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West Virginia Landlord Tenant Law and Regulations

by Kevin

How much can I charge for rent?

The state of West Virginia does not restrict the amount of rent a landlord is permitted to charge, he may charge whatever he deems suitable.   Additionally, the state of West Virginia has not established a system of rent control or stabilization.

May I charge an application fee, late rent charge or a returned payment fee?

Application Fees and Late Charges: There is no legal limit on the charging of an application or late fee however, any fee agreed upon in the lease should be reasonably related to the expenses the landlord incurs.

Returned Payment Fee: The payee or holder of a worthless check may impose a service charge not to exceed $25 if the holder sends a written notice of dishonor to the maker. The notice should specify the amount of the check, the check number, the name of the financial institution and to whom payment is made. The notice should give the tenant 10 days to satisfy the payment plus the service charge. The notice should also state that in the event payment is not made in full, the tenant might be subject to legal proceedings, criminal or civil.

Is there a limit on the amount I may collect for a security deposit?

There is no statutory limit on the security deposit charged to the tenant so long as it is reasonable.

Do I need a separate bank account for the security deposit?

There are no specific regulations in West Virginia regarding the placement of security deposits.

My tenant has moved out, what shall I do with their security deposit?

A collected security deposit is to be returned within 60 days of termination or 45 days of new tenants moving into the rental unit.  When the tenant has moved out after the lease has ended, repairs and damages must be assessed. If the damages are greater than that of the security deposit or require a third party to make repairs; the landlord must itemize and list all deductions and costs.  The landlord must present the document to request money for repairs and upon presentation will have an extra 15 days to compile remaining repairs.

Delivery of the security deposit may be by personal delivery or by postage to forwarding or new address of tenant. The new address must be provided by the tenant and it is their responsibility to offer accurate information so that the money can be returned without delivery issues.  If the delivery cannot be made due to an inaccurate mailing address or being unable to reach the tenant in person, the landlord must hold the money up to 6 months after making a personal delivery.

What are the rules for ending a West Virginia lease or rental agreement?

  1. In a yearly lease agreement, the term may be ended by either the landlord or the tenant if they give a written notice at least 3 months before the end of the tenancy.
  2. If the tenancy is less than 1 year; either party may terminate by giving the other a notice to terminate one full rental period from the final date of ending.
  3. For a fixed term lease, the tenant shall vacate upon the finish date agreed upon unless landlord and tenant have made other arrangements.

Are there circumstances where I am required to release a tenant from a lease agreement?

There may be circumstances when a tenant may be released from a contract due to the property becoming damaged or unsafe so long as it is not by fault of the renter.

When my tenant’s lease ended they did not leave the property. What do I do?

If a tenant remains in the dwelling without the landlord's approval after the end of the rental agreement, the landlord may initiate an action for possession.

If the lease has ended and the renter has not moved out, this is termed as holding over. The landlord may continue to be entitled to rent. If the landlord chooses not to collect rent, he may begin a legal process of evicting the tenant. After the leasing period ends,  it is at the landlords discretion as to whether the tenant will remain a tenant or is seen as a trespasser. The landlord may decide to offer an extended or new lease or evict.

How much notice do I have to give a tenant in order to evict them?

If you want to evict your tenant, a WRITTEN notice of eviction must be given to the tenant. Included in this written notice must be the date on which the tenant must vacate the premises. Unless it is stated differently in the lease agreement,  the notice should give the tenant one full rental period before eviction proceedings are filed. (a full rental period is the time in between your rent payments).

My tenant has not paid his rent and I served him notice. What do I do next?

Go to the District or County court where the property is located. You will file either file an unlawful detainer or summary ejectment suit. Check with the clerk of court, as there are fees involved.

I have been assigned a court date, must I go?

On the day of the appointed court day it is wise for a landlord to arrive promptly and prepared. Often times a renter will not make an appearance at the hearing ultimately helping the landlord’s odds of winning.  Regardless, it is important to be ready and organized. Bring proof of rents received such as a current rental ledger, along with all correspondence letters, notices and emails. Phone records may prove to be helpful in the court process.   In the case of criminal or other lease violations, criminal records along with any proof to substantiate the allegations will help in the lawsuit.

What do I do with the tenant’s personal items that are left behind?

Upon regaining legal possession of the property, the landlord, his or her agent or housing authority may take, dispose of or otherwise remove the tenant's personal property without incurring any liability to the tenant or any other person. To dispose of the tenant's property, the landlord or housing authority shall give a written notice to the tenant.

If the property is left by the tenant, The landlord must post a notice of abandonment on the house. In the notice is, it must state that the the property is abandoned and the actions that will take place after 30 days of non-payment.  The landlord may do as he/she deems fit with the remaining property unless it is valued at $300 or more.  The tenant has the right to ask for the property to be stored but not for more than 30 days at which time they may claim it.

What must I do if I need to inspect, make repairs or enter the dwelling? Do I have to notify the tenant?

There is no statute that defines a landlord's right of entry, however, the landlord should exercise caution and not abuse the right of entry.

Do I have the right to enforce no smoking in my rental property?

A landlord may establish a “No Smoking” policy by providing so in the Lease.

Disclosure: The information provided herein is intended as a general discussion of legal issues concerning landlord tenant law. Information provided is not legal advice or a legal opinion, and it is recommended that the reader seek independent counsel for any specific issue.

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