CHARLESTON – West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey is urging consumers who are moving into rental properties to be informed and educated about their rights under West Virginia law.
Morrisey says his office has seen an increasing number of consumer complaints in recent weeks that focus on landlord-tenant issues. These issues range from tenants not receiving their security deposits back to unrepaired damage to the rental units.
“Students are heading back to their college towns, and that often means moving into a new apartment or house for the year,” Morrisey said in a statement. “It’s important for each person who signs a lease for a rental property to read the terms and conditions very closely to avoid surprises and potentially head off any bad situations.”
Under West Virginia law, landlords must maintain rental housing in a fit and habitable condition from the time a tenant moves in until the tenant moves out, which includes meeting all health, fire, safety, and housing code standards. In addition, landlords are responsible for repairing the property to ensure it remains up to code.
Additionally, a 2011 law requires landlords to return security or damage deposits in full, or send a written, itemized notice detailing alleged damages to the property within 60 days after the tenant moves out. If the landlord fails to return the deposit in that time frame, tenants may file a civil suit and may be awarded judgment for the unreturned deposit plus penalties of 1.5 times that amount.
Landlords are required to provide tenants with proper written notice in advance of any attempt to evict a person from a rental property, unless the tenant has failed to pay rent or has otherwise violated the terms of the lease. Tenants cannot be forcibly evicted without first going to court.
“When signing a lease for any rental property, both landlords and tenants should make sure that their rights and responsibilities are clearly detailed in the rental agreement,” Morrisey said. “Take time to ask questions about the landlord’s policies for paying for repairs, whether the renter can modify the property, and if pets are allowed.
"Having a clear, upfront understanding of the rules will help to avoid trouble later on.”
Morrisey's office has an online guide to renters’ rights at the Consumer Protection Brochures section of his office's website at www.ago.wv.gov/consumerprotection.