If you have given the appropriate notice to your tenant and have filed the appropriate paperwork with the court, the next step in the eviction process involves a series of court dates. It is important to know what is required of you at these court dates in Virginia. In Virginia, there are three major types of court dates; a) the first return, b) hearings on motions and c) the trial date.
So what are these three different types of court dates?
The First Return Date
The first date you are given by the court is known as the first return date. This date is to make sure that you have filed all the appropriate paperwork to begin the case. This court date is also the time in which the court will determine whether or not your tenant has received service of process of the paperwork you have filed. Before the court can do anything, your tenant is entitled to receive a copy of the paperwork.
If your tenant has received paperwork but fails to show, you may be entitled to a “default judgment.” This means that, because they did not show up, you will not have to go through the trial process. However, if your tenant does show up, they have the right to contest the charges.
Many judges in Virginia will require the tenant to answer whether they owe any rent or not. If rent is owed, you may be entitled to a “writ of possession,” which grants you your property back. However, that is not the end of your case. Even if you are given possession, you must have a trial to determine how much money you are entitled to.
If you own an LLC or a trust, you do not need an attorney at this first return date. You do, however, need an attorney for any subsequent hearings such as a trial.
If the tenant hires an attorney, their attorney may file any number of different documents against your eviction proceedings. Their attorney may even file a counterclaim, or a claim for money against you. If the other side hires an attorney and files any paperwork, it is imperative that you immediately seek out an attorney. Failure to do so may result in you owing money to the tenant!
Eventually, if the matter is not settled, you will be given a trial date. On the trial date, you are required to prove to the court the specific grounds for which the eviction is sought (if not for failure to pay rent) and the amount of damage the tenant has done to the property.
Judges are looking for documentation to prove how much money you will need to spend to get your property back in working order and how much rent is owed. Therefore, you will need to bring with you to the trial date documents including, but not limited to, quotes for repairs, accountings of late charges and rent and photographs of the damages.
Why You Need a Lawyer
Navigating these different stages of the court process can be very confusing. If the other side hires a lawyer, their lawyer can do any number of things to make you lose your case. For example, failure to follow certain rules or to file certain documents automatically makes you lose. As stated before, if you own an LLC or a Trust you may be required to have an attorney no matter what. Therefore, you should seek out an attorney before even sending the initial notice to your tenant.