Virginia Poverty Law Center

If You Have No Written Lease

Virginia law says a landlord has to give you a written lease. If they don’t, but you have a verbal agreement to rent a place to live, here’s what the law says about the agreement.

Terms of an unwritten lease

If you don't have a written lease, the following rules apply to your rental agreement:

  • Your lease goes for 12 months.
  • It does not automatically renew when it runs out.
  • You pay rent every month.
  • Your rent is the amount you and your landlord agreed to.
  • Rent is due on the first of the month.
  • Rent is late after the fifth of the month.
  • Your landlord can charge a late fee of up to 10% of the monthly rent or 10% of the unpaid balance, whichever is less.
  • Your landlord can require a security deposit worth two months’ rent or less.
  • You and your landlord can still make a written lease at any time.

If your landlord tries to end or change it

If your landlord tries to change the rules of your lease, you don't have to accept them. During the first 12 months of an unwritten lease, the landlord can’t:

  • Raise your rent.
  • Make you pay for repairs to the property.
  • Charge you for utilities you didn’t agree to pay.
  • End your lease without a good legal reason.
  • Make you move to a different property.
  • Move other people into the space you rent.

If you want to end or change it

If you decide you want to move out or change the agreement during the first 12 months, you can try to negotiate with your landlord. A Legal Aid lawyer may be able to help you with this. Get any agreed changes in writing.

Careful: If you move out before 12 months are up, your landlord can ask the court to make you keep paying rent.

Keep in mind

  • Without a written agreement, your lease goes for 12 months.
  • You can negotiate with your landlord to end or change it, but be sure to get any changes in writing.
  • Your landlord can’t end or change the agreement within the first 12 months unless you both agree.

You may want to talk to a lawyer for specific advice. Contact your local Legal Aid office to see if you qualify for free help.

Take action

Learn what you can do to try to stay in your home and avoid eviction.

Fight my eviction

Sometimes, you can't avoid eviction if your landlord wants you out. But it is always good to learn how the law can protect you and what you can do about your situation.