Landlords should familiarize themselves with the statewide rules and procedures that govern evictions in the state of West Virginia and understand their responsibilities.
Quick Facts for West Virginia
- Grounds for Eviction: Failure to pay rent, violation of rental agreement & illegal behaviors
- Notice Required: 30 days
- When Hearing Will Be Scheduled: Within 5-10 days of receipt of notice
- Duration to Appeal Eviction Ruling: 20 days
How Long Does it Take to Evict a Tenant?
As in all states, it is difficult to predict the amount of time it will take to evict a tenant in the state of West Virginia. However, the eviction process has less steps here than it does in many states. If the landlord has a legitimate cause to seek an eviction, he/she may proceed directly to the court and file a complaint without first providing the tenant with any form of indication of his/her intention. This can clearly make the eviction process less time consuming than it is in many other states.
However, as in all other states, the process may prove more time consuming that a landlord may wish. This is most frequently due to the tenant’s willingness to fight the eviction process.
If should also be noted that when a landlord does not have a legitimate reason to seek to evict a tenant the amount of time required to evict a tenant may be more lengthy. For example when a landlord seeks to regain a rental property from an “at-will” tenant, he/she must provide month-to-month tenants with a 30-Day Notice to Vacate prior to filing an eviction lawsuit with the court.
Reasons for Eviction
The state of West Virginia has established a set of reasons for which a landlord may legitimately seek to reclaim a rental property from a tenant. These reasons include:
- Failing to pay rent
- Violating terms of the lease
- Damaging or allowing the damage of the rental property
Unlike most other states, the state of West Virginia does not require that the landlord inform tenants of his/her intention to terminate the rental agreement when there is a legitimate reason for seeking an eviction before filing a lawsuit with the court. Here, a tenant is considered to have terminated the rental agreement when he/she provides the landlord with a reason to evict.
Eviction for Failure to Pay Rent
As soon as a tenant fails to pay his/her rent on time, the lease or rental agreement is considered void, and the landlord may proceed to the court and file an eviction lawsuit.
Eviction if Rent has Been Paid
In West Virginia a landlord is allowed to seek the eviction of a tenant even if rent has been paid, and there is no violation of the rental agreement, if there is no written lease in place.
Evicting a Tenant For Violation of Rental Agreement/Lease
Once a tenant has committed a violation to the terms of the lease or rental agreement, the arrangement is considered severed and the landlord may proceed to the court and file an eviction lawsuit.
Evicting a Tenant for Illegal Behavior
Just as with violations to the terms of the lease, a lease or rental agreement in the state of West Virginia is considered to be severed when a tenant commits an illegal act on the rental property. The landlord is not required to notify the tenant of his/her intention to reclaim control of the rental property, but may proceed with the eviction process.
How Does a Landlord Evict a Tenant When There is no Lease?
In the state of West Virginia, “at-will” tenants, or tenants renting without the benefit of a written lease, must be dealt with according to their rental arrangement. If the tenant is renting for a fixed-term, the landlord must wait until the end of the agreed upon term of rental before he/she may seek to remove the tenant without cause.
If the landlord is dealing with a month-to-month “at-will” tenant, he/she must first provide the tenant with a 30-Day Notice to Vacate before proceeding with the eviction process (W.V.C. 37-6-5) unless he/she has a legitimate cause to evict the tenant.
When Can a Tenant Not Be Evicted
It is illegal in the state of West Virginia for a landlord to attempt to evict a tenant as a form of retaliation for having filed a complaint with a public agency or governmental agency regarding the rental property. It is also illegal for a landlord to seek to evict a tenant based upon his/her age, race, religion, nation or origin, familial status, or disability status.
Once Eviction Is Filed
In the state of West Virginia, the landlord has a choice of how to proceed with the eviction process. Frequently a landlord will choose to file a Petition for Summary Relief for Wrongful Occupation of Residential Property. This option does not allow the landlord to seek financial reimbursement unless the tenant fails to respond to the complaint.
The landlord is required to have a notice of the complaint and the date and time of the hearing served on the tenant. Service may be made by either certified mail or return mail with a receipt request. This notice must make clear the tenant’s right to respond within five days of service. When the landlord receives notification that the tenant has been served with the complaint, he/she must provide the court with proof of service. The court will schedule a hearing within 5-10 days of the landlord’s filing. However, the tenant may request additional time by filing a Motion for Continuance with the magistrate. If this request is denied, the tenant will need to file an answer to the landlord’s complaint within the 5-10 days provided and attend the trial to prevent a default judgment for the landlord. The tenant may bring his/her answer to court on the trial date.
The landlord may choose to file a Complaint of Unlawful Detainer if he/she wishes to seek a monetary judgement in addition to regaining control of the rental property in a single judgement. If the landlord chooses this course of action, both parties will receive notice of the trial time and date from the court. If the tenant wishes to have a jury hearing, one must be requested.
If the court rules in favor of the landlord, the tenant will have 20 days to file an appeal.
A landlord may not physically evict a tenant without a court judgment and the presence of law enforcement. If the landlord finds that the tenant has left behind personal property after an eviction, he/she must store the property for a minimum of 30 days and allow the tenant to reclaim it. The tenant is responsible for any cost of moving and storing the property. Once 30 days has passed, the landlord is allowed to dispose of the property.