order an earlier hearing when emergency conditionsare alleged to exist upon the premises which constitute an immediate threatto the health or safety of the other tenants. After the initial hearing, ifthe matter is scheduled for a subsequent hearing or for a contested trial,the court, to the extent practicable, shall order that the matter be givenpriority on the court's docket. Such subsequent hearing or contested trialshall be heard no later than 30 days from the date of service on the tenant.During the interim period between the date of the initial hearing and thedate of any subsequent hearing or contested trial, the court may afford anyfurther remedy or relief as is necessary to protect the interests of partiesto the proceeding or the interests of any other tenant residing on thepremises.

D. If the tenant is a victim of family abuse as defined in 16.1-228 thatoccurred in the dwelling unit or on the premises and the perpetrator isbarred from the dwelling unit pursuant to 55-248.31:01 based uponinformation provided by the tenant to the landlord, or by a protective orderfrom a court of competent jurisdiction pursuant to 16.1-253.1, 16.1-279.1,or subsection B of 20-103, the lease shall not terminate due solely to anact of family abuse against the tenant. However, these provisions shall notbe applicable if (i) the tenant fails to provide written documentationcorroborating the tenant's status as a victim of family abuse and theexclusion from the dwelling unit of the perpetrator no later than 21 daysfrom the alleged offense or (ii) the perpetrator returns to the dwelling unitor the premises, in violation of a bar notice, and the tenant fails promptlyto notify the landlord within 24 hours thereafter that the perpetrator hasreturned to the dwelling unit or the premises, unless the tenant proves by apreponderance of the evidence that the tenant had no actual knowledge thatthe perpetrator violated the bar notice, or it was not possible for thetenant to notify the landlord within 24 hours, in which case the tenant shallpromptly notify the landlord, but in no event more than 7 days thereafter. Ifthe provisions of this subsection are not applicable, the tenant shall remainresponsible for the acts of the other co-tenants, authorized occupants orguests or invitees pursuant to 55-248.16, and is subject to termination ofthe tenancy pursuant to the lease and this chapter.

E. If the tenant has been served with a prior written notice which requiredthe tenant to remedy a breach, and the tenant remedied such breach, where thetenant intentionally commits a subsequent breach of a like nature as theprior breach, the landlord may serve a written notice on the tenantspecifying the acts and omissions constituting the subsequent breach, makereference to the prior breach of a like nature, and state that the rentalagreement will terminate upon a date not less than 30 days after receipt ofthe notice.

F. If rent is unpaid when due, and the tenant fails to pay rent within fivedays after written notice is served on him notifying the tenant of hisnonpayment, and of the landlord's intention to terminate the rental agreementif the rent is not paid within the five-day period, the landlord mayterminate the rental agreement and proceed to obtain possession of thepremises as provided in 55-248.35. If a check for rent is delivered to thelandlord drawn on an account with insufficient funds and the tenant fails topay rent within five days after written notice is served on him notifying thetenant of his nonpayment and of the landlord's intention to terminate therental agreement if the rent is not paid by cash, cashier's check orcertified check within the five-day period, the landlord may terminate therental agreement and proceed to obtain possession of the premises as providedin 55-248.35. Nothing shall be construed to prevent a landlord from seekingan award of costs or attorneys' fees under 8.01-27.1 or civil recoveryunder 8.01-27.2, as a part of other damages requested on the unlawfuldetainer filed pursuant to 8.01-126.

G. Except as provided in this chapter, the landlord may recover damages andobtain injunctive relief for any noncompliance by the tenant with the rentalagreement or 55-248.16. The landlord shall be entitled to recoverreasonable attorneys' fees unless the tenant proves by a preponderance of theevidence that the failure of the tenant to pay rent or vacate the premiseswas reasonable. If the rental agreement provides for the payment ofreasonable attorneys' fees in the event of a breach of the agreement ornoncompliance by the tenant, the landlord shall be entitled to recover andthe court shall award reasonable attorneys' fees in any action based upon thetenancy in which the landlord prevails, including but not limited to actionsfor damages to the dwelling unit or premises, or additional rent, regardlessof any previous action to obtain possession or rent, unless in any suchaction, the tenant proves by a preponderance of the evidence that thetenant's failure to pay rent or vacate was reasonable.

(1974, c. 680; 1978, c. 378; 1980, c. 502; 1982, c. 260; 1984, c. 78; 1987,c. 387; 1988, c. 62; 1989, c. 301; 1995, c. 580; 2000, c. 760; 2003, c. 363;2004, c. 232; 2005, cc. 808, 883; 2006, cc. 628, 717.)


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