An eviction, called an "unlawful detainer" in Virginia, must begin with the landlord's issuance of a 5 day notice to "pay or quit" sent with certificate of mailing or posted at the property by the County Sheriff's Department. This "pay or quit" notice states that if the tenant does not pay the rent within five days of receipt, the landlord will initiate court proceedings. The notice should name each tenant on the lease and specify the sum due. A 5-day notice may be given to any tenant who has not paid rent, even one on a long-term lease. It may be given as early as the day after the rent was due. The process is identical for residential or commercial tenants.
If the amount due is not paid within 5 days, the landlord can file an "Application for a Summons in Unlawful Detainer," in the clerk's office of the General District Court. The cost to file a UD is $18.00. The landlord must fill out a form giving the basic facts about his claim: his name, the tenant's name, the address of the rental property, the amount of rent owed, and the fact that the tenant was given notice.
The clerk sets a hearing date that is often, but not always, 10-20 days after the filing date. The Sherrif will deliver a "Summons in Unlawful Detainer" for the tenant to appear on that date. The landlord is also required to mail a copy of the summons to the tenant and to file a statement attesting to the court that the mailing occurred. The summons must be delivered at least 5 days before the hearing.
In court, the tenant and the landlord will each present evidence indicating whether the landlord is entitled to possession of the property. A judgment in favor of the landlord is referred to as a "UD" (unlawful detainer). The hearing may also be referred to as a "UD."
The landlord may also ask for back rent, late fees, court fees, attorney fees (if allowed by the lease) and payment for any damages to the property.
If the judge rules that the landlord is not entitled to possession, the tenant may remain in the property for the full term, so long as the rent is paid on time and the provisions of the lease are followed. If the judge rules the landlord is entitled to evict the tenant, the judge will grant the landlord a judgment for possession.
If the tenant does not show up to protest the landlords claim, the judge will automatically issue a default judgment against the tenant. The eviction could take place as soon as 72 hours later.
If rent, fees and damages have been asked for and the landlord has proven that those should be awarded, the judge will also enter a judgment for that amount of money. If the General District court judge rules in favor of the landlord, the tenant has 10 calendar days to appeal an eviction to Circuit Court. In order to appeal, the tenant must post bond of whatever amount the judge decides.
In some localities, the judge will allow the tenant 10 days to vacate before the landlord can enforce the Order. Sometimes immediate possession is granted if the landlord presents a credible request. The judge will sometimes order the tenant to vacate immediately in cases where the tenant has caused property damage, threatened the safety of other tenants or engaged in illegal activity on or near the rented premises.
After court judgment, only the landlord can stop eviction.
After obtaining a judgment for possession, the landlord must request a "Writ of Possession" from the Clerk of the Court. The landlord must obtain a Writ of Possession to see that the court's order is enforced. The Clerk of the Court will send the Writ of Possession to the County Sheriff, who sets the eviction date.
The sheriff is required to give the tenant 72 hours written notice before an eviction. If the tenant does not voluntarily leave within that time, the sheriff will physically remove the tenant and his or her possessions from the premises. Only the sheriff may actually evict the tenant from the premises.
As an aside, in addition to being an attorney, I have also been a landlord for over 26 years...