Both landlords and tenants should be able to deal with many legal questions and problems without a lawyer, once they understand the basics of state law. This overview of key landlord-tenant laws in West Virginia will get you started.
Under West Virginia law, landlords must disclose specific information to tenants (usually in the lease or rental agreement), such as the purpose of any nonrefundable fee. For a full list, see West Virginia Required Landlord Disclosures.
West Virginia state law does not limit how much a landlord can charge for a security deposit. However, it does limit when it must be returned (within 65 days after a tenant moves or within 45 days of an occupancy of a subsequent tenant, whichever is shorter, though an additional 15 days is allowed if the landlord must hire a contractor to fix damage exceeding the amount of the security deposit) and sets other restrictions on deposits. See West Virginia Security Deposit Limits and Deadlines for more on the subject.
Tenants can sue landlords in Magistrate Court for the return of their deposit, up to a dollar amount of $5,000. See Filing a Security Deposit Lawsuit in West Virginia Magistrate Court for advice for tenants filing suit. Landlords defending a security deposit lawsuit should check out West Virginia Landlord's Guide to Security Deposit Disputes in Magistrate Court.
State law regulates several rent-related issues. For example, West Virginia landlords are prohibited from using rent increases as a way to discriminate or retaliate against tenants. For details, see West Virginia Termination for Nonpayment of Rent and Other Rent Rules.
State laws specify when and how a landlord may terminate a tenancy. See State Laws on Unconditional Quit Terminations and State Laws on Termination for Violation of Lease for details on termination notices in West Virginia.
Several other landlord-tenant laws in West Virginia affect both property owners and renters, including:
If you want to read the text of a law itself, such as state security deposit rules, you'll find citations in many of the articles and charts included in the State Landlord-Tenant Laws section of the Nolo site. To access the statutes, go to the West Virginia Laws and Legal Information section of the Nolo site and find the link to your state laws.
If you just want to browse through the West Virginia landlord-tenant law, you can find state statutes at W.Va. Code § § 37-6-1 to 37-6A-6. You can search the table of contents for the landlord-tenant statutes. Or, if you don't know the exact statute number, you can enter a keyword that is likely to be in it, such as "nonpayment of rent."
In addition to accessing state laws via Nolo's website, West Virginia statutes are available in many public libraries and in most law libraries that are open to the public (typically found in a county courthouse or at the state capitol or in a publicly-funded law school).
Cities and counties often pass local ordinances, such as health and safety standards, noise and nuisance regulations, and antidiscrimination rules that affect landlords and tenants. Many municipalities have websites —just search for the name of a particular city in West Virginia and then do a search when you're on the site.
State and Local Government on the Net and Municode are good sources for finding local governments online. Also, your local public library or office of the city attorney, mayor, or city or county manager can provide information on local ordinances that affect landlords and tenants in West Virginia.
While most landlords and tenants will primarily be concerned with state law in West Virginia, several federal laws come into play. Congress has enacted laws, and federal agencies, such as the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), have adopted regulations, covering discrimination and landlord responsibilities to disclose environmental health hazards, such as lead-based paint.
The U.S. Code is the starting place for most federal statutory research. It consists of 50 separate numbered titles, each covering a specific subject matter. Most federal regulations are published in the Code of Federal Regulations ("CFR"), also organized by subject into 50 separate titles.
To access the U.S. Code and Code of Federal Regulations online, see Nolo's Federal Law Resources page. Also, the Cornell Legal Information Institute provides the entire U.S. Code as well as the Code of Federal Regulations. Finally, check USA.gov, the official U.S. website for government information.
Nolo's Laws and Legal Research page includes links to state and federal laws, explains how to research and understand statutes, and provides advice on finding local ordinances and court cases, including Supreme Court cases. To go further, check out Legal Research: How to Find & Understand the Law, by Stephen Elias and the Editors of Nolo (Nolo). This nontechnical book gives easy-to-use, step-by-step instructions on how to find legal information.