Seeking tenant land...
 
Notifications
Clear all

Seeking tenant landlord laws in the VI

Page 1 / 2
 
jarrodjcard
(@jarrodjcard)
Advanced Member

Good afternoon,
My former landlord evicted me and my girlfriend (@ 6 months pregnant) for being 2 weeks late on our rent for the the first time in 9 months. Now she's taking us to court to try to force us to pay the 3 months that remained on our lease. We have a baby coming Next month and can't afford the $4000 she's trying to get from us. Anyone have any info or advice on how to best defend ourselves in court? Having a very difficult time finding information online about tenant landlord laws in the VI.
I've discovered that VI code chapter 28, title 31 pertains to the laws but can't seem to find any finite explanation of what it entails, or any way to read it.
Thanks very much if you can help

Quote
Topic starter Posted : November 3, 2012 4:49 pm
OldTart
(@the-oldtart)
Expert

You're in a tough spot. Unfortunately and unlike all the US states which have very comprehensive and easily accessible landlord tenant laws, the USVI sadly lacks them. I've (unfortunately) been involved in my share of landlord tenant disputes here and have prevailed on them by relying on the common sense laws enacted statewide which appear to be pretty much universally accepted here by the local courts. Were you given a notice to pay or quit? Were you actually evicted through the court or did you just leave the place? If you were legally evicted, what did the court judgement papers say? Did your lease say anything about late payment penalties?

In every state, a landlord is required to mitigate damages and courts rarely rule in favor of a landlord who seeks much more than one month's additional rent from a tenant.

You didn't say which island you're on but I'd suggest that you contact Legal Services of the VI at 340-774-6720 (STT) or 340-718-2626 (STX) and ask their advice. Hope that helps for a start and I wish you all the best.

ReplyQuote
Posted : November 3, 2012 5:49 pm
jarrodjcard
(@jarrodjcard)
Advanced Member

Thanks, I'll give the legal service folks a call on Monday. I was served papers to appear in court yesterday and the court date is set for this coming Friday. I feel like its really short notice to prepare a defense.
We weren't given a pay or quit notice. We received an eviction letter from our landlord in her handwriting with no court papers attached advising us that we had 30 days to vacate the premises. Since we were 6 months pregnant at the time, I immediately started looking for another apartment and was lucky to find one. We left the apartment 2 weeks after receiving the eviction notice. We live on STJ.
I'm wondering if it was even a legal eviction in the first place. I didn't feel like risking challenging the eviction at the time and ending up homeless at 8 months pregnant.

ReplyQuote
Topic starter Posted : November 3, 2012 6:15 pm
jarrodjcard
(@jarrodjcard)
Advanced Member

Also, I realize now that our lease states children aren't allowed and we received the eviction notice 3 weeks after informing the landlord about our pregnancy. Curious

ReplyQuote
Topic starter Posted : November 3, 2012 6:19 pm
Alana33
(@alana33)
Expert

Do you have a signed lease? OT has good advice but leases usually prevail.
Read it carefully as it dictates what terms you and the Landlord have both agreed to adhere to

Check this link for additional info: http://www.visuperiorcourt.org/FAQ/FAQ_Landlord.aspx

Additionally, a landlord must give you 30 days legal notice and you have 30 days from the time the notice is delivered to vacate the premises.

If you go to small claims court, they may ask you to have someone in court mediate the situation and if no agreement is forthcoming continue the court case with both parties giving evidence/testimony for their sides.

Make sure you have all your docs., past canceled checks or receipts to show you paid on time, every time, except for the one instance,
any correspondence between you and the landlord as it pertains to your tenancy (you obviously notified landlord you would be paying late, this once?), take pictures of the condition you keep the apt. in, any repairs or improvements with landlords consent you may have made, etc.

Most Landlords won't kick tenants out for just one late payment so there must be something else going on there, especially during winter time as it is normally much easier to find tenants than during the summer months.

I do not believe it is legal to discriminate against having children, tho if the Landlord has that in the lease that you willingly signed, that is what you agreed to. Do the Landlords live on premises? They may not want to have to listen to a newborn/young child's accompanying noises which is why they have a no children clause. And that's what you agreed to.

Your best bet is to just move to a child friendly environment, ask for the return of you deposit back and if they want to keep the remaining months rent then go to small claims court to dispute that. They will have to show they have ACTIVELY looked for new tenants and a judge will decide who has what rights according to what the lease dictates.

I have some of the same clauses in my leases as Landlord but luckily I have not had to enforce them or in some cases, if there were circumstances beyond anyone's control, I have chosen not to enforce them. It really depends on the tenants, how they treat the property and their demeanor.

Tenants can be "hell on wheels" sometimes so it pays to have all expectations in writing, take before and after pictures and document everything!

Tenants need to thoroughly read and be ready and able to comply, completely, with their lease as it is a legal doc.

ReplyQuote
Posted : November 3, 2012 7:23 pm
OldTart
(@the-oldtart)
Expert

And no, that wasn't an eviction. An eviction is a legal process. She gave you a notice to vacate but didn't evict you and, if you didn't have a lease but were on a month to month agreement, she was within her rights to ask you to leave. HOWEVER, if you had a term lease she was way out of line in giving you 30 days notice - it just doesn't work like that - and no way can she now demand that you pay for the remainder of the lease term because she forced you out and breached the lease agreement/contract. Nor could she arbitrarily breach the contract because of pregnancy since you hadn't yet breached the contract yourself by having a child on the premises.

Given the new information you have an excellent case and may even have cause to counter sue for damages from her for lease breach. Good luck and let us know how it works out for you!

ReplyQuote
Posted : November 3, 2012 9:37 pm
Alana33
(@alana33)
Expert

OT - it depends on the lease they signed. Landlord does have to give 30 days notice which is in effect on the day notice is delivered to tenants. A lease will generally give both tenants and landlord the TIME LINE, in event of non payments, late fees, evictions, deposit returns, etc. for BOTH parties.

ReplyQuote
Posted : November 3, 2012 11:21 pm
Isle Tell Ya
(@Isle_Tell_Ya)
Advanced Member

Lots of fairly inaccurate legal advice by Old Tart and Alana33.

Old Tart - VI law is actually quite simple and clear in L/T matters. Jarrod - if you received a 30-day Notice to Quit/Vacate, you would have at least 30 days (typically closer to 60 days as per VI Law,) to vacate. However, you were under no legal obligation to physically vacate, and few tenants in the VI actually do. The Landlord would then have to go to Court for eviction. It sounds like what he is doing now is seeking a breach of Contract claim for damages on your failure to pay rent for the entirety of the lease term. Another error by previous posters - landlord has every right to do this, as you promised to pay a fixed sum over a period of time (i.e the lease term.) Your lease will ultimately determine whether you (or landlord by sending a Notice to Vacate) has defaulted, and the Judge will decide. Previous poster is also completely mistaken - mitigation of damages is not a universal responsibility of landlords in the mainland or VI. That defense won't get you anywhere.

Consider contacting an attorney with experience in L/T matters and please don't ask any previous posters to serve as expert witnesses! 🙂

ReplyQuote
Posted : November 4, 2012 12:11 am
OldTart
(@the-oldtart)
Expert

I disagree. If the LL gave the tenant notice to vacate on a term lease, the LL cannot now go after the tenant for the monies remaining on the lease since she has arbitrarily breached the contract.

I agree that mitigation of damages is not a legal requirement but judges in general use discretionary powers and, for instance, won't usually award a LL months and months of rent payments if LL has made no attempt to re-rent the property.

I was simply giving my opinion based on experience, not as a legal beagle, and plainly opined that the OP should seek legal advice.

ReplyQuote
Posted : November 4, 2012 12:50 am
Isle Tell Ya
(@Isle_Tell_Ya)
Advanced Member

I disagree. If the LL gave the tenant notice to vacate on a term lease, the LL cannot now go after the tenant for the monies remaining on the lease since she has arbitrarily breached the contract.

I agree that mitigation of damages is not a legal requirement but judges in general use discretionary powers and, for instance, won't usually award a LL months and months of rent payments if LL has made no attempt to re-rent the property.

I was simply giving my opinion based on experience, not as a legal beagle, and plainly opined that the OP should seek legal advice.

Fair enough but your 1st paragraph is still incorrect. If he arbitrarily evicted, he will not win in Court. If it was valid a Court may award the unpaid rent - although the VI Courts are so tenant-friendly that it never happens outside commercial lease contests.

ReplyQuote
Posted : November 4, 2012 12:55 am
OldTart
(@the-oldtart)
Expert

I disagree. If the LL gave the tenant notice to vacate on a term lease, the LL cannot now go after the tenant for the monies remaining on the lease since she has arbitrarily breached the contract.

I agree that mitigation of damages is not a legal requirement but judges in general use discretionary powers and, for instance, won't usually award a LL months and months of rent payments if LL has made no attempt to re-rent the property.

I was simply giving my opinion based on experience, not as a legal beagle, and plainly opined that the OP should seek legal advice.

Fair enough but your 1st paragraph is still incorrect. If he arbitrarily evicted, he will not win in Court. If it was valid a Court may award the unpaid rent - although the VI Courts are so tenant-friendly that it never happens outside commercial lease contests.

Where does my "first paragraph" differ from what you're saying? The tenant was not evicted. The OP left in accordance with the LL's written notice to vacate and only received eviction papers after he had vacated. I'm sure Legal Services will steer him in the right direction and hopefully he won't have to go through the expense of being represented by counsel.

ReplyQuote
Posted : November 4, 2012 1:12 am
Isle Tell Ya
(@Isle_Tell_Ya)
Advanced Member

The LL can seek unpaid rent - that is where it's different OT.

ReplyQuote
Posted : November 4, 2012 1:21 am
Alana33
(@alana33)
Expert

It depends on the lease terms that is contracted between landlord and tenant,
Both OT and I have given advice based on our own perspectives.
Both landlord and tenant must prove their cases if taken to Small Claims court which is usually dependent on that lease contract.
Everyone's situation is different but it you went to Link I provided, you can check out the necessary avenues.

ReplyQuote
Posted : November 4, 2012 2:26 am
Alana33
(@alana33)
Expert

A Landlord must show cause for an eviction.

ReplyQuote
Posted : November 4, 2012 12:07 pm
jarrodjcard
(@jarrodjcard)
Advanced Member

Thanks for the help everyone. My plan is to bring payment reciepts for on time payment throughout the duration of the lease until the time in question. We had every intention of fulfilling the term of our lease until we were told we had to leave and were given no option to pay the late rent.
Being two weeks late on rent doesn't seem like a reasonable excuse for her eviction notice. I will contact the Legal Services tomorrow and ask for any advice.
I appreciate everyone's time and attention to my inquiry.

ReplyQuote
Topic starter Posted : November 4, 2012 3:00 pm
Iris Tramm
(@Iris_Tramm)
Trusted Member

A Landlord must show cause for an eviction.

Failure to timely pay rent -- even once -- is cause. Unless your lease sz otherwise.

ReplyQuote
Posted : November 4, 2012 7:45 pm
Alana33
(@alana33)
Expert

A Landlord must show cause for an eviction.

Failure to timely pay rent -- even once -- is cause. Unless your lease sz otherwise.

True - If the rent was never paid, for that last month you were late, you may not have a leg to stand on.

ReplyQuote
Posted : November 4, 2012 9:18 pm
jarrodjcard
(@jarrodjcard)
Advanced Member

Landlords case was dismissed with prejudice today for 3 reasons
- no notice to pay or quit was served to me as a tenant. I was instead told I had to leave and was not given a opportunity to pay
- landlord did not sufficiently mitigate replacement occupancy. (we had a witness that tried to rent the apt and was refused based on the person working at the same establishment as me)
-landlord violated lease agreement by serving eviction notice and therefor terminated the agreement

Judge instead ruled in favor of my counterclaim for plumbing repairs which I paid for out of pocket plus court cost incurred by filing said counterclaim.

It was a good day! Thanks for all your help and advice. I really appreciate it.

ReplyQuote
Topic starter Posted : November 9, 2012 5:35 pm
speee1dy
(@speee1dy)
Expert

very happy for you on t he good news

ReplyQuote
Posted : November 9, 2012 5:44 pm
lc98
 lc98
(@lc98)
Trusted Member

What a moron to try taking you to court without even knowing the law. Glad you prevailed and will actually be getting money back.

It's so unfortunate you had to deal with this, but it's been my experience down here that it is ALWAYS better to get away from a crazy landlord than to wait for the next unsavory thing to happen! One more reason, future islanders, why not to rent sight unseen.....

ReplyQuote
Posted : November 9, 2012 6:12 pm
OldTart
(@the-oldtart)
Expert

Good news indeed - and rightly so.

ReplyQuote
Posted : November 9, 2012 7:02 pm
Alana33
(@alana33)
Expert

Thanks for the update!

ReplyQuote
Posted : November 9, 2012 8:55 pm
SydSol
(@SydSol)
Advanced Member

FYI any "No children," signs on rentals is illegal. It's considered discrimination. Also I took a friend to Legal aid for wrongful eviction. His case involved not being served 90 days notice on the place he paid no $ in rent, only exchange for work. He was only given 30 days, which is amount notice if he were a $ paying tenant. But he was not. He should have been given 90 days notice. Important to know your rights.

ReplyQuote
Posted : November 14, 2012 9:13 pm
Isle Tell Ya
(@Isle_Tell_Ya)
Advanced Member

Pay the rent you agreed to pay.

ReplyQuote
Posted : November 15, 2012 11:47 am
Alana33
(@alana33)
Expert

It is soooo important to have a good lease!

ReplyQuote
Posted : November 15, 2012 2:40 pm
Page 1 / 2
Close Menu