How to Report a Landlord in West Virginia for Unsafe Living Conditions
August 19, 2023
When a renter in West Virginia can’t obtain necessary repairs, before beginning a court case it’s usually possible to file a report with the proper government departments about the unsafe conditions on the property. Code inspectors have the power to order repairs or fine noncompliant landlords.
What Are Considered Unsafe Living Conditions in West Virginia?
In West Virginia, unsafe living conditions exist when a rental property doesn’t have safe and working:
Heating (between October 1 – April 30 of each year).
Garbage containers and removal (for multiple-unit rentals only).
After receiving a complaint, an inspecting officer might contact the tenant for more information. Then the officer will usually inspect the property and cite the landlord for any code violations.
How Can a Tenant Report a Health or Safety Violation in Charleston?
A tenant in Charleston can report a health or safety violation by calling Property Maintenance. Tenants must call the appropriate inspector listed in thestaff directory, according to the city ward in which they reside. Provide a location, a detailed issue description, and contact information.
How Can a Tenant Report a Health or Safety Violation in Morgantown?
A tenant in Morgantown can report a health or safety violation by calling Code Enforcement at (304) 284-7401 or using the providedonline form. Provide contact and location information, select an appropriate request type, detail the issue in the box labeled “Other,” and submit.
How Can a Tenant Report a Health or Safety Violation in Huntington?
A tenant in Huntington can report a health or safety violation by calling Rental Property Inspections at 304-696-5540 ext. 2202 (1-2 family dwellings) or ext. 2003 (multi-family dwellings), or by emailing the1-2 familyormulti-familyunit inspectors. Provide a location, a detailed issue description, and contact information.
What Could Happen to a Landlord After a Complaint Is Made in West Virginia?
After a tenant files a complaint about unsafe living conditions in West Virginia, an officer may inspect the property. The landlord must fix noted code violations. Otherwise, the landlord could be fined and the local government might file to condemn the property.
“A landlord shall: (1) At the commencement of a tenancy, deliver the dwelling unit and surrounding premises in a fit and habitable condition, and shall thereafter maintain the leased property in such condition; and (2) Maintain the leased property in a condition that meets requirements of applicable health, safety, fire and housing codes, unless the failure to meet those requirements is the fault of the tenant, a member of his family or other person on the premises with his consent; and (3) In multiple housing units, keep clean, safe and in repair all common areas of the premises remaining under his control that are maintained for the use and benefit of his tenants; and (4) Make all repairs necessary to keep the premises in a fit and habitable condition, unless said repairs were necessitated primarily by a lack of reasonable care by the tenant, a member of his family or other person on the premises with his consent.”
“A landlord shall: (5) Maintain in good and safe working order and condition all electrical, plumbing, sanitary, heating, ventilating, air- conditioning and other facilities and appliances, including elevators, supplied or required to be supplied by him by written or oral agreement or by law; and (6) In multiple housing units, provide and maintain appropriate conveniences for the removal of ashes, garbage, rubbish and other waste incidental to the occupancy of the dwelling unit; and (7) With respect to dwelling units supplied by direct public utility connections, supply running water and reasonable amounts of hot water at all times, and reasonable heat between October 1, and the last day of April, except where the dwelling unit is so constructed that running water, heat or hot water is generated by an installation within the exclusive control of the tenant.”
“An operational single station carbon monoxide detector with a suitable alarm or a combination smoke detector and carbon monoxide detector, which shall be alternating current (AC) powered, either plugged directly in to an electrical outlet that is not controlled by a switch or hardwired into an alternating current (AC) electrical source, with battery backup, shall be installed, maintained, tested, repaired, or replaced, if necessary, in accordance with the manufacturer’s direction: (1) In any newly constructed residential unit which has a fuel-burning heating or cooking source including, but not limited to, an oil or gas furnace or stove; (2) In any residential unit which is connected to a newly constructed building, including, but not limited to, a garage, storage shed, or barn, which has a fuel-burning heating or cooking source, including, but not limited to, an oil or gas furnace or stove; and (3) In either a common area where the general public has access or all rooms in which a person will be sleeping that are adjoining to and directly below and above all areas or rooms that contain permanently installed fuel-burning appliances and equipment that emit carbon monoxide as a byproduct of combustion located within all apartment buildings, boarding houses, dormitories, long-term care facilities, adult or child care facilities, assisted living facilities, one- and two-family dwellings intended to be rented or leased, hotels, and motels.”
While maintenance responsibilities for CO detectors aren’t specifically defined in the law, it would be reasonable for a court to apply the same standards to CO detectors as for smoke alarms in the same statute. West Virginia makes landlords responsible for installation and replacement, but makes tenants responsible for routine maintenance:
“The owner of each dwelling described in subsection (a) of this section shall provide, install, and replace the operational smoke detectors required by this section. To assure that the smoke detector continues to be operational in each dwelling described in subsection (a) of this section which is not occupied by the owner of the dwelling, the tenant in any dwelling shall perform routine maintenance on the smoke detectors within the dwelling.”
West Virginia imposes the basic duties of contract on landlord and tenant, including a duty to provide notice of defects, and a duty to cure one’s own deliberate or negligent violations. At common law, the default remedies available for a breach of contract or covenant (including rental agreements) are injunctions for specific performance (a judge forcing the offending party keep the terms of the agreement), injunctions for rescission (a judge modifying or canceling the terms of the agreement), and monetary damages.
“Since the basic contract remedies are available to tenant, the basic contract duties are imposed upon him. The tenant is under an obligation to give landlord notice of a deficiency or defect not known to the latter. Furthermore, the contract principle that a person may not benefit from his own wrong will exonerate a landlord for a defect or deficiency caused by a tenant’s wrongful conduct.” Teller v. McCoy, 162 W. Va. 367, 387 (W. Va. 1978) (internal citations omitted)