Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Commonly Asked Landlord/Tenant Questions

In its commercial landlord/tenant practice, Gross & Romanick helps its clients with leases, evictions, self-help, bankruptcy, and litigation. Naturally, there are a number of issues that come up time and time again. Here are some of the most commonly asked questions:

QUESTION: If a tenant doesn’t pay its rent, can the landlord just lock the door?

ANSWER: The right of self-help does exist in Virginia in commercial landlord/tenant situations. But since there are serious constraints and risks, never attempt a self-help eviction without an attorney’s the assistance and approval. Some of the legal constraints can include the terms of the lease, breach of peace, and bankruptcy.

QUESTION: Can a landlord require the tenant to pay its attorney's fees, even if a lawsuit has not been filed?

ANSWER: The Lease and other written agreements between the landlord and tenant will determine this issue. A tenant must have signed a very carefully crafted lease provision allowing attorney's fees, even when suit is not filed. In fact, many landlords are losing these legal fees when they are forcedLink to file litigation and defend countersuits because insufficient attention is being paid to the attorney fee provisions of many leases.

QUESTION: Can a landlord seek possession of the premises and sue for rent at the same time?

ANSWER: Yes. Except in very rare circumstances a landlord should include a suit for monetary damages at that same time that it files for eviction. The General District Court, which normally can only enter judgments up to $15,000, can enter a judgment for any amount of money so long as possession of the property is at issue in the same proceeding.

If you are a commercial landlord or tenant and need legal counsel, please contact Gross & Romanick today.