CHARLESTON – The West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals has issued an opinion, ruling that the state’s consumer credit protection statute does not regulate the residential rental fees a landlord may charge pursuant to a residential lease.
Justice Menis Ketchum authored the majority opinion, which was filed on Oct. 12.
In September 2015, Attorney General Patrick Morrisey filed the civil action in Kanawha Circuit Court against a landlord, Copper Beech Townhome Communities Twenty-Six LLC, alleging that it violated the West Virginia Consumer Credit and Protection Act.
Copper filed a motion to dismiss the complaint, arguing that the WVCCPA does not apply to residential leases. The circuit court denied the motion and Copper moved the circuit court to certify a question to the Supreme Court regarding the application of the WVCCPA to residential leases of real property.
On March 8, the circuit court certified the question and the court accepted the certified question, according to the opinion.
The Supreme Court ruled that they answer the certified question in the negative, that the WVCCPA does not apply to the relationship between a landlord and tenant under a lease for residential rental property.
“We therefore hold that the debt collection provisions…and deceptive practices provisions…both contained in the West Virginia Consumer Credit and Protection Act, do not apply to and regulate the fees a landlord may charge to a tenant pursuant to a lease of residential real property,” Ketchum wrote.
Morrisey issued a statement regarding the ruling.
“We are disappointed by the court’s ruling in this matter,” Morrisey said. “We believe the state’s consumer protection law prohibits double dipping by landlords.”
As such, Morrisey said, the Attorney General’s Office is proud of the efforts it have taken to protect tenants in Morgantown and across West Virginia.
“I appreciate the hard work of our office,” he said. “We are reviewing the opinion to consider the appropriate course of action.”
Copper was represented by M. David Griffith Jr. and Joseph K. Merical of Thomas Combs & Spann.
Morrisey, along with Thomas M. Johnson Jr. and Erica N. Peterson, represented the state.
W.Va. Supreme Court of Appeals case number: 17-0228