Many of our Renters ask us about the Virginia Residential Landlord Tenant Act and why there are differences between the VRLTA lease and our lease. The VRLTA establishes the rights and obligations of professional landlords and tenants in Virginia. Under the Act, a professional landlord must own more than four rental properties (in Virginia). The majority of McGrath Landlords are not “professional landlords,” and thus are not subject to the VRLTA but are governed by the laws of the Commonwealth of Virginia. While our lease includes many aspects of the VRLTA into it, there are differences. The most asked about differences are summarized below:
- 60 Days to Return Security Deposit: The number one difference that our renters ask us about is why we allow 60 days to return the security deposit vs. the VRLTA which requires it be returned within 45 days. In some cases it can take two months for McGrath Real Estate to receive verification from utility companies that all utility bills have been paid and closed. In the case of the water bill, the owners are at risk of a lien against their property if that bill goes unpaid. We recommend that once you’ve moved out you provide our Inspections team with a copy of the final water and other utility bills to expedite the return of your security deposit. It is rare that McGrath Real Estate ever has to keep a security deposit for the full allotted time but we encourage our renters to assist us by providing copies of final bill payments.
- Interest is not Accrued on Security Deposits: No interest is accrued, to the benefit of the Renter under your lease.
- Abandonment: Technically under the VRLTA lease, if a Renter “abandons” the property for more than seven consecutive days, the Landlord has the right to provide notice and advertise the property. You would still be responsible for rent until the property has been re-rented. The McGrath Real Estate lease does not make this stipulation and as long as rent is paid, the home is not considered abandoned. We do ask that if you are leaving the area for an extended period of time to let us know and we can periodically check on the property to make sure nothing goes wrong while you are away.
Many parts of the VRLTA are incorporated into your lease to ensure that both Renters and Landlords are treated fairly. Several protect you as a Renter from unfair practices:
- Effect of Unsigned Lease: Under common law, if both parties do not sign the contract (in this case the Lease), then the lease would not technically be valid. If the Landlord collects rent there is an assumption of some sort of contract but it would be considered a “month-to-month” lease. Many of our Landlord clients are Foreign Service Officers and many are stationed in areas thathave limited access to internet, computers and fax machines. In some cases, it can be several weeks or even a month or two before we could reasonably expect to receive a signed and ratified document from our Landlords. We are in the process of incorporating “E-Signatures” to help expedite the process (more information to follow in future newsletters). To protect your rights under the lease, all our Landlords must agree to allow McGrath’s agents to sign on their behalf if needed. We will always try to provide you a ratified copy of all documents within two weeks of your signature.
- Notice to Cure Breach: If there is a breach of the lease (this could be anything from having an unauthorized pet on the premises, smoking inside the home, or subletting the home) under Common Law in Virginia, the Landlord has the right to immediately start eviction procedures. In your Lease and under the VRLTA, we require that the Renter be provided a “21 Day Notice to Cure or Quit” Notice. This provides you 21 days to remedy the default and bring your lease back into compliance. That isn’t to say that if you were smoking in the home, your security deposit couldn’t be deducted because it is likely that damage has already occurred. In the case of a pet situation it would allow you the opportunity to find the pet another home and not face eviction. The best policy in these situations, if you are considering moving out early, subletting or getting a new pet, contact our Leasing Department to get permission from the landlord IN WRITING, to protect yourself. If you ever think you might be in breach of the lease mistakenly, contact our Senior Property Manager, John Bennett to discuss the situation.
Understanding your lease will lead to a smoother and happier tenancy. If you have questions in regards to any part of the VRLTA or your lease, please contact John Bennett, our Senior Property manager at JBennett@McGrathRealEstate.com