Homeowners, Tenants & Landlords

Whether you are a homeowner, landlord or tenant, the experienced attorneys at Coates & Davenport, P.C., are able to fight for your rights and the recovery you deserve if a legal dispute arises. Let us help you figure out a plan. If the court rules in your favor, the other side may have to pay your attorney's fees and costs.

Tenants' Rights

The first thing a tenant needs to know when entering legal proceedings is that you cannot simply stop paying rent. If you are unsatisfied with your residence or the landlord is refusing to make repairs, you still must meet rent obligations while the legal process unfolds.

In such situations, the law requires that a tenant must first give written notice to the landlord of the issue, and the landlord has a reasonable amount of time to make the repairs. What is "reasonable"? That depends on the issue. Some matters are more serious than others. For example, insufficient winter heating must be addressed immediately; however, it is acceptable to fix a leaky faucet within a range of weeks. Nevertheless, a landlord cannot simply refuse to make the repair. Nor can a landlord require a tenant to keep the residence 'habitable.' This is called a nondelegable duty — it is solely the landlord's duty to keep the residence fit for occupation.

If you have sent written notice to your landlord and they have refused to make repairs or performed a substandard repair, your next step is taking your landlord to court. To do so you must file a tenant's assertion with the General District Court. The tenant may also ask for damages in the form of rent payments returned to them. Filing a tenant's assertion also requires that the tenant make their rent payments to the court instead of their landlord. The court holds the funds in escrow until the judge decides who is entitled to the money.

Tenants may also take court action if a landlord makes unannounced visits or otherwise intrudes on their tenant's possession of the residence.

Landlord Actions

Do you have a tenant that isn't paying the rent? Or a tenant refusing to vacate the premises after the end of a lease? In legal terminology, this is referred to as a holdover tenant. It's possible that their continued residence is legal. You may have allowed your lease to convert to a month-to-month or triggered an automatic renewal. You may need an unlawful detainer to get the tenant out.

Did the tenant move out — but leave a mess behind? Are there damages that exceed the security deposit? Is there back rent? You may need to file a warrant in debt to recover the expenses you're owed. In such matters, our firm can help.

When Homeowners Fall Victim To Contractors

In Virginia, contractors who perform work on homes must be licensed to do so. If your prospective contractor is not licensed, there is likely a reason why. Perhaps the contractor has not complied with the licensing requirements, or has had their license revoked owing to substandard practices.

The first thing you, as a homeowner and consumer, should do when hiring a contractor to work on your house is check if the contractor is licensed. The Department of Professional and Occupational Regulation (DPOR) regulates contractors in Virginia and maintains an online database.

Problems persist with licensed contractors, however. If a licensed contractor has stolen from you or committed a fraud against you, DPOR maintains a fund that may pay your court judgment if the contractor refuses to do so. If you hire an unlicensed contractor, you have no recourse if the contractor disappears.

Permits Are Required For Home Upgrades

For most construction work that is performed on a home, a permit must be obtained from the local building official's office. These types of permits include: Plumbing, electrical, building and structural. The purpose of requiring permits is that a qualified government inspector will review the work upon its completion to ensure it meets the applicable building code.

If a contractor does not get a permit, or tells you a permit is not required, that should put you on notice that your contractor does not intend to meet the building code requirements. Conversely, such contractors are the most likely to cut corners and put you at future risk. Remodeling without a building permit may also give you problems when it's time to sell your home.

Contact Us Today

To learn more, or to speak with a lawyer, reach out to Coates & Davenport, P.C., today. You can call us at 804-729-5537 or reach us online. We're always prepared to answer your questions and address your concerns.