Expert Interview: How to Handle a Pay or Quit Notice

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RentCafe is bringing you a series of interviews that address the most common landlord-tenant legal matters. Our goal is to inform you of your options and to give you a sense of perspective and confidence when tackling these matters.

Finding your ideal rental apartment is rarely an easy task. You may tour several properties before finally arriving at that place that fits your budget, your needs, and your taste. Before you get settled into your new home, you must ensure that you carefully read and understand your lease agreement, your rights, and your obligations. A vital clause of your lease contract is the rent due date – you really want to be extra careful with this. Failure to pay your rent on time may bring about serious repercussions, the worst of which are getting evicted and ruining your credit. If you find yourself in a situation in which for some reason you do not pay your rent on time, your landlord will likely take action right away by sending you a Pay or Quit Notice.

We had the pleasure of talking to attorney Steven Krieger of Steven Krieger Law, and we asked for his expert opinion on this topic. Mr. Krieger is a licensed attorney in the state of Virginia and the District of Columbia and has 15 years of legal and non-legal experience in public interest advocacy.

The following are Mr. Krieger’s answers to some frequently asked questions on this topic and they apply to the state of Virginia:

What does a Pay or Quit Notice mean?

If a landlord believes that a tenant owes rent – or has another financial obligation pursuant to the lease agreement – the landlord is required to issue a 5-day notice to pay indicating that the landlord believes that the tenant owes a specific sum of money. The landlord is required to provide this notice prior to initiating an eviction proceeding in the court. 

What are your options if you receive a Pay or Quit Notice?

If the tenant has not paid rent, the landlord must give the tenant a 5 Day Notice to Pay. See Va. Code § 55-225. However, sometimes landlords give the tenant a 5 Day Notice to Pay or Quit.  If the landlord includes the option to quit, then the tenant has five days to pay the rent or vacate the property from the date the tenant was served with the notice.  However, if the landlord only gives a 5 Day Notice to Pay, then the option to quit may not be available. If the tenant pays the overdue rent, then he has the right to remain in the property.

What is a writ of possession?

A writ of possession is the document that gives the landlord the right to change the locks with the supervision of the sheriff. Even if the landlord is awarded a judgment of possession for the property, the landlord may not act upon that judgment until the writ of possession is approved and a date is provided by the sheriff for the eviction. 

Are there any state-specific regulations that renters living in the State of Virginia should be aware of?

In Virginia, residential leases are governed by the Virginia Residential Landlord and Tenant Act. This Act also applies to private landlords unless they are exempt (own no more than two residential properties subject to a lease) and state in the lease agreement that the lease is not governed by the Act by affirmatively opting-out. The first step to any landlord-tenant dispute in Virginia is to determine if the matter is governed by the Act or common law.  

Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only and should not be construed or used as legal advice. The answers to the questions have been provided in full by the attorney interviewed and they apply to the states or areas where he is licensed. RentCafe is not engaged in rendering legal advice and/or legal services to you and makes no representations about the suitability, accuracy, completeness, usefulness, or legality of any content, information and/or material contained on this site. In case of a legal dispute with your landlord or any other legal matter, you should consult a licensed attorney.

Related post: Which States Have the Best and Worst Laws for Renters?

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Marina is a marketing content developer for RENTCafé.com. She likes to research and write about real estate market trends and their impact on the nation's social scene. She also writes essays about significant films and TV shows. If you want to get in touch you can email her @

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