Evicting a Houseguest Who Has Outstayed Their Welcome
For many, this is a common scenario: a friend, family member, colleague, or acquaintance falls on hard times. You have some extra space in your home, so you decide to help out. Maybe you’ve offered that the guest can stay in your home for free or in exchange for helping out with housework, or you may have even settled on a short term rent agreement. But now, it’s been a little too long, they aren’t holding up their end of the deal, or you are simply ready to have your space back. What can you do?
Ask the Guest to Leave
Of course, the first step is to speak to the guest directly. Before involving a legal professional or initiating eviction proceedings, speak honestly and directly to your house guest. Express the reasons why it is time for them to go and be firm.
Take Legal Action
If talking doesn’t work, it may be time to take further action. You might be surprised to know, even though your guest isn’t staying in your home under a formal lease agreement, he or she will likely still be treated as a tenant under Virginia law. In the Commonwealth of Virginia, if no written agreement or lease is in place, then courts consider the agreement to be a verbal lease, which is treated like a month-to-month tenancy.
Under Virginia law, tenants are entitled to 30 days’ notice before eviction proceedings begin. These 30 days give the tenant time to either cure the problem (if the reason they are being evicted is failure to pay rent or some other noncompliance with the lease) or leave the premises. If your guest was staying at your home rent-free, the notice does not need to give an option to cure the problem; it can simply state that the “tenant” has 30 days to leave the premises.
Although giving notice may seem like a simple step, there are actually a number of legal requirements that are important to follow. The notice must be provided in writing, include specific language identifying the occupants and the premises, and should be properly served upon the tenant. Failure to provide proper notice or service can result in the need for another 30 day notice period. That’s why we always recommend working with an experienced legal professional when drafting and serving notice.
After the 30 days have elapsed, you can then follow normal Virginia eviction procedure in the General District Court. You can read more about the eviction procedure in our blog post here.
For homeowners with short-terms guests who have overstayed their welcome, a 30-day notice period and the possibility of hiring an attorney can seem pretty extreme. After all, this guest was only staying in your home because of your generosity! Unfortunately, however, these are the legal requirements that must be followed when evicting a tenant, even a houseguest.
Get Help from an Experienced Professional
At Wakefield Law, we have been representing Virginia landlords in eviction proceedings for 30 years. In that time, we have worked with many homeowners to help them evict unwanted guests. It may be tempting to take matters into your own hands and try to conduct the eviction yourself; however, we strongly recommend being safe rather than sorry. To prevent any legal action or consequences from coming back on you, work with an experienced attorney who can assist you throughout the notice, unlawful detainer, and eviction process. To learn more and discuss your specific circumstances, give us a call at 703-771-9740 for a free consultation.