H. B. 2256
(By Mr. Speaker, Mr. Chamber
s, and Delegates Hunt, Farris,
[Introduced January 26, 1995; referred to the
Committee on the Judiciary.]
A BILL to amend article six, chapter thirty-seven of the code of
West Virginia, one thousand nine hundred thirty-one, as
amended, by adding thereto a new section, designated section
thirty-one, relating to property owner liability for illegal
activity of the tenant on the owner's property; written
notice of the illegal activity by law-enforcement personnel;
providing penalties therefor; severability.
Be it enacted by the Legislature of West Virginia:
That article six, chapter thirty-seven of the code of West
Virginia, one thousand nine hundred thirty-one, as amended, be
amended by adding thereto a new section, designated section
thirty-one, to read as follows:
ARTICLE 6. LANDLORD AND TENANT.
§37-6-31. Illegal activity; landlord responsibility; penalties;
(a) For purposes of this section the following definitions
(1) "Operator" means any person, whether an owner, tenant,
possessor or any agent, partner, officer or employee thereof, in possession and control of property.
(2) "Property" means any business, establishment, building,
vehicle, home, structure or other property together with the land
surrounding the property.
(b) No owner or operator of any property may knowingly allow
illegal activity to occur on the property or permit the property
to be used for illegal activity. For the purposes of this
section to allow the illegal activity to occur or to permit the
property to be used for illegal activity shall constitute a
nuisance. Each day the illegal activity exists shall constitute
a separate offense.
(c) Any operator who violates the provisions of subsection
(b) of this section is guilty of a misdemeanor, and, upon
conviction thereof, shall be fined not more than one thousand
dollars, or confined in the county or regional jail not more than
six months for each offense.
(d) Any owner who is not the operator of the property upon
which illegal activity is taking place or which is being used for
illegal activity who fails to take action to terminate the
illegal activity within thirty days after notice by the chief of
police, or his or her designee, shall be fined five hundred
dollars for each day the illegal activity continues after the
thirty-day period, subject to the following:
(1) The chief of police, or his or her designee, shall first serve written notice to the tenant in the property that illegal
activity is being conducted and that the tenant shall be evicted
if the activity does not cease within fifteen days. A copy of
the notice shall be provided to the owner of the property and
payor of rent;
(2) Any written notice to the owner of the property
hereunder shall also be served on the tenant;
(3) Any written notice shall describe in specific detail the
facts forming the basis for the allegation of the illegal
activity and the specific illegal activity occurring;
(4) The chief of police, or his or her designee, shall
appear at any hearing on legal action taken by the owner of the
property pursuant to this section and produce witnesses and other
evidence detailing the illegal activity of the tenant;
(5) It shall be an absolute defense for the owner for
charges under this section if the owner initiates legal action to
evict the tenant pursuant to this section, regardless of the
ultimate disposition of the case in court; and
(6) An owner shall have the absolute right to evict any
tenant upon receipt of the thirty day written notice from the
chief of police, or his or her designee.
(e) The prosecuting attorney, city attorney, a designee of
either, or a citizen of the county in which the property is
located may maintain an action in the name of the county to abate and perpetually enjoin a nuisance. Where the nuisance exists in
connection with a business the injunction may also apply to the
business. Circuit courts shall have jurisdiction thereof. The
injunction may be granted at the commencement of the action and
no bond may be required if the action for injunction is brought
either by the prosecuting attorney, or his or her designee. If
the action for injunction is brought or maintained by a citizen
then the court may require bond as in other actions for
injunction. On the finding that the material allegations of the
complaint are true, the court shall order the injunction for an
adequate period of time, in the discretion of the court. Upon
application, the owner shall have the right to dissolve the
injunction if a proper case for dissolution is shown.
(f) Any penalty imposed for violation of this section is in
addition to and not in lieu of any civil or administrative
penalty or sanction otherwise authorized by law.
(g) The provisions of this section are severable and if any
provisions of this section are held invalid, unconstitutional or
inapplicable to any person or circumstance, the invalidity,
unconstitutionality or inapplicability shall not affect or impair
any other remaining provisions contained herein.
NOTE: The purpose of this bill is to make landlords
responsible for the illegal activities of tenants which occur on
the landlords' property. The bill also provides penalties.
This section is new; therefore, strike-throughs and
underscoring have been omitted.