does a landlord file an unlawful
landlord starts an
in Virginia General District Court by
filing a Summons for Unlawful
Although this court paper
is called an “unlawful”
detainer, it is not used in a
It is used only in a civil
does a landlord serve an unlawful
unlawful detainer must be served
(legally delivered) on you.
This may be done three
Given to you in person, usually by
a Deputy Sheriff.
Given to a member of your
household, usually by a Deputy
The household member must
be 16 or older.
The person serving the eviction
must explain what it is.
Posted on your front door and then
mailed to you by first class mail.
can be legally served on you, even
if you never actually get it.
If it was properly given to
a household member who didn’t
tell you about it, you still were
If an eviction
was properly posted and mailed to
you but you never saw it, you
still were legally served.
Both these things are
unusual, but they do happen.
You should tell household
members to pay attention to court
papers, and you should pay
do unlawful detainer papers say?
papers tell you the date, time,
and place of your court hearing.
The papers also tell you
amount of money the landlord is
claiming, such as rent,
interest, damages, late fees,
attorney’s fees and court costs.
The hearing may be
your only chance to dispute or
oppose the eviction and the claim
all eviction cases, go to the
Get there early so you can
find your courtroom and watch how
the court handles other cases.
if I can’t go to my unlawful
you can’t go to General District
Court on the date of your unlawful
must ask the court for a new
This is called a
Different General District
Courts have different rules for
getting a continuance.
In some courts, the Clerk
can give a continuance.
In other courts, only the
Judge can give a continuance.
find out the rule for your court,
call the Clerk’s Office as soon
as you know you can’t go to
court on the date of your court
Ask to be told the rule to
get a continuance, and follow that
In addition to calling the
Clerk’s Office, it’s a good
idea to write and/or fax a letter
to the court explaining why you
need a continuance.
should I do at an unlawful
you go to General District Court
to dispute or oppose the eviction,
get prepared for your hearing in
Bring papers, receipts and
witnesses that support your case.
If a witness doesn’t want
to come to court, you can ask the
Clerk to subpoena the witness.
subpoena is a court order that
says a witness must come to court.
You must pay $12.00(subject
to change) for the subpoena, and
you must ask for it at least 10
days before your hearing date.
If you don’t have enough
money to pay this (or any other)
fee, ask the Clerk for the
“Petition for Proceeding in
Civil Case Without Payment of Fees
This also is called “Form
I need a lawyer in General
don’t need a lawyer in General
District Court, but a lawyer can
You may have defenses to
defense could I have in a
non-payment of rent case?
either the general law or the
VRLTA eviction law, if the only
reason the landlord has for
evicting is non-payment of rent,
you may stay in the rental unit if
all the rent and arrearage, and
court costs (plus any late
charges, interest, and
attorney’s fees based on a
written lease) on or before the first
eviction (unlawful detainer) court
may pay these amounts owed to your
landlord, your landlord’s
attorney, or the court.
If you pay these amounts
owed, get a written receipt and
bring it to court on the first
If an unlawful detainer is
filed, you can prevent eviction
only once every 12 months that you
continue to live in the same place
by paying these amounts owed.
other defense could I have?
the VRLTA, you may have defenses.
One defense is that the
landlord did not keep the place in
To use this defense, you
must be current in rent and you
must tell the landlord about the
You should do this in
writing by certified mail to the
landlord, before the unlawful
detainer is filed.
You also must pay rent to
court instead of the landlord.
defense is that the landlord wants
to evict because you complained or
used legal rights.
To use this defense, the
landlord must know that you
complained to the landlord or
government agency about a rental
housing problem, or that you
joined a tenant’s group, before
the unlawful detainer is filed.
I have to go to the unlawful
you don’t want to oppose the
eviction, you don’t have to go
You won’t be arrested if
you do not go to court.
That only happens in
This is a civil
If you don’t go to court,
and the other side does and proves
its case, you will lose the
In addition, if you don’t
go to court and the other side
does, the Writ of Possession to
allow the Sheriff to evict you can
be issued right away.
happens in court?
both sides come to court, the
Judge will hear both sides and
decide who wins.
If the judge rules in your
favor, you get to stay.
If the judge
rules in your landlord’s favor
and you came to court, the judge
must give you at least 10 more
days in which to move.
If you have not moved by
the end of the 10 days, the
landlord, based on the court
order, can get a Writ of
This allows the Sheriff to
remove you and your belongings,
from the premises.
rules in your landlord’s favor
and you did not come to court, the
Writ of Possession may be issued