The Attorney General of West Virginia announced that he has filed a lawsuit against the state’s largest residential landlord claiming the landlord’s lease provisions and fees violate the state’s consumer and credit protection statutes.
The prosecutor alleges that a number of lease provisions are unconscionable. This landlord leases to many students and inexperienced renters.
The provisions in question include:
Charging a non-refundable cleaning fee, which covers carpets and painting, in addition to the security deposit. Under the lease provisions, any damage in excess of the cleaning fee is charged to the deposit;
Assessing a transaction fee of $30 to process credit cards;
Charging a “convenience” fee of $5 for online transactions;
Late fees equal to $50 after five days, and then $5 per day thereafter;
A $50 charge for returned checks or declined charges;
A 20 percent “overhead” tacked onto security deposit deductions;
Requiring tenants to vacate by 9 a.m. on the last day of the lease, and charging a $100 per hour fee after that until tenant leaves;
A $200 fee if the tenant abandons the lease, plus $25 for each item left behind. Tenants cannot terminate the lease for any reason;
Stating that rent is not conditional on the landlord’s performance under the lease;
Tenants are to pay “any and all” expenses incurred for collection;
Any defects or damage not reported within 72 hours of taking possession are deemed to be caused by the incoming tenant;
Leases can be terminated without notice in the landlord’s discretion. Leases can be terminated for breaking any rule. Upon termination, the landlord can enter the premises, remove the tenant’s belongings, and tow cars;
A number of exculpatory provisions that attempt to shift the landlord’s liabilities and responsibilities on to the tenants, including a requirement that all tenants and guests waive the right to sue for premise liability, and a disclaimer of all warranties, including habitability and quiet enjoyment; and
Limiting the jurisdiction of any dispute to a local court, and requiring tenants waive the right to a jury trial.
The lawsuit seeks an order requiring the landlord to refund the money collected from the fees, forgive any outstanding balances, notify credit bureaus to delete credit information, and pay a $5,000 civil penalty for each violation. The Attorney General’s office says it has received at least 28 formal complaints against the landlord.
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Disclaimer: The information provided in this post in not intended to be construed as legal advice, nor should it be considered a substitute for obtaining individual legal counsel or consulting your local, state, federal or provincial tenancy laws.