Friday, April 29, 2016

Landlord Tenant law in WV needs reform

The law that applies to landlord and tenant matters is primarily state law, though there are layers of federal law in play for HUD tenants, USDA tenants, etc. Our state statute for landlord and tenant is found at WV Code ยง37-6-1, et seq. Check it out.

One thing you'll notice right away is that it is disorganized making it hard to find any particular thing, and lots of things are just not addressed at all. Next you'll see some archaic language like "distraint" and "detainer" and several sentences that a grammar teacher probably couldn't diagram.

You may also find that though there was a new provision added just a few years ago neatly and sensibly laying out the law and procedure related to security deposits, most of the statute is almost 50 years old and behind the times.

It's time for this ancient, archaic, statute to get comprehensively reformed. The Uniform Law Commission promulgated a comprehensive landlord tenant statute in 2015 and it's time we take a look at it. This is not law, it is not even proposed law in West Virginia, it is a draft of a law that could be offered in any state legislature across the country. The Uniform Law Commission describes itself thus: "The Uniform Law Commission provides states with non-partisan, well conceived, and well drafted legislation that brings clarity and stability to critical areas of state statutory law." [Though I think they are missing a couple of hyphens, I'm sure you get the point.]

What's new and better about this draft statute? Many things, including lots of clear duties for both landlords and tenants, specific timelines, remedies for violations, fee shifting for prevailing party, protections for domestic violence victims, etc.

Behold, the Uniform Residential Landlord and Tenant Act of 2015 as proposed by the Uniform Law Commission


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