2.2 Tenants

Tenants have a set of rights imposed by both rental and general laws. In West Virginia, tenants have the legal right to rent a premise regardless of their race, religion, color, national origin, ancestry, sex, blindness, handicap (disability), or familial status. W.Va. Code §5-11A-5. They also have the right to have such premises delivered and maintained in a fit and habitable condition for the duration of their tenancy. W.Va. Code §37-6-30.

If a landlord fails to maintain the premises in a fit condition then the tenant has the right to complain to the landlord or to local government agencies, such as the building code inspector, fire marshal, or health department. The landlord cannot legally evict the tenant in retaliation for complaints made about unfit housing conditions. But a landlord is under no general legal duty to renew a lease once it naturally expires.

Tenants have the right to file a civil suit against the landlord to enforce their right to live in fit housing and to seek monetary damages if the tenant’s rights have been violated. Tenants do not need to have legal representation in order to file suit and have the right to represent themselves in the action. If tenants are unable to pay filing fees to bring suit, then they have the right to file an Affidavit of Indigency, which, if granted, would waive some court costs associated with bringing a civil case.

In West Virginia, tenants do not legally have the right to withhold rent to pressure a landlord to make changes. W.Va. Code §37-6-30(7)(c). There are some exceptions to this rule; more information on when a tenant is not legally obligated to pay rent can be found in the section on Warranty of Habitability.

Tenants are responsible for the timely payment of rent in accordance with the terms of the lease and reporting and paying proper reimbursement for all damage caused to the property by the tenant or someone on the premises with the tenant’s permission.

The tenant is responsible for behaving, and making his or her guests behave, in a way that does not disturb others’ peaceful enjoyment of their property, and that does not cause undue wear and tear on the rental property. A landlord is not responsible for making repairs to the property that were caused by the tenant or others on the premises with the permission of the tenant.

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