H. B. 2385
(By Delegate Hunt)
[Introduced January 14, 1998; 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;
giving landlords an absolute right to evict for illegal
activity; and providing criminal and civil penalties
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; severability.
(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 constitutes a nuisance.
Each day the illegal activity exists constitutes a separate
(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 county sheriff, 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 county sheriff, 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 county sheriff, 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
(5) It is 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 has the absolute right to evict any tenant upon
receipt of the thirty day written notice from the chief of police
or county sheriff, 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 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 has 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.
NOTE: The purpose of this bill is to insure eviction
proceedings of persons who commit illegal activities on rented
property. The bill also provides penalties.
This section is new; therefore, strike-throughs and
underscoring have been omitted.