Virginia Poverty Law Center

Understanding Your Lease Agreement

If you rent a home, or even a room to live in, the law says your landlord has to offer you a written lease. Some leases are hand-written notes, but most are long, formal documents.

What is a lease?

A lease is an agreement to rent property. For renting a home or a room in Virginia, it should be in writing. It should be signed by both the landlord and the tenant, but it doesn’t have to be signed by both.

What does a lease contain?

At the very least, a lease should say:

  • The rent amount.
  • The date it begins and the date it ends.

What are the details in a lease?

Most leases have lots of numbered paragraphs. Each paragraph deals with some detail. These are some items you should pay attention to in your lease:

  • What day rent is due, and when it is considered late.
  • If there is a late fee.
  • Which utilities are included in the rent.
  • What happens when the lease runs out.
  • Who is allowed to live there, as a rent-paying tenant or just an occupant.
  • Any other costs or fees you might have to pay.
  • Any special rules, like their pet policy.

Do I need to read my lease?

You should always read your lease before agreeing to it. You need to know what you are getting into.

Keep in mind

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.