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What amounts to constructive eviction in Virginia?

On Behalf of | Mar 7, 2023 | Civil litigation

Do you have a tenant you want out of your property? It could be due to non-payment of rent or a violation of the lease agreement, among other valid reasons. Either way, you ought to follow due process when evicting them. Otherwise, you risk legal and financial sanctions.

For instance, you are not supposed to interfere with a tenant’s quiet and peaceful enjoyment of the rental property, even if you want them to leave. If such actions force the tenants to move out, it is considered constructive eviction and is unlawful under Virginia law.

Elements of constructive eviction

You do not have to physically evict your tenant from your property for constructive eviction to occur. Any act or omission by the landlord that results in substantial interference in a tenant’s possession and enjoyment of the property could lead to that. If the tenant moves out within a reasonable time of such interference, it may amount to constructive eviction.

Such conduct includes:

  • Changing the locks to the house
  • Cutting off utilities
  • Failing to provide essential services or make necessary repairs
  • Harassment or intimidation.

In short, using underhand tactics to force your tenant out is illegal.

The potential penalties of an unlawful eviction

The law protects tenants against unlawful evictions. Therefore, if you are found to have constructively evicted your tenant, you may have to part with certain damages (like property damage or the emotional suffering endured by the tenant) and court fees, among other penalties.

Protect yourself from legal liability

You cannot risk a brush with the law. If you have any questions or need guidance in the eviction process, it helps to seek the necessary assistance. Knowing how things work when evicting a tenant and what to expect will help you navigate the process more easily.