MORGANTOWN – Attorney General Patrick Morrisey has issued a series of warning in the past several days concerning hoarding, tenants’ rights and scams during the coronavirus pandemic.
He urges residents to refrain from stealing or hoarding masks and other personal protective equipment that hospitals and health care providers need.
“Nurses and physicians are right to be very concerned about their safety and the safety of those all around them due to the short supply of masks and other personal protective equipment,” he said. “The state will crack down hard on thieves who put our health care workers at risk.”
also urges residents to not hoard prescription drugs that may prove
helpful in the fight against coronavirus.
The Board of Pharmacy, with the Boards of Medicine and Osteopathic Medicine, published an emergency rule seeking to ensure the prescription drugs chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine are only dispensed to individuals with a current, legitimate medical need.
Reports of some prescribers writing prescriptions for these drugs for undiagnosed family, friends and coworkers create concern, he said. Such conduct will lead to a shortage of the medication.
The emergency rule limits chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine prescriptions to only those patients with a written diagnosis from a prescriber. The rule limits such prescriptions to no more than 30 tablets with no refills permitted. It includes an exemption for any patient previously established on the medication prior to the effective date of the rule.
Landlords and tenants
Morrisey said his office has sent warning letters to landlords regarding alleged threats to evict tenants during the pandemic.
West Virginia law prohibits unfair or deceptive conduct and has strict laws to protect tenants from unjust eviction, he said. The letters were sent Tuesday and Wednesday. Specifics were not provided due to the ongoing investigations.
“I get that landlords and property managers have a bottom line, but in this crisis, we must unite and work with one another,” he said.
Although there is no law preventing eviction during a state of emergency, laws do provide for due process and protect tenants from unfair eviction. Property owners must file a petition for eviction in magistrate or circuit court regarding nonpayment or violation of the lease. The landlord cannot evict or lock out the tenant, shut off utilities or do other things to evict a tenant without going to court.
The tenant must be served with notice of the court hearing and has the right to contest any eviction. The tenant can only be removed from the property after a landlord has a judgment from the court. The judge will order a date and time by which the tenant must vacate the property, along with the amount of remaining debt owed by the tenant and the deadline for payment.
If the case is decided in magistrate court, an appeal can be filed in circuit court.
Scammers will use fake emails, texts and social media posts as a ruse to take people’s money and get their personal, identifiable information, Morrisey said. Sometimes they pose as a bogus charity designed to aid coronavirus victims.
Some claim to have coronavirus prevention, treatment and cures. Residents should be aware that if a medical breakthrough does occur, it’s unlikely they would first learn of it through an ad or sales pitch.
Be cautious with any unsolicited email, phone call or other forms of communication, he said. Never share sensitive data or agree to send cash, wire money or provide numbers associated with a credit/debit card, gift card or bank account without verifying the legitimacy of the recipient.