H. B. 4695
(By Delegate Hunt)
[Introduced February 205, 2000; referred to the
Committee on the Judiciary.]
A BILL to amend chapter thirty-seven of the code of West Virginia,
one thousand nine hundred thirty-one, as amended, by adding
thereto a new article, designated article six-a, relating to
the "Real Estate used for Illegal Purposes Act"; setting forth
legislative purpose; prohibiting owners from permitting the
use of rental property for certain illegal purposes; providing
a mechanism to give notice to owners concerning illegal
activities on rental premises; forbidding discrimination;
providing for reports, investigations and notices by police
agencies; establishing criteria for determining a violation
under the article; providing that the existence of eviction
proceedings are a defense for an owner; setting forth the
necessary party to name in the event of multiple units;
providing for the filing of criminal charges; requiring police
departments to train, educate and assist landlords in avoiding violations under the article; providing for the limited
indemnification of owners by municipalities and counties; and,
providing for criminal penalties.
Be it enacted by the Legislature of West Virginia:
That chapter thirty-seven of the code of West Virginia, one
thousand nine hundred thirty-one, as amended, be amended by adding
thereto a new article, designated article six-a, to read as
ARTICLE 6A. PURPOSES ACT.
The Legislature finds it to be in the best interest of the
residents of this state and the general public to provide for the
regulation of conduct it considers to be offensive, to prevent
vice, disorder and immorality; and to promote public peace, health
§37-6A-2. Permitting the use of real estate for illicit drug
activity, gambling or prostitution.
No owner of real estate located in this state may knowingly
allow that real estate to be used as a site for any illegal use or
sale of controlled substances, gambling or prostitution after
having received written notice from any police agency in this state
that a present occupant or tenant of that property has been
illegally using or selling controlled substances or allowing the illegal using or selling of controlled substances or has been
engaging in or allowing gambling or prostitution or has otherwise
been engaging in or allowing activity constituting a nuisance at
the subject property. A legal or equitable owner of the real
estate is considered as having knowledge of illegal activity upon
receipt of notice as provided under this article. For the purposes
of this article, "an owner of real estate" means any person who,
alone or with others has legal title to any residential dwelling
or dwelling unit.
Notice to an owner under the provisions of this article is
considered perfected, upon certification of such notice by a
law-enforcement officer, filed with the clerk of the county
commission wherein the subject property is located.
§37-6A-4. Discrimination forbidden.
Nothing in this article may be construed to encourage or
authorize the discrimination of any person based upon the race,
creed, religion, sex, age or national origin of the person.
Rather, it is the intent of this article to hold persons
accountable for acquiescing in or participating in the continued
illegal use of their property, after having received notice as
prescribed by this article.
§37-6A-5. Reports, investigations and notices by police departments.
(a) Any complaint of suspected illegal activities involving
controlled substances, gambling, prostitution or a nuisance by
tenants, or other persons on the premises, made by the lessor,
other tenants or persons residing or working in the vicinity of the
property, or by officials or representatives of a governmental
agency, shall be submitted to the police department that receives
the complaint and each complaint shall be individually logged by
the police department.
(b) Upon receipt of a complaint, a determination shall be
made by the police department as to the need for an investigation
including whether surveillance of the premises would be prudent and
(c) The police department that received the complaint shall
notify all other applicable and relevant agencies of government,
including those who enforce applicable city or county provisions
related to building, zoning and health, in order to afford those
agencies the opportunity to inspect the property for violations and
if appropriate issue citations.
(d) In the event a police department upon sufficient
investigation concludes that illegal activity is taking place at a
particular premises, a warning letter shall be sent by the police
department to the owner of the real estate with a copy to the
tenant whose premise is the subject of the investigation. The notice shall be provided by certified mail, return receipt
requested, and it shall inform the owner of the investigation, and
the suspected illegal activity. The warning letter shall also
inform the owner of his or her obligation to take action to abate
the suspected illegal activity and of the prospect of the police
department, if the suspected illegal activity has not ceased, to
take further action.
(e) In the event a search warrant is obtained to search the
real estate premises, a second notice shall be sent by police to
the owner of the real estate, by certified mail, return receipt
requested. This notice shall inform the owner that the warrant was
served, that the investigation at the premises is continuing, and
that legal proceedings may be commenced. The second notice shall
also inform the owner of his or her obligation to take remedial
action. A copy of the letter shall be sent to the county
prosecuting attorney's office and to the tenant of the subject
(f) Upon receipt of a copy of the second notice, the
prosecuting attorney's office may proceed to abate or enjoin any
suspected illegal activity. If the prosecuting attorney decides to
proceed in abatement or injunction, he or she shall provide notice
advising that legal proceedings will be instituted against the
owner and that the owner has an obligation to commence eviction
proceedings against the offending tenant.
§37-6A-6. Criteria for establishing a violation.
A violation of the provisions of this article is based upon
the totality of the circumstances present, including, but not
limited to, whether the owner has received sufficient notice
pursuant to the provisions of this article.
§37-6A-7. Eviction proceedings as a defense.
(a) No person may be charged with a violation of any
provision of this article if the person:
(1) Has instituted eviction proceedings within thirty days of
receipt of notice as provided for under the provisions of
subsection (f), section five of this article; and
(2) The eviction proceedings are completed within thirty days
of commencement of the proceedings.
(b) If an eviction proceeding is not completed within thirty
days by reason of court ordered delays, the person charged with a
violation under this article shall, nonetheless, be required to
expeditiously prosecute the eviction proceedings.
§37-6A-8. Multiple unit dwellings.
In the case of a multiple unit dwelling, the only person
necessary to name in an eviction proceeding is the tenant or other
person actually occupying the unit who is suspected of illegal
§37-6A-9. Filing of criminal charges.
Charging an owner of real estate with a violation under this
article shall be an adjunct to, and not substitution for, any
criminal charges filed as a result of investigation by a police
department against occupants or tenants of an owner's real estate
§37-6A-10. Assistance by law enforcement.
Any law-enforcement agency that acts pursuant to the
provisions of this article shall use reasonable efforts to
disseminate information designed to educate and assist owners of
real estate in preventing and addressing violations of any
provision of this article.
§37-6A-11. Limited indemnification of owners of real estate.
(a) The county commission shall make provision to provide
limited indemnification to any owner of real estate located in the
county or municipality who suffers economic loss by virtue of the
obligations imposed by this article subject to the following
(1) That the owner received written notice as required by
(2) That the owner of real estate has instituted eviction
proceedings within thirty days of receipt of notice of the
suspected illegal activities of a tenant;
(3) That the owner of the real estate gives no less than
thirty days' notice to the county prosecuting attorney, by certified mail, return-receipt requested, of the trial date for an
eviction proceeding and a list containing the names and addresses
of witnesses the owner intends to call at the proceeding;
(b) The prosecuting attorney, upon receipt of the notice and
list of witnesses as provided for under subdivision three,
subsection (a) of this section, may provide the owner of the real
estate with the names and addresses of additional witnesses, whose
presence in the opinion of the prosecuting attorney is necessary to
prosecute the eviction proceeding;
(c) All witnesses listed by either the owner or the county
prosecuting attorney's office shall be subpoenaed by the owner.
(d) A tenant may institute a claim against a person under the
provisions of this article for false reporting. The tenant, if he
or she prevails in the claim, is entitled to reasonable attorney's
(e) Indemnification by the county commission shall be
restricted to damages assessed by judgment against the owner as set
out aforesaid but shall not, in any event, include any attorney's
fees incurred by the owner of real estate in connection with the
enforcement of any of the terms of this article. Indemnification
shall include reasonable attorney's fees incurred in the defense of
legal proceedings brought by a tenant in the event the owner
prevails in the defense.
Whoever violates any provision of this article is guilty of
a misdemeanor and, upon conviction thereof, shall be fined up to
two thousand five hundred dollars plus the costs of prosecution.
Each day a violation of this article continues constitutes a
NOTE: The purpose of this bill is to create the "Real Estate
used for Illegal Purposes Act". In creating the act the bill
provides for the following: Setting forth legislative purpose;
prohibiting owners from permitting the use of rental property for
certain illegal purposes; providing a mechanism to give notice to
owners concerning illegal activities on rental premises; forbidding
discrimination; providing for reports, investigations and notices
by police agencies; establishing criteria for determining a
violation under this article; providing that the existence of
eviction proceedings are a defense for an owner; setting forth the
necessary party to name in the event of multiple units; providing
for the filing of criminal charges; requiring police departments to
disseminate information to educate and assist landlords in avoiding
violations under this article; providing for the limited
indemnification of owners by municipalities and counties; and,
providing for criminal penalties.
This article is new; therefore, strike-throughs and
underscoring have been omitted.