West Virginia

Tougher laws considered for recovery homes

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) – When you rent a home, state law guarantees that a landlord cannot evict you without a court order.

West Virginia Senate Minority Leader Mike Woelfel, D-Cabell, believes those in drug withdrawals deserve equal protection, a guarantee he says could help neighbors as well.

“When a person is in recovery and homeless and they’re wondering around at 1 a.m., it often leads to property crime and other problems in the city,” Woelfel told WSAZ NewsChannel 3 on Monday.

The Senate responded quickly to Woelfel’s proposal, passing it unanimously on the first day of this year’s legislature last week.

The proposal, Senate Bill 147, is a pilot program that would affect convalescent homes in Cabell County, residences also known as sober dormitories.

The legislation provides that the operator of the home is a landlord and the convalescent is a tenant.

“If the person in recovery is using drugs or is violent then they will certainly be summarily kicked out because it disrupts the program, but if that person is really playing by the rules and someone just wants them out, that’s how to prevent it.” , said Wolfel.

The proposal would require a magistrate to rule on most disputes, which extend to the level of evictions, reimbursement of benefits not received and repatriation of people brought from abroad.

SB 147 arrived at the House of Delegates Monday, where Del. Mike Pushkin thinks it needs a deeper look.

“It’s not the same kind of attitude and it shouldn’t be under the same kind of law,” he said.

Pushkin, D-Kanawha says the proposal will hamper enforcement of the rules and undermine recovery for more than one person.

“If one person breaks the rules, it can have a negative impact on everyone in the house,” he said. “Rather than one person relapsing and one person falling, there could be a chain effect. So we have to be very careful because this is really a life and death situation.”

Woelfel says the court’s eviction hearing can be in five days. He believes that’s enough time to enforce the rules and protect everyone involved.

The proposal includes limited exceptions that would allow immediate evictions in cases of drug abuse and possession, sexual misconduct, violence and behavior that endangers the safety of residents.

Lawmakers considered a similar bill last year. The Senate initially endorsed a statewide law and had no time to accept a pilot program just for Cabell County.

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