How can you protect yourself when your landlord retaliates for your having reported a code violation?

My landlord has served us with a 5 day pay or quit notice, largely over about $300 in late fees. We have been paying off the fees gradually. Now (after being served with a code violation complaint we initiated) she’s sent us the letter. However, I understand that under VA law I can contest eviction if I can prove that she has made our place a threat to health and safety (under sec. 55-248.25 of VRLTA). We’ve already proven to the county that she’s created a health hazard – has refused to repair broken dishwasher, refrigerator, leaky roof. What would our next steps be?

Asked on September 20, 2011 under Real Estate Law, Virginia


FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

If your landlord has served you with a five (5) day notice to pay or quit which you believe is in retaliation to reporting him or her for health code violations, you need to write him a letter stating such and request written confirmation that the served notice is withdrawn. Keep a copy for future reference.

If the five (5) day notice to pay or quit is not withdrawn, you need to consult with a landlord tenant attorney over this. Most likely there is an attorneys fee clause in your contract or some Virginia statute that would allow you attorneys fees if you prevail in any unlawful detainer action where your primary defense would be retaliation since you are gradually paying off the late fees and they have been accepted by the landlord.

This attorneys fee provision could assist in your ability to retain an attorney with little upfront costs.

Good luck.

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