CHAPTER 55. ACTIONS, SUITS AND ARBITRATION;
ARTICLE 5. ALLOWANCE FOR IMPROVEMENTS.
§55-5-1. Method of asserting claim.
Any defendant against whom a decree or judgment shall be
rendered for land, where no assessment of damages has been made
under the preceding article, may, at any time before the execution
of the decree or judgment, present a petition to the court
rendering such decree or judgment, stating that he or those under
whom he claims, while holding the premises under a title believed
by him or them to be good, have made permanent improvements
thereon, and praying that he may be allowed for the same the fair
and reasonable value thereof; and thereupon the court, if satisfied
of the probable truth of the allegation, shall suspend the
execution of the judgment or decree, and impanel a jury to fix and
assess the damages of the plaintiff (if any) and the value of the
improvements (if any) so made by the defendant.
§55-5-2. Valuation of improvements made by defendant before notice
If the jury be satisfied that the defendant, or those under
whom he claims, made on the premises, at a time when there was
reason to believe the title good under which he or they were
holding such premises, permanent and valuable improvements, they
shall estimate in his favor the value of such improvements as were
so made before notice in writing of the title under which the
plaintiff claims, as they are at the time such valuation is made.
§55-5-3. Liability of defendant for annual value of premises and
damages -- Assessment of damages for plaintiff.
The jury, in fixing and assessing such value and damages,
shall estimate against the defendant the annual value of such part
of the premises (if any) as was improved and in a state fit and
prepared for cultivation at the time he took possession thereof,
and also the damages for waste or other injury to the premises
committed by the defendant, and shall credit him with the value of
all the improvements made thereon, but no charge shall be made
against the tenant for the use of any improvements made upon the
land by him, or for the use of any part of the land cleared by him.
§55-5-4. Same -- For what period defendant liable.
The defendant shall not be liable for such annual value or
damages for any period longer than five years before the action or
suit was brought, except that, if the sum allowed by the jury for
the improvements exceed that allowed to the plaintiff for the
annual value and damages of the premises under section three of
this article, the jury may then estimate against the defendant such
annual value and damages for the time he has used and occupied the
same before the said five years.
§55-5-5. Verdict for balance after damages set off against
improvements; entry of judgment.
After setting off the amount allowed the plaintiff (if any)
against the amount allowed to the defendant for improvements (if
any), the jury shall find a verdict for the plaintiff or defendant,
as the case may be, and judgment or decree shall be entered
therefor according to the verdict.
§55-5-6. Judgment lien.
Any such balance due to the defendant shall constitute a lien
upon the land recovered by the plaintiff until the same shall be
§55-5-7. Reimbursement of life tenant by remainderman or
If the plaintiff claim only on an estate for life in the land
recovered, and pay any sum allowed to the defendant for
improvements, he or his personal representative may recover, at the
determination of his estate, from the remainderman or reversioner,
the value of such improvements, as they then exist, not exceeding
the amount so paid by him, and shall have a lien therefor on the
premises, in like manner as if they had been mortgaged for the
payment thereof, and may keep possession of such premises until it
§55-5-8. Exception as to mortgagees and trustees.
Nothing in this article, nor anything in article four of this
chapter, concerning rents, profits and improvements, shall extend
or apply to any suit brought by a mortgagee, or a trustee in a
trust deed to secure creditors, his heirs or assigns, against a
mortgagor, or grantor in such trust deed, his heirs or assigns, for
the recovery of the mortgaged premises or of the land conveyed by
such trust deed.
§55-5-9. Plaintiff may require his estate only to be valued -- By
entry on record.
When the defendant shall claim allowance for improvements, as
before provided, the plaintiff may, by an entry on the record,
require that the value of his estate in the premises, without the
improvements, shall also be ascertained.
§55-5-10. Same -- How estimated.
The value of the premises, in such case, shall be estimated as
it would have been at the time of the inquiry, if no such
improvements had been made on the premises by the tenant or any
person under whom he claims, and shall be ascertained in the manner
hereinbefore provided for estimating the value of improvements.
§55-5-11. Same -- Relinquishment of estate to defendant at value
The plaintiff in such case, if judgment is rendered for him,
may, at any time during the same term, or before judgment or decree
is rendered on the assessment of the value of the improvements, in
person or by his attorney in the cause, enter on the record his
election to relinquish his estate in the premises to the defendant
at the value so ascertained, and the defendant shall thenceforth
hold all the estate that the plaintiff had therein at the
commencement of the suit, provided he pay therefor such value, with
interest, in the manner in which the court may order it to be paid.
§55-5-12. Same -- Same -- How value paid; sale of land for failure
to make payments; deficiency.
The payments shall be made to the plaintiff, or into court for
his use, and the land shall be bound therefor, and if the defendant
fail to make such payments within or at the time limited therefor,
respectively, the court may order the land to be sold, and the
proceeds applied to the payment of such value and interest, and the
surplus, if any, to be paid to the defendant; but if the proceeds
be insufficient to satisfy such value and interest, the defendant
shall not be bound for the deficiency.
§55-5-13. Same -- Same -- Disposition of value when party under
If the party by or for whom the land is claimed in the suit be
a minor or insane, such value shall be deemed to be real estate,
and be disposed of as the court may consider proper for the benefit
of the persons interested therein.
§55-5-14. Same -- Same -- Eviction of defendant; recovery of
If the defendant, or his heirs or assigns, shall, after the
premises are so relinquished to him, be evicted thereof by force of
any better title than that of the original plaintiff, the person so
evicted may recover from such plaintiff, or his representatives,
the amount so paid for the premise, as so much money had and
received by such plaintiff, in his lifetime, for the use of such
person, with lawful interest thereon from the time of such payment.
Note: WV Code updated with legislation passed through the 2012 1st Special Session