NORFOLK, Va. — Landlord-tenant disagreements are some of the most common issues seen before Virginia’s district court judges. Attorneys told News 3 that renter problems amount to roughly 60% to 70% of district court cases. That’s why they said it’s a good idea for you to know your rights, whether you’re the renter or the landlord.
From living conditions to price hikes and unexpected policies, Hampton Roads residents say renting can be great or a headache.
“The place that I am in now, it’s okay, but the one before that was an apartment. I had a lot of mildew trouble,” said Lisa Golson, of Portsmouth.”It was hard to get the landlord or the realtors to come to the house and check out the property.”
Three new laws that take effect in Virginia on July 1 will attempt to address some of these issues.
“For the most part they’re well thought out,” said Larry Lockwood Jr., an attorney at Hunter Law Firm.
The first law, , requires your landlord, if they own or have more than 10 percent interest in more than four rental units, to give tenants more notice before raising the rent. Renters will get 60 days’ notice so they will have more time to find other living arrangements if needed.
“It doesn’t really put any additional burdens on landlords but keeps landlords from doing some unscrupulous business practices,” said Lockwood.
The second law, , prevents apartment complexes from evicting tenants one by one. This applies mostly to landlords that are planning to stop renting to a large number of their tenants.
“If a landlord decides they are going to go out of the rental business, or turn their rental building into a condo or tear it down and turn it into a hotel or resort or whatever,” Lockwood said. “They can’t just let the apartment’s agreements expire one by one.”
In addition, landlords will have to give tenants 60 days of notice if they’re not going to renew many leases (either 20 or more month-to-month tenancies or 50 percent of the month-to-month tenancies within a 30-day period, whichever is greater).
The third law, , gives tenants a refund option if they move in and then find the apartment is uninhabitable.
“There are rodents, or something you missed on the original walk-through, something you couldn’t have seen until you were living there,” Lockwood said. “It gives you seven days to give notice to the landlord that it’s uninhabitable, you’re moving out, you’re done.”
It’s meant to help folks get money back and then into a new place more quickly.
But if you have an issue, Lockwood said you shouldn’t just stop paying rent. Instead, he said, check with an attorney.
“The lawyer would typically say go down to the courthouse and do a tenant’s assertion. This is what you do. And they would have been protected. A little bit of knowledge goes a very long way, especially when you’re dealing with renting apartments,” said Lockwood.
Lockwood added it’s a good idea to document everything, especially during the initial walk-through. He said you can video record every square inch of your apartment and carefully note defects prior to move-in.