Landlord Tenant Disputes in the Virgin Islands

The best way to avoid a landlord - tenant dispute in the Virgin Islands is to create and execute a lease which details the responsibilities of each party, as well as the consequences should one party not meet its obligations. The language should be clear and concise so there is no confusion.

Much trouble can be found if there is no lease in place. Verbal agreements are difficult to prove, as well. The Virgin Islands does have laws in place that help towards resolution, but this process isn't necessarily easy. The St. Thomas Source just released an article about such, and it is copied here:

http://stthomassource.com/content/news/local-news/2010/05/01/vi-answer-d...

The Source contacted Sen. Celestino White, chairman of the Housing, Sports and Veterans Affairs Committee in the Legislature for advice on the territory's housing laws.

"We are working on a bill, a landlord and tenant bill of rights, which establishes basic requirements for both the landlord and tenant," White said. "The landlord has certain rights to his property, but tenants still maintain a right to privacy in the place they live." This bill will help clarify responsibilities and rights, but in the meantime, the V.I. Code lays out some basic rules, he said.

"There are instances where a landlord believes they can simply evict if the rent is late," he said. "But the law says after 30 days have elapsed from when rent is due, the landlord can file an eviction action in territorial court and (the law) sets up a set of conditions under which a landlord can retrieve their apartment."

Under the V.I. Code, once an eviction motion has been filed, a magistrate can stay an eviction for up to six months if the tenant deposits back rent and current rent "equivalent to the reasonable rental rate for which he would be liable," and also cannot find an equivalent new place to live.

The text of the law says if rent is being paid, the landlord must have cause, such as damage to the apartment, to justify eviction before the end of the term of a lease. If there is no lease or the rental is "at will," either party can end the arrangement with 90 days notice.

If the lease is made "at will" either party can end it by giving three months' notice in writing. If rent on an "at will" lease is late by a full payment or more, the landlord can give 14 days' notice in writing to quit the premises.

This information is a lay reading and paraphrase of the text of the V.I. Code and is not legal advice. Consult an attorney for legal advice. Readers can look at the text of the relevant laws themselves by going to the Michie's Legal Resources website linked below and entering "landlord tenant" in the search window

Landlord-tenant disputes are heard by the V.I. Superior Court's newly created Magistrate Division. See the V.I. Superior Court website for contact and other information.

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