The tenant has a duty to pay rent on the leased premises for the term of the lease. If a tenant has not paid rent and vacates the premises before the end of the lease agreement with the clear intent not to be bound by the lease, the tenant has “abandoned‛ the residence.
If a tenant has abandoned the property, a landlord may legally take steps to regain possession of the property before the end of the lease period. To begin this process, the landlord must post a notice in a conspicuous part of the property that requires the tenant to pay the rent owed within one month. If the tenant does not pay the rent within one month then the landlord is entitled to possession and the right of the tenant to the leased property is ended. Landlords have a right to recover all rent owed up to the time when they became entitled to possession of the property. W.Va. Code §37-6-6(a).
Regarding lost rent, the landlord has three lawful options:
1. The landlord has the right to accept the abandonment and not hold the tenant liable for the rent as it accrues
2. The landlord may legally hold the tenant liable for the rent as it accrues
3. The landlord has the right to re-lease the property with the tenant being liable for any difference between the amount of rent the landlord is reasonably able to re-let the property for and the amount of rent which the tenant was paying at the time of abandonment
The landlord may legally re-lease the rental property if notice is given to the original tenant of the landlord’s intention to re-lease the property. This notice may legally be included in the original notice posted in a conspicuous area of the property. If the landlord chooses to do this, the first tenant will still be liable for the remaining term of the lease, to pay the difference between the rent owed under the agreement and the amount of rent the landlord was able to re-lease the apartment for to a new tenant. W.Va. Code §37-6-7.
If the landlord continues to hold the tenant liable for rent on the lease, then the tenant has the right to resume possession of the leased property. The tenant will need to provide notice to the landlord of the tenant’s intention to do so and payment of all rent and liabilities owed on the lease, as long as no other person is already in possession of the premises or entitled to possession of the premises by virtue of a lease with the landlord, and as long as the tenant’s lease has not been lawfully forfeited. W.Va. Code §37-6-8.