Lease Contracts: Development, VRLTA 2018 Changes, and Lease Reviews

Historically, leases have enabled many different sorts of relationships – and they continue do so with great variety today. Before the late 18th century, leases mostly concerned agriculture but have since come to encompass virtually every imaginable commercial and consumer type of renting. As a legal concept, leases developed among the common law or the component of English law established by custom and judicial precedent rather than statute. More narrowly within the common law, the growth of both contract and property law affected leases. Over time, legislatures codified large spans of the common law but also adopted pragmatic and policy considerations among statutory schemes. Both the common law and statutory framework concerning leases continue to change today with annual or nearly-annual amendments.

In 1974, the Virginia legislature established the Virginia Residential Landlord and Tenant Act (“VRLTA”), which can now be found at §§ 55-248.2 et. seq. Among its purposes, the VRLTA aims “to simplify, clarify, modernize and revise the law governing the rental of dwelling units and the rights and obligations of landlords and tenants; to encourage landlords and tenants to maintain and improve the quality of housing; and to establish a single body of law relating to landlord and tenant relations throughout the Commonwealth.” This act has undergone numerous revisions with significant amendment this year alone.

Notable changes to the VRLTA which took effect this year include:

1.       Opt-Out Applicability (§ 55-248.3:1): Previously, landlords owning fewer than 5 properties were excluded from the VRLTA, unless they opted-in. Now the VRLTA applies to occupancy in all dwelling units within the Commonwealth, unless the property owner owns 2 or fewer single-family residential dwelling units in its own name and expressly opts-out in the rental agreement.

2.       The 10-Day Possession Rule: In certain circumstances, landlords pursuing eviction through an unlawful detainer previously could obtain an order for “immediate possession” and seek immediate execution through the sheriff’s office. Now, the law requires a 10-day waiting period across the board before the sheriff can act upon a writ of possession.

Our office understands that landlords have a lot at stake in their rental arrangements and can find themselves at risk of investment nonperformance or damage; and we also understand the important role of landlords in our economy. Among our services, we assist landlords with reviewing and revising lease agreements to stay up to date with the requirements of Virginia’s landlord tenant law. If you are a landlord in Southwest or Central Virginia needing legal counsel, you can reach our office at 540-344-4490 or through our Contact Us Form.