In Virginia, a residential lease is considered a contract; whatever terms contained within it will be enforceable against either party. Unfortunately, most lease provisions tend to favor the landlord. However, you as a tenant still have important rights and valuable remedies that you can use to make sure the landlord keeps your property in proper repair.
1. The Move-In Inspection
Before moving in, you as a tenant should take advantage of the opportunity to inspect the rental property. Although not required under the law, this Move-In Inspection will allow you and the landlord to discuss any problems together in person before the property becomes the tenant’s sole responsibility (see Section 2 below). Without doing this inspection first, it becomes more difficult for a tenant to claim that the property was already damaged when he or she moved in.
When conducting this Move-In Inspection, you should take pictures of problems or issues with the property and send a copy to the landlord. Be sure to ask for these defects to be fixed before you move in or very shortly after.
A landlord can also submit a written report outlining any issues with the rental property at the time the lease starts. If the landlord does send such a report to you, review it immediately. Any objections to this report must be made in writing within 5 days. Otherwise, similar to the Mold Disclosure Statement (see Section 3 below), this report will be deemed correct and could result in the landlord passing along damages that already existed at the time you moved in.
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