Lock-out or Utility Shutoffs guide
A free legal guide for renters in Virginia

Are you dealing with a lockout from your rental home?

Use this guide if you are a renter in Virginia having problems with full use of your home.

This could be if your landlord has turned off your water or your electricity. Or it could be if the landlord changed the locks on your home.

Even if your landlord has started a lawsuit against you for eviction, they are not allowed to change the locks or turn off the utilities. You have the right to access your rental home. Unless your landlord has an eviction order from the court, they cannot make you leave the rental home.

If You Need More Help

Contact your local Virginia legal aid group by calling 1-866-534-5243.

You can also look up your local legal aid group online.

Lawyers can help you understand your options and next steps for your specific situation. Legal aid lawyers provide free help to people who qualify.

Step-by-Step Guide

Follow the legal process to deal with lockout problems in Virginia

Video Guide

Watch an intro to the law on lockouts or utility shutoffs as a Virginia renter.

Frequently Asked Questions

Read answers to common questions Virginia renters have about lockouts or shut-offs.

Step-by-Step guide to deal with lockouts
For Virginia renters

Are you locked out of your rental home?

This can happen if your landlord or property manager changes the locks of the property you rent.

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You can call 911 if you are locked out.

It's your right to get back into your rental home. Call the emergency line to get back in.

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When the police come, show your lease or other proof you rent the home.

If you have your written lease, you can show that.

Or you can find other proof that you rent this home to show the police.

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The police should let you back into your home.

Once they have proof that you rent this home, they can let you back in.

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Step 1:

Check that you are having a lockout or shutoff issue


Make sure exactly what is happening with your rental home.

Has your landlord or property manager changed the locks of your home? This is a lockout issue.

Have they shut off your utilities, like your electricity, water, or sewage service? This is a utility shutoff issue.

Step 2:

Call the police if you are locked out


You have a right to access your rental home. Unless your landlord has a formal eviction order from the court to remove you, then you should be able to enter your home.

You can call 911, and tell the police what is happening. They can help make sure that you can enter your home.

Step 3:

Show the police proof that you rent the home


When the police arrive after you call, you will have to prove who you are and that you are the legal renter of the home.

You should be ready to show a copy of your lease, the agreement you signed with the landlord to rent the home. Or you can show other proof that you rent this home.

Talk to the police to ensure they understand the situation.

Step 4:

Re-enter your home


The police should let you back into your home.

Once you're able to prove that you rent this home, then they can let you back in.

If you have further problems with lockouts or shutoffs, contact a lawyer. You can find your local Virginia legal aid group by calling 1-866-534-5243.

You can also look up your local legal aid group online.

Video Guide to lockouts and utility shutoffs
For Virginia renters

Watch this video about Virginia law & options if your landlord turns off your utilities or changes the locks.

This video provides a basic summary of what your rights are, and what you can do.

Frequently Asked Questions about Lockouts and Shutoffs
For renters in Virginia

Can a landlord lockout a tenant or shut off utilities?

 Under either the general landlord tenant-law or the VRLTA, the landlord may not :

  • shut off utilities,
  • lock the tenant out of the rental unit, or
  • evict the tenant without giving notice and going to court.

The landlord must wait until a court order is issued. Any statement in a lease that says you give up (waive) your rights to the court eviction process is not enforceable. 

What can I do if I am locked out or my utilities are shut off?

If the landlord locks you out or “diminishes” your services, you may call the police and/or get an order from the General District Court.

When you go to court, you can get back possession of your rental unit. And you can require the landlord to restore your services.

At court, you can file a Tenant’s Petition for Relief from Unlawful Exclusion in General District Court. 

As an alternative, you may sue in Circuit Court to get back into your place (asking for an “injunction”), plus reimbursement for any damages you incurred.

It is generally more challenging for a non-lawyer to file in Circuit Court rather than General District Court. It is highly recommended that you have an attorney to represent you in Circuit Court.

How can I call for emergency help if I'm locked out of my rental?

For an emergency, you can call the police at 911.

If you are in the Fairfax area of Virginia, you can also call police with these phone numbers:

For Non-Emergencies: 703-691-2131

For Out-of-Area Emergency: 703-691-2233

Get More Help

with your legal situation

Find a Private Lawyer: To connect with a private lawyer, call Virginia Lawyer Referral Service at 1-800-552-7977 or go to their website at https://vlrs.community.lawyer/. Some lawyers charge $35.00 for an initial interview. 

Contact Legal Aid: To seek help from the legal aid group Legal Services of Northern Virginia, visit https://www.lsnv.org or call (703) 778-6800.

If you are not in Northern Virginia, or need to find other groups, you can find a list of Virginia legal aid and help groups here, for more legal and financial assistance.

The information on this page is not legal advice.

Legal advice is dependent upon the specific circumstances of a person's situation.

Therefore, the information on this page cannot replace the advice of competent, local legal counsel. This is general information, and not specific advice.

Please contact a lawyer in Virginia to help you with your specific situation.

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Living Conditions & Repairs

Are you a renter in Virginia who has problems with your home? 

Do you have mold, pests, broken appliances, or utility issues?

Find out your rights to get your home repaired by your landlord.