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How Long Does a Virginia Landlord Have to Make Repairs?

Being a tenant comes with a list of expectations, one of which is the right to a safe and habitable living space. Virginia landlords, like those in many other states, are obliged to make necessary repairs to their rental units in order to promote basic health and safety standards. However, the timeline within which repairs must be completed can vary depending on the incident that takes place. In this article, we’ll explore the specifics when it comes to how long a Virginia landlord has to make repairs.

Habitability Laws for Virginia Landlords

Virginia landlords are expected to adhere to what’s known as habitability laws when it comes to the management and upkeep of their rental properties. Habitability laws outline the legal requirements for the minimum standards that all residential rental properties have to meet. These regulations are put in place to guarantee the safety, sanitation, and suitability of a rental unit for human habitation. Each jurisdiction may have slightly different requirements concerning these laws, but their general purpose is to protect residential tenants from having to deal with inadequate living conditions.

To remain compliant with the state’s habitability laws, Virginia landlords must perform the following tasks:

  • Remaining compliant with all building and housing codes
  • Preventing and removing pests or rodents from units
  • Providing working restroom utilities
  • Preventing the accumulation of moisture or mold
  • Making sure that electricity, sanitation, ventilation, and plumbing remain in working order
  • Supplying air conditioning and heating
  • Keeping common areas clean and structurally sound
  • Providing hot water
  • Providing trash removal services

In addition, landlords must perform repairs and maintenance services that are needed in order to keep a residential rental unit safe and habitable.

The Property Repair Process

When a component or facility within a rental unit breaks or requires routine maintenance, it’s up to the tenant to provide his or her landlord with proper notice. To initiate and complete repairs in a unit, the tenant must follow these simple steps.

  1. Identify the problem that has occurred and determine who is responsible for it.
  2. Gather any proof or documentation needed.
  3. Provide the landlord with written notice that identifies the issue and requests repairs.
    (A tenant can provide written notice in the form of a text message, an email, a mailed letter, or even a request through the landlord’s property management app.)
  4. Allow the landlord a reasonable length of time to perform the necessary repairs.

If the landlord fails to complete the repairs that the tenant requests in a timely manner, the tenant has a couple of routes they can pursue to get the repairs they need. We’ll cover tenant remedy options in another section, but for now, let’s examine how long a Virginia landlord has to complete requested repairs.

Timelines for Virginia Landlords to Make Repairs

Though the Virginia Residential Landlord and Tenant Act (VRTLA), does not explicitly outline specific timelines that all Virginia landlords have to make repairs in their residential units, the law does require them to address repair needs promptly. Because the word “promptly” can be interpreted differently from one person to another, it can be challenging to determine just how long a landlord has to repair an issue that arises.

Generally, landlords are given a reasonable length of time to address a repair need, and they’re expected to see to critical or urgent needs more swiftly than those that are less pressing.

For example, if the nature of the issue that occurs poses an immediate threat to human health and safety, the landlord must address it as soon as possible. If an issue that arises has caused more of an inconvenience than an actual threat, Virginia landlords can take a little longer to make the necessary repairs.

Issues pertaining to the tenant’s access to water, such as a lack of hot water or no water supply, fall into the emergency category. As such, landlords should make an effort to repair the issue within 24 hours of receiving notice. Usually, it’s acceptable to have the repairs made within two days, and it’s important to note that landlords cannot be held responsible for elements that are out of their control (ie: a plumber’s packed schedule).

The time of year may also affect how long a landlord has to repair an issue. Let’s assume a tenant’s furnace isn’t working. During the colder parts of the year, getting this repair completed is quite important and should take the landlord between 3-7 days to complete. However, during the summer months when the heat is not needed, landlords can take up to 30 days to complete the repair.

When it comes to air conditioning, landlords tend to have a little more time to complete repair requests. These repairs can usually take between 5-14 days to complete.

Sewage problems can take anywhere from 7-14 days to 30 days to repair, depending on the nature of the issue that occurred. A toilet that fills too slowly is much less of an emergency than a sewage system that doesn’t work at all. The latter should be dealt with immediately.

It’s important for Virginia landlords to use discretion when it comes to addressing repair requests. Critical needs need to be taken care of as soon as possible, while non-critical needs can be handled within a reasonable timeframe. It’s worth noting though that the sooner a repair is made, the less likely it is that the specific issue will lead to any long-term damages. A very slowly leaking roof, for example, may not be a critical issue, but the sooner the landlord repairs it, the less damage it will do to the property in the long run.

Tenant Remedy Options

When a landlord fails to complete the repairs needed within a reasonable span of time, tenants have two different options they can try in order to have their needs met. They can either file a Tenant’s Assertion complaint through their local courthouse or pay for a third party to perform the repairs, then deduct the difference from their upcoming rent payment. 

Should a tenant choose to file a Tenant’s Assertion in court, this individual must:

  • Complete the Tenant’s Assertion and Complaint form
  • Use the form to request that the court orders repairs, returns rent money while inhabitable conditions took place, or terminates the lease
  • Submit the form to the court
  • Pay rent into escrow with the court within 5 days of when it’s due
  • Attend your court hearing so that the judge may grant the request on the form

If the tenant chooses to pay a third party to complete the repairs and deduct the difference from his or her rent, the following steps are needed:

  • Provide written notice to the landlord requesting repairs
  • Wait 14 days for the landlord to initiate the repairs (and provide the landlord with access to the property in order to perform the repairs)
  • Work with a licensed contractor to have the repairs completed
  • Provide the landlord with an itemized statement and receipt that covers the work performed
  • Subtract the cost of the work, up to $1,500 or one month’s rent (whichever is higher), from your next rent payment

To prevent these issues from occurring, it’s in a Virginia landlord’s best interest to ensure that repair requests are addressed and completed as quickly as possible. 

Understanding the timelines for repairs in Virginia is crucial for both landlords and tenants. While there is no strict timeframe specified in the law, the concept of making repairs promptly is key. Tenants should be aware of their rights and obligations under the implied warranty of habitability, and landlords should strive to address repair issues in a timely manner to maintain a positive landlord-tenant relationship and comply with the law.

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