Virginia Security Deposit Laws
As a landlord, having tenants pay a security deposit can help provide you some cushion against potential financial damages. These can occur in any of the following ways:
- If a tenant moves out of their rented premises without paying the due rent
- If a tenant moves out of their rented premises without clearing their utility bills
- In the case a tenant abandons a unit
- If a tenant (or their guest) causes negligent property damage
In such cases, you’d be able to minimize your losses by making appropriate deductions from a tenant’s deposit.
In Virginia, the VA Code § 55.1-1226 oversees the collection and return of security deposits. The following is a basic overview of the rules you must abide by:
1. Maximum Security Deposit
In Virginia, the security deposit fee can’t exceed the cost of two months’ rent. If the monthly rental price is, for instance, $1,300, then the deposit shouldn’t exceed $2,600.
You may be able to ask for an additional pet deposit. This ranges between $200 and $500. You may then use this deposit towards any wear and tear a pet may cause to your unit.
That said, disabled tenants who use service dogs are exempt from paying a pet deposit. A service animal isn’t a pet and disability is a protected class under Virginia Fair Housing laws .
The Fair Housing Act requires landlords to make reasonable accommodations for tenants with disabilities. This ensures that disabled tenants have equal opportunity to use and enjoy their home.
2. Allowable Deductions on a Tenant’s Security Deposit
Landlords in Virginia have a right to make deductions on their tenant’s deposit. There is one caveat, though. The deduction must be legitimate. In other words, you can’t simply make deductions to a tenant’s deposit for whatever reason.
The following are legitimate reasons for deductions made to a tenant’s deposit:
- Unpaid utility bills
- Due rent under the lease
- Any financial losses you may incur as a result of the tenant not abiding by the terms of the lease agreement
- Any charges that are allowed under the lease agreement
- Damage exceeding normal wear and tear
What constitutes wear and tear? Normal wear and tear is damage that naturally occurs in a rental property due to aging and regular use. Examples include loose door handles, worn finish on bathroom fixtures, dirty grout, and faded carpet.
Damage in excess of normal wear and tear can be penalized. Examples include holes in a wall, missing tiles or fixtures, a broken window, a smashed bathroom mirror, or torn wallpaper.
3.Security Deposit in Lieu of Last Month’s Rent
Tenants in the state of Virginia aren’t entitled to use their security deposit as payment for last month’s rent. The only exception is if the written agreement has a clause allowing it.
4. Returning a Tenant’s Security Deposit
Once a tenant has moved out, you must return their deposit (or whatever is left of it) within 45 days. If you’ve made any deductions, then you must provide the tenant with a written notice of the itemized deductions, plus the portion of the deposit.
Your tenant is responsible for providing you a forwarding address. If they don’t, you’ll only be required to keep the deposit for one year.
After that, you’ll need to escheat it to the Commonwealth by paying it into the State Treasury. Once you do this, you’ll have no further liability to the tenant in regards to the storage of the tenant’s deposit.
Failure to return the deposit back to the tenant is unlawful. You may be made to pay back the entire amount to the tenant, plus reasonable damages, and attorney and court costs.
5. Receipt Requirements
In some states, landlords are required to provide their tenants with a receipt of the deposit upon receiving it. This is, however, not the case in the state of Virginia.
Nevertheless, it’s still advisable to do so for record-keeping purposes.
6. Interest on Security Deposit
In the neighboring state of Maryland, landlords are required to store their tenant’s deposit in a separate interest-bearing account. The account must also be federally insured. The interest must grow at the daily U.S. Treasury yield curve for one year, or 1.5 percent.
This is, however, not the case for landlords in the state of Virginia. Virginia laws no longer require landlords to store their tenant’s deposits in any particular manner.
7. Change of Property Ownership
In case the property’s ownership changes hands while a lease subsists, the incoming landlord will inherit the outgoing landlord’s responsibility to refund the tenant’s deposit after the lease ends.
As such, it’s the incoming landlord’s responsibility to procure the deposit from the outgoing landlord.
We hope this article has helped you understand the security deposit laws in Virginia. However, if you have any questions, get in touch with Redsail Property Management! Our full-suite of property management services can help increase your ROI and reduce your stress.
We’ve helped countless property owners in Hampton Roads overcome their property management challenges. Get in touch with our team of skilled property managers to get started right away!
Disclaimer: This blog isn’t intended to be a substitute for professional legal advice. Laws change and this information may become obsolete at the time you read it. For further help, please get in touch with a qualified attorney or an experienced property management company.