A tenant may only have a few days to respond to an eviction notice. The tenant should find a lawyer immediately for assistance. If the tenant cannot afford to pay an attorney, the tenant may be eligible for assistance from a legal aid program that serves low-income persons. Call Legal Aid of West Virginia, toll free at 800-642-8279 to determine your eligibility for assistance.
Tenants have the right to represent themselves in a court action for eviction. West Virginia law does not require a tenant to be represented by an attorney in an eviction proceeding. The tenant has the right to have help from others, but the tenant cannot be legally represented by a person who is not a licensed attorney in the state of West Virginia. Tenants who choos to represent themselves must follow the required procedure. To defend against eviction, the tenant must:
• File a written answer to the notice
• Use the form attached to the summons for the tenant’s written answer. The tenant is required to mail or deliver one copy of the completed form to the magistrate court and mail or deliver one copy to the landlord and keep one copy
• Appear in court on the date specified in the eviction notice
• Ask to have the eviction suit moved from magistrate court to the circuit court. The tenant must file a form and pay a fee for this option. If the tenant cannot afford the fee, the tenant may file an Affidavit of Indigency, which, if granted, will waive the fee for moving the action to circuit court and also waive the fee for a jury trial if the tenant asks for one
• File a counterclaim