West Virginia Security Deposit Laws - 2024

What is a Security Deposit in West Virginia?

A security deposit is money paid by the tenant prior to moving in and held by the landlord. It is intended to cover any damages to the rental unit beyond normal wear and tear, unpaid rent, or cleaning costs if the tenant fails to clean the unit properly upon move out. 

In West Virginia, landlords are permitted to collect a security deposit equivalent to a maximum of two months' rent when signing the lease agreement. They cannot require tenants to pay more than this allowed amount. The specific statutes governing security deposits in West Virginia are contained in WV Code §37-6A-2.

Security deposits provide landlords with some financial protection in case the tenant violates the lease agreement. However, they cannot be used as pre-payment of rent or as a general fund for the landlord to draw on for other purposes. The deposit belongs to the tenant and must be handled according to West Virginia laws.

Permitted Uses of a Security Deposit in WV

A security deposit in West Virginia can be used by landlords for the following purposes:

Unpaid rent

If a tenant fails to pay rent or moves out owing rent, the landlord can deduct unpaid rent from the security deposit. This includes using the deposit for the last month's rent if the tenant moves out without proper notice.

Damages beyond normal wear and tear

Landlords can use the security deposit to repair or fix any damages to the unit that exceed normal wear and tear. This includes things like broken appliances, damaged floors, holes in the wall, broken windows, etc.

Cleaning costs

If a tenant leaves the unit in an unclean condition, the landlord can use the security deposit to cover professional cleaning costs to restore the unit. This only applies if the unit is left dirtier than the move-in condition.

Cannot be used for normal wear and tear

Normal wear and tear is the expected decline in condition that occurs naturally over time with standard occupancy. Landlords cannot deduct from the security deposit for minor wear like faded paint and carpet, minor scuffs, sticky cabinets, etc. These are considered normal aspects of living in a rental.

West Virginia landlords cannot use the security deposit to cover their own overhead costs, make renovations or upgrades, or make deductions for any damages that fall under normal wear and tear.

Returning the Security Deposit in West Virginia

In West Virginia, landlords have 60 days after a lease ends or is terminated to either return the full security deposit or provide the tenant with an itemized list of any deductions and the balance of the deposit. This timeframe is laid out in WV Code §37-6A-2.

If the tenant receives government rental assistance, such as Section 8 housing, the landlord has a shorter timeframe of 30 days to return the deposit. 

The security deposit or itemized deductions must be delivered to the tenant's last known address via first class mail. If the landlord fails to return the deposit or provide a list of deductions within 60 days, they are considered in noncompliance.

Tenants should review the list of deductions carefully and compare it to the move-in inspection report. Normal wear and tear cannot be deducted. Disagreements over improper deductions can be handled in small claims court (see the Recovering Your Deposit section).

If the landlord does not comply with the timeframe to return the deposit, they may be liable to the tenant for up to twice the amount of the security deposit. In court, the landlord will have the burden of proving the deductions were reasonable.

Record Keeping Requirements in West Virginia

West Virginia landlords are required to keep detailed records related to tenant security deposits under WV Code §37-6A-3. This includes:

  • The name and address of each tenant making the security deposit
  • The amount of each security deposit
  • The date the security deposit was given to the landlord
  • A record of each deduction made from the security deposit including the purpose and date of the deduction
  • An accounting of any accrued interest on the deposit

Additionally, the landlord must provide the tenant with a written receipt for the security deposit that includes the owner's name, the date it was received, and a description of the dwelling unit. 

West Virginia law requires landlords to keep all security deposit records available for inspection by the tenant at reasonable times. If a tenant makes a written request to inspect the security deposit records, the landlord must make them available within 10 days.

Proper record keeping is crucial for landlords to comply with security deposit laws in West Virginia. Detailed records allow landlords to justify any deductions and provide proof if a dispute arises. Tenants have a right to see these records at reasonable times during and after tenancy.

Consequences for Landlord Noncompliance 

If a West Virginia landlord fails to comply with security deposit laws and wrongfully withholds a tenant's deposit, the tenant has legal recourse. 

The tenant can file a lawsuit against the landlord to recover up to twice the amount of their security deposit. For example, if the security deposit was $1000, the tenant could sue for $2000. This penalty is meant to deter landlords from improperly keeping deposits.

Additionally, the court may order the landlord to pay the tenant's court costs and reasonable attorney's fees related to the lawsuit. This prevents tenants from being deterred from filing lawsuits solely because of the legal expenses. 

Overall, West Virginia law provides tenants with strong remedies if a landlord illegally or unfairly retains the security deposit without just cause. The steep penalties give tenants leverage in deposit disputes. Knowing their liability, most landlords will comply with the laws and return deposits promptly and fairly.

Avoiding Security Deposit Deductions

When moving out of a rental unit, tenants will want to ensure they get back as much of their security deposit as possible. Here are some tips for renters in West Virginia to avoid losing part of their deposit to deductions:

Take photos/videos when moving in and out

Documenting the condition of the unit when you first move in and again when you move out is crucial. Take dated photos or video of any existing damages, worn carpeting, stained walls, etc. This evidence can help dispute any improper deduction claims. Be sure to capture all rooms from multiple angles.

Clean the unit thoroughly

Make sure to clean the entire unit, including appliances, bathrooms, floors, windows, and any outdoor spaces. Refer to your lease for any specific cleaning requirements. Spot clean carpets and hire a professional cleaner if necessary. 

Repair any damages

Don't leave damage repairs for the landlord to fix. Patch holes in walls, fix leaky faucets, replace burnt out light bulbs, etc. You can deduct repair costs from rent if you provide notice and receipts.

Provide proper notice before moving out early

Review your lease and comply with any requirements for providing advance written notice if you need to move out before the lease ends. Typically 30 days notice is required. This prevents fees for breaking the lease early.

Following these steps helps demonstrate that tenants took good care of the unit and prevents landlords from unfairly keeping the security deposit. Leaving the rental clean, undamaged, and broom swept gives renters in West Virginia the best chance at getting their full deposit refunded.

Recovering Your Security Deposit  

If your West Virginia landlord does not properly return your security deposit within 60 days, you have options for recovering it. Here are the steps to take:

Send a formal letter requesting the refund

Your first step should be to send your landlord a formal letter, ideally via certified mail, requesting the return of your full security deposit within 7-10 days. Detail any communications you've had and clearly state that you will take further action if the deposit is not returned. Keep a copy of the letter.

Sue in small claims court

If your landlord still does not comply after receiving your letter, your next recourse is to file suit in small claims court. The maximum you can sue for in West Virginia magistrate court is $5,000. Gather all your documentation and evidence to support your case. Photos, videos, inspection reports, and communications will help demonstrate why you are owed the full deposit. 

Gather evidence

To build the strongest case possible in small claims court, gather as much evidence as you can to support your right to the full return of your deposit. This includes:

  • Date stamped photos and videos documenting the condition at move-in and move-out.
  • Copies of all written communication with your landlord regarding the deposit. 
  • Move-in and move-out inspection reports signed by you and the landlord.
  • Any receipts for cleaning or repairs you did before moving out.

With proper documentation, you can show why you are entitled to your full security deposit back.


What is considered normal wear and tear in West Virginia?

Normal wear and tear in West Virginia refers to the expected decline in the condition of a rental property over the course of a tenancy. This includes minor scuffs, nail holes, carpet stains, minor cracks, faded paint or wallpaper from sunlight, and other minor issues that occur from regular use of the property. Landlords cannot deduct from the security deposit for normal wear and tear.

What can't a landlord do in WV?

In West Virginia, landlords cannot:

  • Charge more than 2 months rent as a security deposit
  • Fail to provide receipts and itemized statements for deposit deductions
  • Make deductions for normal wear and tear
  • Fail to return the deposit within 60 days (or 30 days if the tenant has government rental assistance)

What is the code 37-6-30 in West Virginia?

The West Virginia code 37-6-30 refers to security deposits for commercial leases rather than residential leases. It has provisions for how security deposits on commercial spaces can be used and when they must be returned.

How do laws compare to VA?

The main differences in security deposit laws between West Virginia and Virginia are:

  • In WV landlords have 60 days to return deposits, in VA it is 45 days
  • WV landlords can charge up to 2 months rent as a deposit, VA has no limit
  • WV requires interest payments on deposits held over 6 months, VA does not
  • WV tenants can recover double damages, VA allows up to 1.5x
  • WV has more tenant remedies like court costs and legal fees

West Virginia Security Deposit Statutes

The West Virginia Code contains the state laws regarding security deposits. The key statutes include:

WV Code §37-6A-2

This law allows a landlord to charge a security deposit up to an amount equal to two months' rent. It also requires the landlord to provide a signed receipt for the deposit.

WV Code §37-6A-3

This statute requires the landlord to place the security deposit into an escrow account. The deposit must be kept separate from the landlord's other funds. 

WV Code §37-6A-5

This code section states that the landlord must return the full security deposit within 60 days after the lease ends and the tenant vacates. If any deductions are made, the landlord must provide an itemized list. 

WV Code §37-6A-6

This law allows the landlord to deduct unpaid rent, damages, and cleaning costs from the security deposit if the tenant leaves behind an unclean or damaged unit. Normal wear and tear cannot be deducted.

WV Code §37-6A-7

This statute allows tenants to recover up to twice the amount of their security deposit plus court costs and legal fees if the landlord fails to comply with the laws.

Tenants and landlords should review the specific language in these laws when dealing with security deposit issues. The full West Virginia Code is available online.


West Virginia landlords are permitted to collect a security deposit from tenants, typically equivalent to one month's rent. This deposit can be used to cover damages beyond normal wear and tear, unpaid rent, and cleaning costs if the unit is left unclean. 

Landlords must return the deposit within 60 days of lease termination or provide an itemized list of deductions. Tenants should thoroughly document the condition of the unit when moving in and out to avoid unfair deductions. 

If the landlord fails to comply with security deposit laws, such as by not returning the deposit on time or not providing proper documentation, the tenant can recover up to twice the amount of the deposit by suing in small claims court. Communication and record-keeping are key to ensuring both parties follow the rules.

The security deposit process is governed by West Virginia state statutes, mainly WV Code §37-6A-2. Tenants have important rights when it comes to security deposits that they should understand. By being informed and proactive, renters can avoid deposit disputes and ensure the return of their full deposit.

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