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Barrister
Barrister, Lawyer
Category: Real Estate Law
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Experience:  14 years real estate, Realtor. Landlord 24+ years
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My tenants lease expires at the end of October 2013. She gave

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My tenant's lease expires at the end of October 2013. She gave proper notice and paid October rent. I was contacted by a real estate agent informing me the power was turned off last week. I have a sump pump in my basement. I have restored all services in my name. She also disconnected the gas and water. She still has some items in the home. When asked about the power she stated that she turned it off because no one is living there. Can I take possession and change the locks?
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Real Estate Law
Expert:  Barrister replied 1 year ago.
Hello and welcome! My name is XXXXX XXXXX I will try my level best to help with your situation or get you to someone who can.
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Do you know how long the tenant has been moved out (or mostly moved out)?
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Have they turned in the keys yet?
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Have you asked the tenant if they intend to return to pick up the rest of their property?
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Thanks
Barrister
Customer: replied 1 year ago.

The Utilities Were Turned Off On October 15, 2013. I Spoke To Her On October 16 And She Indicated That She Turned Off The Utilities Because No One Is Living There Anymore. She Hasn't Returned The Keys. She Indicated That The Belongings Would Be Removed By The 31St Of October.

Expert:  Barrister replied 1 year ago.
Ok, under Virginia law, if a tenant has left the property and the landlord can't determine if they have abandoned it, then they have to give the tenant a written notice stating that the landlord considers the apartment abandoned and they have to give written notice to the landlord within 7 days if they intend to remain in occupancy of the premises.
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This is the particular law that governs this situation:
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Virginia Residential Landlord and Tenant Act

§ 55-248.33. Remedies for absence, nonuse and abandonment.

If the rental agreement requires the tenant to give notice to the landlord of an anticipated extended absence in excess of seven days and the tenant fails to do so, the landlord may recover actual damages from the tenant. During any absence of the tenant in excess of seven days, the landlord may enter the dwelling unit at times reasonably necessary to protect his possessions and property. The rental agreement is deemed to be terminated by the landlord as of the date of abandonment by the tenant. If the landlord cannot determine whether the premises have been abandoned by the tenant, the landlord shall serve written notice on the tenant in accordance with § 55-248.6 requiring the tenant to give written notice to the landlord within seven days that the tenant intends to remain in occupancy of the premises. If the tenant gives such written notice to the landlord, or if the landlord otherwise determines that the tenant remains in occupancy of the premises, the landlord shall not treat the premises as having been abandoned. Unless the landlord receives written notice from the tenant or otherwise determines that the tenant remains in occupancy of the premises, upon the expiration of seven days from the date of the landlord's notice to the tenant, there shall be rebuttable presumption that the premises have been abandoned by the tenant and the rental agreement shall be deemed to terminate on that date. The landlord shall mitigate damages in accordance with § 55-248.35.

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With that said, turning off the utilities is prima facia evidence that a tenant has abandoned the property and the law allows the landlord to retake possession of the property to secure and protect it. So I would opine that you would be legally justified in changing the locks and retaking possession if the tenant has been gone over 7 days.
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You would have to post something on the door letting the tenant know you have changed the locks to secure the property after their abandonment under the Virginia Residential Landlord and Tenant Act and if she needs access to remove their property, she needs to call you.
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Thanks
Barrister
Barrister, Lawyer
Category: Real Estate Law
Satisfied Customers: 24599
Experience: 14 years real estate, Realtor. Landlord 24+ years
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