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Landlord Notice Passed Muster

A tenant’s assertion that landlord failed to comply with Va. Code § 55-248.15:1 by itemizing alleged damages and repair costs resulting in non-refund of a security deposit does not relieve the tenant of paying her last month’s rent under the lease;  the Norfolk Circuit Court overrules the tenant’s motion to strike and holds tenant liable to landlord for $2,922.63, including attorney’s fees of $1,500.

The court overrules tenant’s motion to strike for two reasons. Under the facts in this case, landlord’s noncompliance with the Virginia Residential Landlord Tenant Act was not willful and willfulness notwithstanding, noncompliance with this provision neither relieves a tenant of the obligation to pay rent owed, nor precludes a landlord or tenant from recovering other damages to which they may be entitled under the VRLTA or the lease agreement.

As part of the landlord’s efforts to recover rent for August 2014, landlord attempted to obtain a forwarding address from tenant, but tenant refused to provide one. Combined with landlord’s belief that tenant damaged the leased premises, concealed the presence of a second dog and then refused to pay the August rent, it is not unreasonable that landlord swiftly resorted to a legal remedy. Under the circumstances, the court concludes landlord’s failure to propound formal notice or itemizations was probably negligent vis-à-vis the VRLTA, but such a course of action does not rise to the level of willful noncompliance under these facts.

Here, the $750 security deposit is equal to August’s $750 rent, which the court does find owing. The court would therefore be obligated to apply the deposit to the unpaid rent.

Even if the landlord’s noncompliance with the security deposit provision was willful, the court cannot go beyond the remedy provided under VRLTA’s security deposit provisions by precluding landlord form reovering the reasonable costs entitled to landlord under the lease provision.

I find tenant violated the lease upon her early termination of the lease and refusal to pay August rent. I also find landlord proved by a preponderance of the evidence that tenant caused the claimed damages or portions thereof.

Reed v. Smith (Carson) No. CL 15-146, April 27, 2015; Roanoke City Cir.Ct.; Jordan K. Sharpes, Scott Webber for the parties. VLW 015-8-042, 6 pp.

VLW 015-8-042

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