Q: One of two roommates has seemingly abandoned the property. The remaining tenant has been paying the rent faithfully.
The lease expires on August 31, 2021, but the remaining tenant would like a new lease effective August 1, 2021, with the roommate's name removed from the lease and the locks changed immediately. According to the remaining tenant, he has attempted to contact the roommate numerous times over the past three months with no success. I am told that nothing of value was left behind when the tenant left. As the landlord, I have not heard at all from the tenant that has left; all rent has been paid faithfully on time by the remaining tenant since the lease's inception. (The tenant that left had been responsible for half the rent which he paid to the remaining tenant until he stopped which was the source of the problems they were having.) Can I legally create a new lease now, prior to its expiration, and change the locks now as requested by the reliable tenant? Can the tenant change the locks on his own if he decides to?
A: 1. Property that is left in the premises by a tenant who has vacated the premises is considered to be abandoned, and can be disposed of in a reasonable way.
2. If the landlord and the tenant agree to a written renewal of the lease before the end of the term, then it is a novation and is enforceable.
3. Changing the locks in the premises is self-help and that is prohibited for residential tenancies by law in Virginia.
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