In general, a landlord in West Virginia has to repair any issues at a rental property that could affect a tenant’s health or safety. The landlord must repair issues within a reasonable time of getting written notice from the tenant about the needed repairs.
West Virginia Landlord Responsibilities for Repairs
West Virginia landlords are responsible for keeping all of the following in good working condition:
Heating (between October 1 – April 30 of each year).
Garbage containers and removal (for multiple-unit rentals only).
What Repairs Are Tenants Responsible for in West Virginia?
West Virginia tenants are responsible for repairingany damage they cause to the propertywhich affects health and safety.
Requesting Repairs in West Virginia
West Virginia tenants typically must request repairsby providing the landlord notice about the issue that needs repair.Landlords are still liable for repairs they know are necessary, even without a tenant’s notice, but notice (especially written) helps prove the timing and details of a landlord’s knowledge about the issue.
How Long Does a Landlord Have To Make Repairs in West Virginia?
West Virginia landlords havea reasonable amount of time under the specific circumstancesto make repairs after getting notice about an issue. This means, for example, that emergencies must be handled immediately, while less pressing and more complex issues may take several weeks to resolve.
Since the law doesn’t specify a particular amount of time for repairs, it’s the renter’s responsibility to express their expectation about how long is reasonable, when giving a landlord notice about an issue.
Can the Landlord Refuse To Make Repairs in West Virginia?
West Virginia landlordscan refuse to make repairs,when the issue was caused by the tenant’s wrongful conduct, or when the tenant is in default on rent.
Do Landlords Have To Pay for Alternative Accommodation During Repairs in West Virginia?
West Virginia landlords arenot required to pay for alternative accommodationwhile they conduct repairs. However, a situation that requires the tenant to move out for repairs may be a constructive eviction that lets the tenant end the lease and stop paying rent after moving out.
Tenant’s Rights if Repairs Aren’t Made in West Virginia
West Virginia tenants cancancel the rental agreementif the landlord doesn’t make timely repairs, in many situations. They might alsosue for damages(including damages related to inconvenience, not just reduction in value of the property) orget an injunctionto force repairs.
Can the Tenant Withhold Rent in West Virginia?
West Virginia tenants arenot allowed to unilaterally withhold rent.To receive a legal excuse from paying any part of the rent, a tenant must have a court order.
Can the Tenant Repair and Deduct in West Virginia?
West Virginia tenants arenot allowed to arrange for repairs and deductfrom the rent.
Can the Tenant Break Their Lease in West Virginia?
West Virginia tenantscan break their leasefor failure to repair issues that weren’t the tenant’s responsibility or other substantial and uncorrected breaches of the rental agreement. If the landlord disagrees that there’s a substantial breach, this may require a court process.
Can the Tenant Sue in West Virginia?
West Virginia tenantscan sueto force repairs or recover monetary damages (including damages for personal inconvenience related to living in substandard property), when the landlord doesn’t make timely repairs after proper notice.
Can the Tenant Report the Landlord in West Virginia?
West Virginia tenantscan report landlords for code violationsthat affect health or safety. Tenants should usually report to the local inspections or code enforcement department. If an inspecting officer finds a violation, the tenant could cancel the rental agreement, or sue to force repairs.
It’s illegal for West Virginia landlords toretaliate against tenants who assert their rightsunder the landlord-tenant relationship in the rental agreement (such as reporting the landlord’s failure to maintain the property). A tenant can claim retaliation as a defense against eviction, or can sue the landlord affirmatively, claiming retaliation.
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)
“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.”
Under West Virginia law, the landlord’s obligation to keep the property in habitable condition and the tenant’s obligation to pay rent are mutually dependent. This means a tenant who is current on rent can legally compel a landlord to do necessary repairs, but also, a tenant in default on rent (for example, withholding rent) cannot legally demand repairs. SeeTeller v. McCoy, 162 W. Va. 367, 384 (W. Va. 1978) (“since a lease of a residential dwelling unit is to be treated and construed as any other contract, the covenant to pay rent and the warranty of habitability are mutually dependent.”)
“In order to constitute a constructive eviction of a tenant by his landlord, it is necessary and sufficient that the tenant abandon the premises in consequence of an intentional act or omission of the landlord, or some one acting under his authority or with his permission, that permanently deprives the tenant of the beneficial enjoyment of the demised premises or a substantial part thereof.”
“[T]he tenant’s damages are measured by the difference between the fair market value of the premises if they had been as warranted and the fair rental value of the premises as they were during the occupancy by the tenant in the unsafe and unsanitary condition. However, the tenant may additionally recover damages for annoyance and inconvenience proven to have resulted from the breach.”
“The warranty of habitability, a covenant upon which the very duty to pay rent depends, is certainly a vital and essential provision of the lease. Breach of this covenant, upon which the vitality of the lease depends, would entitle the lessee to rescind the lease, to vacate the premises and to be relieved of any further rental obligation. Because the typical residential tenant enters into a lease in order to obtain a habitable place to live, his failure to receive such a place to live would unquestionably justify rescission [i.e., cancellation of the agreement].”
Repairing and deducting from rent is explicitly forbidden under West Virginia law. SeeTeller v. McCoy, 162 W. Va. 367, 386-87 (W. Va. 1978) (holding that the repair-and-deduct remedy is not available in West Virginia given that “the wide range of contract remedies available to the tenant are adequate to enforce fulfillment of the implied warranty”)
“We accordingly hold that retaliation may be asserted as a defense to a summary eviction proceeding… if the landlord’s conduct is in retaliation for the tenant’s exercise of a right incidental to the tenancy… rights of speech and association unrelated to the tenant’s property interest are not protected under a retaliatory eviction defense in that they do not arise from the tenancy relationship.” Imperial Colliery Co. v. Fout, 179 W. Va. 776, 781 (W. Va. 1988). See alsoMurphy v. Smallridge, 196 W. Va. 35 (W. Va. 1996) (holding that retaliatory eviction may be asserted as an affirmative claim and not merely in defense to a landlord’s action for possession)