The 2023 General Assembly passed a bill that might have flown under your radar. If so, that’s probably a good thing, because it deals with the kind of dirty and dangerous dwellings that most of you would have nothing to do with. However, it’s worth exploring the details a little bit in the event that the issue ever arises for you. 

House Bill 1635 created a way for a tenant to terminate a lease AND receive a full refund of all rents and deposits if a rental dwelling is “uninhabitable at possession.” If, at the time that the tenant takes possession of the property, there is a condition that constitutes a fire hazard or “serious threat to the life, health, or safety” of occupants, the tenant can terminate the lease by providing written notice to the landlord within seven days. The landlord then has 15 business days to return all rents and deposits to the tenant, or to provide written notice to the tenant that the landlord believes the tenant is unjustified in terminating.  

This can often occur with large property holders who are not keeping up with properties, and especially with tenants who are only able to view a dwelling through the internet before signing a lease. The law protects tenants from having to endanger their health or safety because of the way a landlord maintains a dwelling. 

It’s important to note that this only applies in situations when there is a fire hazard or “serious threat to the life, health, or safety” of tenants or occupants. Some things that could fit in this category include an infestation of rodents, lack of heat, lack of hot or cold running water, or adequate sewage disposal facilities. This is not meant for minor disagreements with the paint or the appliances.  

The bill is now codified at Virginia Code § 55.1-1234.1. If you have any questions about the law, please contact us on the Legal Hotline.