Asked in Landlord - Tenant for Virginia

Q: Do I have a fighting chance in court

Recently my ex landlord hit me with a warrant in debt for back rent. They are claiming i haven't paid rent in 2 years which is ridiculous since my lease was year to year. The only time that i did not pay rent was for a six month period when my heat went out and other things that needed major repair that didn't get repaired. Yes i was looking for a new place in that process as well. I had to vacate the house because they ended up selling the house which was no issue except the timeframe i had to do that. They are also trying to sue for utilities as well but they verbally stated that they would take care of the electric and i have not received a bill for the time i stayed there. My lease agreement only stated the rent was to be paid nothing else.

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1 Lawyer Answer
Elaine Jarvis
Elaine Jarvis
  • Landlord Tenant Lawyer
  • Front Royal, VA
  • Licensed in Virginia

A: First of all: make sure (absolutely sure) you show up at the first return and ask to contest everything and do NOT admit to owing anything. Then I would think about talking to a lawyer because it would appear that you do have defenses--and this assumes the lease is in Virginia:

1. You cannot be sued for utilities if the lease agreement does not account for your requirement to pay utilities;

2. The time frame they are suing for is iffy--whether you owe for the six month time period where you went without heat, for example, depends on how you gave notice and whether you filed a tenant's assertion before withholding rent--but if your lease is indeed year to year and it did not automatically renew then it is hard to see how you owe more back rent;

3. They need to send a security deposit disposition statement before coming after you;

4. They should have sent pay or quit notices and if this was during COVID they were required to apply for RRP or rent relief money;

5. There should be demand letters from the LL asking for rent payments each month;


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