These vary from county to county, but they still follow the same general eviction process:
- Send a clear written eviction notice
- Fill out the forms
- Serve the tenant
- Attend the trial
- Wait for judgment
All evictions are different and dependent on the lease/rental agreement signed by the tenant and the landlord. There is a need to exercise meticulous file-keeping to avoid errors that could be exploited by the tenant.
This article details a summary for landlords to use when evicting a tenant. It contains most of the information a landlord will need when they want to proceed with an eviction action.
Feel free to confirm the information in this article with your justice court to make sure the entire eviction process goes as smoothly as possible.
Landlords may need to ask for legal advice from an attorney. There are some legal terms that may be tough to understand for a landlord proceeding with an eviction order for the first time.
A landlord is required to follow all rules and procedures mandated by the state of West Virginia. There are legal repercussions for failing to comply.
The Notice to Quit is a notice to the tenant that states how many days they have before they must vacate the property before being evicted by the court. Usually, the number of days associated to a Notice to Quit will depend on the reason for eviction.
However, during a West Virginia eviction process, landlords do not need to give the tenant any prior notice—written or otherwise—before proceeding with an eviction action. Although, they may give tenants a chance to resolve any issues should they wish to do so.
In the state of West Virginia, a landlord can evict a tenant for multiple reasons, but they usually only need one. A lot of these factors rely on the lease terms stipulated in their written contract.
The reason for eviction can range from violation of the lease terms to end of the lease. Nonpayment of rent and committing illegal behavior are both a violation of the lease terms.
A landlord can attempt to file for eviction action against a tenant for more than one violation.
Landlords who wish to start filing for a West Virginia eviction lawsuit are given an option to inform the tenant that an immediate eviction is about to be filed, but it is not a legal need.
The only time they need to provide written notice is if they are seeking to end a tenant’s lease.
No matter the reason for eviction, the landlord must not do a self-help eviction, which is a form of eviction that is against the law.
This article includes the basic rules and regulations when it comes to evicting a tenant in West Virginia.
1. Violation of the lease/rental agreement
In West Virginia, a landlord may evict a tenant for violation the terms of the lease.
The lease has to be upheld by both tenant and landlord for the entire duration of their stay. Lease/rental agreements may vary from tenant to tenant.
Lease violations may include:
2. Failure to Pay Rent
Landlords can evict the tenant for failing to pay the rent in West Virginia. Rent is usually considered late a day past it is due.
If a tenant does not pay rent on time, a landlord may start eviction.
Although landlords do not need to give the tenant a chance to pay the rent or provide prior written notice before filing for eviction, the entire eviction lawsuit stops the moment the tenant can pay rent and other due fees in full.
See W. Va. Code § 55-3A-1 for more information.
3. Conducting illegal activity
If a tenant has engaged in illegal behavior within the property, a landlord may evict them.
Examples of illegal activities are, but not limited to:
- Theft, violence, assault
- Possession and/or firing of an illegal firearm
- Involvement in the creation, distribution, or consumption of a controlled substance
A landlord must keep a close eye on their tenants to make sure illegal behavior does not go unnoticed.
See W. Va. Code § 55-3A-1 for more information.
4. Non-renewal or termination of the lease after the rental term ends
The West Virginia eviction process states that landlords cannot force a tenant to vacate the property without probable cause. As long as the tenant does not violate any rules, they can stay until their rental term ends.
They must not be asked to leave by the landlord. This usually applies if the landlord wishes for a termination of the lease.
But if they stay in the property even a day after their lease/rental agreement ends and have not arranged for a renewal, landlords must issue a written notice to move.
If the tenant remains within the rental property even after the date of notice has passed, the landlord must continue filing for eviction.
See W. Va. Code § 37-6-5 for more information
Filing a Complaint
1. How to File a Complaint
The West Virginia eviction process can only begin after the issuance of the appropriate written eviction notice. Enough notice time must have been allowed before filing for eviction with the court.
However, since no notice is required for most evictions in West Virginia, the landlord may file for an eviction lawsuit directly.
The eviction process is as follows:
- Proceed to the justice court the rental unit belongs to
- File a complaint
- Pay the fees
It takes about 7 to 90 days from the issuance of the Notice to Quit in a West Virginia eviction before a landlord can start the eviction lawsuit.
Serving the Tenant
1. How to Serve a Tenant
According to the West Virginia eviction law, anyone over the age of 18 and is uninvolved in the case must deliver the court order a.k.a. the Summons for the eviction hearing and the Complaint to the tenant.
There are several methods available:
- Personal Service: The server delivers the Summons and Complaint to the tenant in person
- Substituted Service: If the tenant is unavailable, a copy of the documents must be left with a member of the tenant’s family
- Mailing: The server mails a copy of the documents via certified mail. This method needs a return receipt
- Publishing: The server publishes a copy of the documents via the local paper
The Summons and Complaint must be served to the tenant within 120 days from the date the Complaint was filed by the landlord. The landlord has to show proof that the tenant has received a copy of the documents, usually via return receipt.
2. After Serving the Summons and Complaint
A tenant is not required to file a response, but if they want to, the tenant must file one within 5 days of receiving the document.
The documents should be served to the tenant within 120 days from the date the Complaint was filed by the landlord.
The tenant has 5 days to file a response, but they are not required to do so.
Asking for Possession
1. Filing a Motion to Obtain Judgement and get a Judgement for Possession
The landlord has to provide a strong argument backed up by solid evidence against the tenant. Should the tenant fail to show up to the hearing, the landlord wins by default.
2. Next procedure if the tenant disagreed and replied
In the state of West Virginia, a reply from the tenant is not necessary for a court date to be scheduled. However, the tenant must show up to the hearing.
If an eviction hearing is scheduled for magistrate court, either party could request for a “removal” of the case to the circuit court. This only applies if the total amount racked up by rent and damages goes beyond the set dollar amount.
The landlord needs to support the claim with evidence and show it during the hearing. This could include, but is not limited to the following:
- Copy of the deed and lease
- Rent receipts and ledgers
- Bank statements
- Photo and video documentation of the violations, correspondence, etc.
Should judgment be passed in favor of the landlord, the tenant can file an appeal, but if their rental term has already expired, they will not be allowed to stay within the rental unit while undergoing an appeal.
Even if the tenant wins, the court may decide that they can’t stay in the rental unit.
Eviction hearings in West Virginia are scheduled on a date that is 5-10 business days after the landlord requests for it. An additional 7-10 days is added to the original date if either party requests a removal of the case from magistrate court to circuit court.
1. After the landlord wins the case
Provided that the tenant does not appeal for reconsideration, the judicial officer will decide when a tenant must move out of their rental unit.
Should the tenant remain in their rental unit after the indicated date and time period set by the judicial officer, the landlord may return to court and request for a Writ of Possession.
However, there may already be a sheriff assigned to remove the tenant from the property, depending on the type of hearing. If this happens, no Writ of Possession is required.
The Writ of Possession is an official court order that gives the sheriff the right to forcibly remove the tenant from the property. Without it, law enforcement cannot remove the tenant through legal means.
It is unlawful to attempt to forcefully remove a tenant without a Writ of Possession unless a sheriff had been assigned to do the task beforehand.
2. Move out process
A tenant must move out by the time period given by the judicial officer. If they fail to do so, then the court order requested by the landlord will allow the sheriff to forcibly remove them from the property, bypassing the eviction process.
This could take a few hours to a few days depending on the availability of the sheriff, and on the type of eviction case.
Even though a landlord has won the trial, they are still not allowed to use illegal methods of eviction.
The state of West Virginia specifies that if any personal belongings are left behind, landlords are advised to contact the tenant and give them 30 days to claim them.
After the timeframe has passed, the tenant’s property may be sold or disposed of without being held accountable. There is no court order necessary.
See W. Va. Code § 55-3A-3(h) for more information.
Tenants must vacate the property or else they will forcefully be removed. In West Virginia, their deadline is set by the judicial officer.
Moving out could take a few hours to a few days and depends largely on the type of eviction.
West Virginia Eviction Process
Below is the average timeline for a complete eviction lawsuit in West Virginia. This timeline does not include special cases such as requests for an appeal or continuance. Issuing and Serving of Summons and Complaint
On average, it would take anywhere between 1 month to 3 months for a complete eviction process.
1. How to keep good records
If the tenant disagrees with the eviction request and they reply to the court, it’s important that you keep extremely good records of everything so you can provide proof to the judge and win your case. This part can make or break your entire eviction request in the event of a dispute.
You can stay organized by:
- Keeping a physical paper trail - This gets VERY hard to search through, takes up a lot of storage space, and could get lost, damaged, stolen, or burnt in a fire.
- Scanning documents - Scan every document into your computer. A great scanner is the Brother ADS-1700W for under $200 or the Fujitsu ScanSnap iX1500 for $400. As long as you are able to securely store documents somewhere, you should be safe.
- Backups - Store and backup every file using Dropbox, Google Drive, OneDrive, or any other option that is easily searchable.
- PMS - Use a property management software to save everything from lease agreements, signed documents, violations, emails, notes, invoices, payments, reminders, maintenance requests, pictures, videos, and anything you can imagine. This is used best when you also scan every document into your software.
2. Evidence to show for not paying rent
If the tenant doesn’t pay rent, and they dispute that claim, it’s important that you show the judge the following:
- Your lease agreement - Showing the terms of the agreement, when rent is due, and any penalties for late payment.
- All payments - Showing all previous payments, how they were normally made (check, credit card, ACH, etc…), and what date they were normally paid on.
- Any payment returns - If their check bounced, their bank account had insufficient funds, or they did a chargeback dispute on their credit card, show this to the Judge. Also, show any fees your bank may have charged you, and any penalties you are owed according to your lease agreement, in order to be covered for any unnecessary charges that you may have faced.
- All messages - If you sent your tenant automated or manual payment reminders by text, email, letter, or mail, it’s important to show this. While it’s usually not needed, it’s still good to show that they were aware of the situation and were given time to cure and make payment. This is why it’s always best to have everything in writing instead of any phone calls or face-to-face meetings.
3. Evidence to show for lease violations
If you are evicting the tenant for lease violations, for example, noise complaints, unauthorized pets, or property damages, it’s important to show proof from any of the following methods:
- Security Cameras - If you have a surveillance system that can show them committing the crime or lease violation, it’s safe to say you will normally win this dispute.
- Video - If you didn’t catch them in the act, the next best thing is to record a video with your phone of any damages or the lease violation, and show this to the judge to prove the violation.
- Pictures - They say a picture is worth a thousand words. In this case, a picture could be worth thousands of dollars! Even if you take a video, it’s important to show the Judge any pictures too as it’s usually easier to see by email or printed.
- Lease Terms - Once again, show the court which term they violated in their lease agreement. Don’t worry if you don’t have every single term spelled out in your rental agreement. If the violation is bad enough, it might not be needed to have it written. As a good practice though, start adding all of the potential reasons to evict a tenant into your agreement.
Can I force a tenant to move out in West Virginia?
No. A landlord could be sued if they use forceful eviction on a tenant. It is unlawful to skip a proper eviction processes.
In the state of West Virginia, tenants may sue their landlord, but the statute does not specify an amount.
Which eviction methods are considered illegal?
Any use or attempt at self-help eviction is against the law in West Virginia. They are done in an attempt to force the tenant to move out of the property without legal action.
Examples of such acts include (but are not limited to):
- Cutting off the tenant’s electric, water, and/or heat supply
- Changing the locks to prevent the tenant from entering the property
- Vandalizing or destroying the tenant’s personal property
Another eviction method that's considered unlawful is a retaliatory eviction action. This is when a landlord attempts to evict a tenant who is only demanding what is right.
The most common situation associated with an unlawful retaliatory eviction action occurs when a landlord fails to make necessary repairs to the rental unit, prompting the tenant to report the landlord to the legal authorities.
What are the other responsibilities of a landlord?
A landlord is required to do a lot of things around the rental property. One of these responsibilities includes repairing non-deliberate issues that come up with each rental unit.
Examples of such repairs include, but are not limited to:
- Provide plumbing services
- Provide electrical repair services
A landlord is also required to comply with payment requirements that are about the property. Failure to keep up with a rental property payment may affect the tenants' utilities, etc.
Where can I get forms for an eviction notice?
There are plenty of forms available for use online to help you get started. You just have to put in the right information and print out the forms.
The forms are easy to use and easy to access on the Internet. You only need to choose the right form for the eviction unless it is about a violation of a lease term.
What other laws should I be aware of?
Landlords should be aware of the information changes made to the Eviction Policies in the state of West Virginia. Especially in the light of the COVID-19 pandemic. There may be eviction bans.
It is also wise for landlords to check out the law on Security Deposits. These deposits protect the landlord if the tenants violate any terms in the lease/rental agreement or fail to pay rent.
Knowing the appropriate legal action to take when evicting a tenant helps a landlord maintain the integrity and follow the rules. Rules and laws are put in place to help both the tenant and the landlord should anything untoward occur.