Landlord tenant laws around the country vary in their complexity regarding security deposits. Every aspect of the security deposit, from the amount that can be collected, to permitted uses for the deposit, to the return of the deposit at the termination of a tenancy must be understood in the context of a state’s laws. West Virginia has some thoughtful aspects of the security deposit language written into their statues that we will cover here.
Amount and permitted uses
West Virginia landlord tenant laws do not stipulate a maximum amount that can be collected as a security deposit. Most landlords will charge what is considered a reasonable amount, such as one month’s rent. It’s always a good idea to provide a receipt to the tenant for the amount collected. And if the landlord and tenant agree to a sublease of the property, the landlord is only allowed to hold one security deposit for the lease agreement.
The security deposit can be used in West Virginia for only the following purposes:
- Payment of rent due, including the reasonable charges for late payment of rent specified in the rental agreement.
- Payment of the amount of damages due to the tenant’s noncompliance with the rental agreement, other than reasonable wear and tear.
- Payment of unpaid utilities that were billed to and paid by the landlord, but which are the obligation of the tenant under the rental agreement and remain unpaid by tenant.
- Payment of reasonable costs for the removal and storage of tenant’s personal property.
- Other damages or charges as provided for in the rental agreement, such as paying for the services of a third party contractor to repair damages to the property caused by the tenant.
Returning the security deposit
A security deposit, in full or minus any deductions, must be returned to the tenant within 30 days of lease termination, along with a written itemization of any damages or charges. In the event of excessive damages that exceed the amount of the security deposit and that require the services of a third party contractor, the landlord should also provide a written notice to the tenant noting that fact within the same 30 day time frame. If this notice period has been adhered to regarding communicating any excessive damage, the landlord is allowed an additional 15 days to provide a written itemization of the damages and repair costs of such damage to the tenant.
Maintaining accurate records
We’ve mentioned it before but it bears repeating that landlords should always keep accurate records of payments received and charges imposed on tenants. This is true even if your state does not require such record keeping. However, West Virginia does require the landlord to keep records of charges made against the security deposit. Per W. Va. Code, § 37-6A-3, the landlord must maintain and itemize records of all deductions made from the deposit for one year after the tenancy terminates. In addition, the landlord must allow the tenant or an agent of the tenant access to the itemized record of deductions within 72 hours of a written request for such information.
If a landlord fails to comply with the laws regarding security deposits, and the failure is willful or not in good faith, the tenant is entitled to a judgment for the amount of any unreturned security deposit and “damages for annoyance or inconvenience resulting from landlord’s nonconformance” equal of 1 ½ times the amount wrongfully withheld. The exception is if the tenant owes rent to the landlord, in which case the court can order an amount equal to any amount awarded to tenant be credited against any rent due to landlord.