In Virginia, a commercial eviction is commenced by filing an unlawful detainer action in the general district court.
In the unlawful detainer action, the landlord requests possession of the premises and money damages against the tenant and any lease guarantors.
Typically, general district courts have a maximum jurisdictional limit of $25,000. By statute, this limit does not apply in commercial evictions if possession of the premises and money damages are pursued in the same unlawful detainer action. In other words, the landlord can sue the tenant for more than $25,000 in the general district court. However, some general district judges have ruled differently with regard to whether the jurisdictional limit applies against a lease guarantor that is sued in the unlawful detainer action. Most judges will rule that the jurisdictional limit does not apply, but there have been instances when general district courts have enforced the jurisdictional limit.
Our recommendation is that it is always worthwhile to include any lease guarantors in the unlawful detainer action. This saves the time and money involved in pursuing a separate action. If for some reason the judge does not permit the landlord to proceed for more than $25,000 against a personal guarantor, the landlord can voluntarily non-suit the case and re-file in the circuit court.