Eviction is the process by which a landlord obtains possession of the rental property by entering a lawsuit against the tenant(s) and receiving judgment from the court directing the tenant(s) to leave the property and pay back any rent, damage claims and costs of the court process. Following are the steps a landlord must take in the eviction process.
STEP 1: Notice to Tenant(s)
(Referred to herein as “Tenant" whether singular or plural)
5-day letter (Pay or Quit Notice) for money-related issues. This
notice is used for failure to pay rent. The landlord gives the tenant
written notice that rent must be paid within five days of service date
or tenant must vacate the premises.
- 30-day letter (Notice to Quit) for contractual issues. This notice applies if the tenant is in violation of the lease/rental agreement. The landlord gives the tenant written notice to vacate the premises within 30 days.
If a landlord requests Sheriff's Service for Notice to Tenant, the notice must include:
- The name of the individual(s) to be served and the address of the rental property.
- The original notice for return to landlord, plus a copy for each individual being served.
- Self-addressed, stamped envelope to send back landlord's proof of service.
- A $12.00 service fee for each individual being served.
The Sheriff's civil enforcement office is located in the Fairfax County Courthouse, to the left of the main information desk. Office hours are 7:30 a.m. - 4 p.m., Monday-Friday. The mailing address is Fairfax County Sheriff's Office, Civil Enforcement Section, 4110 Chain Bridge Road, Fairfax, VA 22030.
STEP 2: Summons for Unlawful Detainer
Va. Code § 8.01-126
- If the tenant does not comply with the notice, the landlord brings proof of the notice to the General District Court to obtain a Summons for Unlawful Detainer, which is a civil claim for eviction.
- The court issues a Summons for Unlawful Detainer and assigns a date when the landlord and tenant have an opportunity to appear.
- If the judge rules in favor of the landlord (plaintiff), the tenant (defendant) is granted a 10-day appeal period.
STEP 3: Writ of Possession in Unlawful Detainer
Va. Code §§§ 8.01-471, 8.01-470, 8.01-472
- After the 10-day appeal period, the plaintiff files a Request for Writ of Possession in Unlawful Detainer Proceedings with the clerk of the General District Court.
- The court sends the Writ of Possession for the plaintiff to the Sheriff's Office.
- The Sheriff's Office has 30 days from the court's signing to execute the document. The Sheriff's Office contacts the plaintiff with the scheduled date and time of the eviction.
- The defendant is given a minimum of 72 hours notice prior to the scheduled eviction.
The Sheriff's Service fee for Writ of Possession is $25 for the first defendant and $12 for each additional defendant
STEP 4: Eviction
There are two types of eviction:
Full Eviction—The defendant's property, in its entirety, is
placed on the nearest public right of way. The plaintiff must
provide a locksmith and enough adults deemed necessary by the
Sheriff’s Office to execute the eviction. The Sheriff's Office is
responsible for protecting the interests of both parties. Depending on
the particular circumstances, the Sheriff's Office may require the
plaintiff to provide a moving truck, boxes and bags, and/or special
equipment. In cases of inclement weather or unforeseen circumstances,
the Sheriff's Office reserves the right to postpone the eviction to the
next available date.
- 24-Hour Lock Change Eviction—This is the most commonly used eviction because it is far less costly than a Full Eviction. Possession of the dwelling is granted to the plaintiff within 24 hours after the scheduled eviction date and time. On eviction day, the plaintiff must provide a locksmith to change all of the locks on exterior entrances to the dwelling. The dwelling becomes a storage facility for the defendant's property for the next 24 hours. The plaintiff must grant the defendant reasonable access to remove his or her property during that 24 hour period. The defendant cannot stay in the dwelling overnight. At the end of the 24 hour period, any property left in the dwelling goes into the possession of the plaintiff who must sell or destroy it. If the defendant remains on the property or returns to the property after the 24 hour period expires, the defendant is trespassing.
For questions concerning evictions, call 703-246-3227 and press 3 for Civil Enforcement.
Learn more about the General District Court - Civil Division filing fees.