1.6 Oral Leases and Variation of Lease Terms

In West Virginia, oral leases are valid and binding rental agreements when made between a landlord and tenant for a rental term which lasts less than one year. The rules governing oral leases are substantially the same as those that govern written leases.

Unless otherwise stated by existing statute or case law, a landlord and tenant may negotiate most of the terms of their agreement however they see fit. Some legal protections, such as the right to fit and habitable conditions, cannot be legally negotiated away. When a lease is silent on a term the law will apply to fill in the gaps. For example, if a landlord has not specifically said in the rental agreement that pets are not allowed, then it is assumed that pets are allowed on the rental premises, because West Virginia law does not specifically forbid a tenant from owning a pet on rental property.

The landlord and the tenant can vary terms existing in law in the lease. For instance, West Virginia law provides a required notice period for either the landlord or the tenant to terminate a lease, but these provisions can legally be altered by agreement by both the landlord and the tenant.

While these rules apply to both written and oral leases, it is important to note it will be more difficult for either party to prove the presence or absence of terms in an oral lease.

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