MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — The Morgantown City Council approved this week an emergency ordinance penalizing landlords for evicting tenants during the coronavirus pandemic.
Tenants are required to show landlords proof of financial loss related to the pandemic within 30 days after rent is due. Such conditions include a reduction in business activity, being laid off, the inability to work, medical costs related to the coronavirus, and taking care of another person.
Tenants are still required to make rent payments if feasible.
Landlords who violate the ordinance will face a $500 per day fine.
Councilmember Zack Cruze told MetroNews affiliate WAJR-AM more people are facing financial hardships because of the pandemic.
“One in three people are struggling to pay their July mortgage right now,” he said. “We’re about to be overwhelmed with individuals who are suffering, and West Virginia already sees incredibly high rates of poverty.”
Councilmembers are also looking at securing coronavirus relief funding to prevent courts from continuing court proceedings. Courts can process evictions because judicial members are not under the city’s control.
“I believe that’s the route to go because the landlords would be made whole and the tenants would remain in the property,” Councilmember Jenny Selin said.
The Morgantown City Council also updated its emergency mask order; employees who are the only people in a place or business will not be required to wear a mask. The council also agreed to let the city manager limit crowd size to what is allowed under state policy.