The landlord may file a suit for eviction in either the magistrate court or the circuit court for the county in which the property is located. This process can move very quickly; a landlord can get a hearing within five days of filing. The landlord must provide a reason as to why the tenant is in wrongful occupation of the premises. Valid reasons for applying for wrongful occupation include that the tenant has failed to pay rent, has breached a warranty or provision of the lease agreement, or has negligently or deliberately damaged the property. W.Va. Code §55-3A-1(a)(3). The landlord must serve notice on the tenant that includes the time and place of the hearing and must inform the tenant that any defense must be submitted in writing to the landlord within five days of the receipt by the tenant of the notice, and in no case later than the fifth day next preceding the date of hearing. W.Va. Code §55-3A-1(c).
The landlord cannot legally threaten to or take action to do any of the following before such is ordered by a court or the landlord has followed the steps proscribed by law to regain possession of an abandoned rental property:
1. Lock the tenant out of the rental property
2. Take the tenant’s personal property
3. Shut off the tenant’s utilities
4. Send the tenant to jail