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

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

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

C. If the tenant commits a breach which is not remediable, the landlord may serve a written notice on the tenant specifying the acts and omissions constituting the breach and stating that the rental agreement will terminate upon 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 rental agreement involves or constitutes a criminal or a willful act, which is not remediable and which poses a threat to health or safety, the landlord may terminate the rental agreement immediately and proceed to obtain possession of the premises. For purposes of this subsection, any illegal drug activity involving 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, or the tenant's guests or invitees, shall constitute an immediate nonremediable violation for which the landlord may proceed to terminate the tenancy without the necessity of waiting for a conviction of any criminal offense that may arise out of the same actions. In order to obtain an order of possession from a court of competent jurisdiction terminating the tenancy for illegal drug activity or for any other action that involves or constitutes a criminal or willful act, the landlord shall prove any such violations by a preponderance of the evidence. However, where the illegal drug activity is engaged in by a tenant's authorized occupants, or guests or invitees, the tenant shall be presumed to have knowledge of such illegal drug activity unless the presumption is rebutted by a preponderance of the evidence. The initial hearing on the landlord's action for immediate possession of the premises shall be held within 15 calendar days from the date of service on the tenant; however, the court shall order an earlier hearing when emergency conditions are alleged to exist upon the premises which constitute an immediate threat to the health or safety of the other tenants. After the initial hearing, if the matter is scheduled for a subsequent hearing or for a contested trial, the court, to the extent practicable, shall order that the matter be given priority on the court's docket. Such subsequent hearing or contested trial shall 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 the date of any subsequent hearing or contested trial, the court may afford any further remedy or relief as is necessary to protect the interests of parties to the proceeding or the interests of any other tenant residing on the premises. Failure by the court to hold either of the hearings within the time limits set out herein shall not be a basis for dismissal of the case.

D. If the tenant is a victim of family abuse as defined in 16.1-228 that occurred in the dwelling unit or on the premises and the perpetrator is barred from the dwelling unit pursuant to 55-248.31:01 based upon information provided by the tenant to the landlord, or by a protective order from 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 an act of family abuse against the tenant. However, these provisions shall not be applicable if (i) the tenant fails to provide written documentation corroborating the tenant's status as a victim of family abuse and the exclusion from the dwelling unit of the perpetrator no later than 21 days from the alleged offense or (ii) the perpetrator returns to the dwelling unit or the premises, in violation of a bar notice, and the tenant fails promptly to notify the landlord within 24 hours thereafter that the perpetrator has returned to the dwelling unit or the premises, unless the tenant proves by a preponderance of the evidence that the tenant had no actual knowledge that the perpetrator violated the bar notice, or it was not possible for the tenant to notify the landlord within 24 hours, in which case the tenant shall promptly notify the landlord, but in no event more than 7 days thereafter. If the provisions of this subsection are not applicable, the tenant shall remain responsible for the acts of the other co-tenants, authorized occupants or guests or invitees pursuant to 55-248.16, and is subject to termination of the tenancy pursuant to the lease and this chapter.

E. If the tenant has been served with a prior written notice which required the tenant to remedy a breach, and the tenant remedied such breach, where the tenant intentionally commits a subsequent breach of a like nature as the prior breach, the landlord may serve a written notice on the tenant specifying the acts and omissions constituting the subsequent breach, make reference to the prior breach of a like nature, and state that the rental agreement will terminate upon a date not less than 30 days after receipt of the notice.

F. If rent is unpaid when due, and the tenant fails to pay rent within five days after written notice is served on him notifying the tenant of his nonpayment, and of the landlord's intention to terminate the rental agreement if the rent is not paid within the five-day period, the landlord may terminate the rental agreement and proceed to obtain possession of the premises as provided in 55-248.35. If a check for rent is delivered to the landlord drawn on an account with insufficient funds, or if an electronic funds transfer has been rejected because of insufficient funds or a stop-payment order has been placed in bad faith by the authorizing party, and the tenant fails to pay rent within five days after written notice is served on him notifying the tenant of his nonpayment and of the landlord's intention to terminate the rental agreement if the rent is not paid by cash, cashier's check, certified check, or a completed electronic funds transfer within the five-day period, the landlord may terminate the rental agreement and proceed to obtain possession of the premises as provided in 55-248.35. Nothing shall be construed to prevent a landlord from seeking an award of costs or attorney fees under 8.01-27.1 or civil recovery under 8.01-27.2, as a part of other damages requested on the unlawful detainer filed pursuant to 8.01-126, provided the landlord has given notice in accordance with 55-248.6, which notice may be included in the five-day termination notice provided in accordance with this section.

G. Except as provided in this chapter, the landlord may recover damages and obtain injunctive relief for any noncompliance by the tenant with the rental agreement or 55-248.16. The landlord shall be entitled to recover reasonable attorney fees unless the tenant proves by a preponderance of the evidence that the failure of the tenant to pay rent or vacate the premises was reasonable. If the rental agreement provides for the payment of reasonable attorney fees in the event of a breach of the agreement or noncompliance by the tenant, the landlord shall be entitled to recover and the court shall award reasonable attorney fees in any action based upon the tenancy in which the landlord prevails, including but not limited to actions for damages to the dwelling unit or premises, or additional rent, regardless of any previous action to obtain possession or rent, unless in any such action, the tenant proves by a preponderance of the evidence that the tenant'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; 2007, c. 273; 2008, c. 489; 2013, c. 563.)


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