Previously under Virginia law, there was no legal requirement that a landlord provide any relief to a victim of domestic violence. Now, victims of domestic violence have more options.

            Virginia Code Sections 55-225.16 and 55-248.21:2 now include the right to early termination of rental agreements for victims of family abuse, sexual abuse, or criminal sexual assault. In order to obtain this termination, the victim must be granted a final protective order and provide written notice of the termination to the landlord during the period that the protective order or any extensions. The written notice must include the effective date of termination, which must not be less than 30 days after the first date on which the next rental payment is due, and payable after the date on which the written notice is given. A copy of the final protective order shall also be provided to the landlord. This relief is not available if only an emergency or preliminary protective order has been obtained or if the protective order is against a non-domestic perpetrator. 

            Termination of the lease under these statutes does not relieve any co-tenants of their responsibility for the lease and any rental payments. If the victim is the sole tenant, the landlord may terminate the lease. 

            As an alternative, victims of domestic violence can also be awarded exclusive use and possession of a residence under Virginia Code Section 16.1-279.1. If exclusive use and possession is awarded, there will also typically be an order that the perpetrator may not terminate the necessary utility services. Finally, in some circumstances, courts may order that the perpetrator provide suitable alternative housing for the victim, sometimes requiring them to also pay the deposits and connect utility services. 

H. Van Smith
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Trusted Virginia Attorney Serving Richmond to Williamsburg