Virginia Poverty Law Center


Understanding the following legal terms will help you navigate the eviction process.


After losing in court, asking a higher court to put the decision on hold and hear the case again.

Bill of Particulars

The landlord's written explanation telling the court what they want the judge to do in an eviction case and why they should do it. It always comes before the tenant's Grounds of Defense.

Breach (a lease or rule)

Breaking the requirements of a lease or property rules. A breach can be fixable, called "remediable," or not fixable, called "non-remediable."


A delay in a case by scheduling a new hearing for a later date.

Court Clerk

The court worker who keeps case records, where you deliver any papers or money to the court

Default Judgment

The win given to the landlord when the tenant does not show up at court for the scheduled hearing.


In an eviction case in court, the tenant is the defendant.


Paying money, like rent, to the court clerk related to a case in court.


When a tenant is physically forced out of the property they were renting. A legal eviction comes after a court case and involves the sheriff's office. It is illegal for a landlord to force out a tenant without going through the court and sheriff's office.


Any proof presented in court, usually documents or witness statements.

Expiration (of a lease)

When a lease runs out, like at the end of a year after it was signed.


Getting something removed from your court records.

Grounds of Defense

The tenant's written response to the landlord's Bill of Particulars. It tells the court how the tenant disagrees with the landlord's Bill of Particulars, what the tenant wants the judge to do in their case, and why they should do it.


Any date and time scheduled for the landlord and tenant to come to court and see the judge.


Staying in the home after the lease ended and the landlord asked you to leave.


The decision the judge makes about a case, about whether a tenant can stay or must leave their home, or about money related to a lease.


A request to a judge to make a decision.


Something that can't be fixed, like a crime.


Letting a lease run out and not continuing it.


A letter, usually from a landlord, with important information that could affect your ability to stay in your home or face eviction.

Pay or Quit

A letter from a landlord asking the tenant to pay overdue rent or leave the home within a set number of days.


In an eviction case in court, the landlord is the plaintiff.


A written explanation from either the landlord or the tenant, explaining what happened and why the judge should rule for them.


A court decision that gives a landlord the right to evict.

Public Housing

Housing in properties owned by a Public Housing Authority, where residents pay reduced rent based on their income. Residents also have extra protections against eviction.

Redeem or Redemption

Paying everything you owe the landlord in an eviction case based only on unpaid rent, not any other reason. In most cases, doing that means the landlord can't evict you within starting a new court case against you.


Something that can be fixed, like a rule someone has broken.

Return Date

The first hearing date in a court case.


The legally required delivery of a court document to a tenant.

Subsidized Housing

Housing provided at reduced cost to residents who meet certain criteria. It generally includes people in public housing that is owned by a housing authority, reduced-rent apartments in Section 8 complexes, rent paid partially with a Housing Choice Voucher, and other government programs. Residents in subsidized housing generally have extra protections against eviction. Properties with Low Income Housing Tax Credits have some extra eviction protections, too, even for residents who don't pay reduced rent..

Summons for Unlawful Detainer

Paper from the court with information about a case, including the day and time to go to the first hearing.

Termination (of a lease)

Cancelling or ending a lease.


A hearing where both sides can present evidence and explain their side of the case to the judge.

Unlawful Detainer

The legal name for an eviction court case.

Unlawful Exclusion

The legal name for an illegal eviction by the landlord, without going through the courts and sheriff's office.

Vacate (a home)

Moving out of the property and returning the keys to the landlord.

Violate (a lease or rule)

Breaking the requirements of a lease or property rules.

Writ of Eviction

A court order telling the sheriff's office to schedule an eviction and remove someone from their home.

Glossary definitions based on various sources, including the Eviction Defense Network