VirginLaw > Small Claims and Debt Collection

The Blog

  • Evictions in the USVI

    Ease of Eviction
    The eviction process in the Virgin Islands is very straight forward. Once the tenant is served, but at least three days before the bench trial, the landlord may file a Forcible entry and detainer complaint with the Magistrate Division of the Superior Court of the Virgin Islands. The time varies between when the complaint is filed and when the case is actually heard. Barring an issue with service, most cases are heard within a month of filing. Similar to most civil proceedings, the most important aspect of the Forcible entry and detainer process is service. If the tenant is not served and, or the landlord lacks sufficient proof of service, the matter will not be heard. The tenant must be adequately served with notice before a Forcible entry and detainer action is heard.

    Similarities between eviction process in the V.I. and mainland U.S.

    Most jurisdictions in the United States mainland have enacted statutes to govern the relationship between landlord and tenant and, most specifically to provide landlords the ability to use a summary judicial proceeding to regain possession. Like the Virgin Islands, jurisdictions such as Arizona, California, Colorado, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Montana, New Jersey, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Utah, Washington, West Virginia and Missouri, require landlords to use a summary judicial proceeding to regain possession of a leased premises. This statutory action is called a different name in different states. For instance, in the Virgin Islands the statutory action is called an action for forcible entry and detainer. However, in states such as Alabama, Minnesota, Utah and Washington, the statutory action is referred to as an unlawful detainer action. In California, the eviction action is called an action for possession whereas it is referred to as a summary eviction action in Massachusetts, North Dakota and West Virginia. Regardless of how the action is styled, its main purpose is to afford landlords the opportunity to avail themselves of the court without resorting to force or violence to retake the leased premises. The Virgin Islands Forcible entry and detainer statute is of no exception.

  • Your Resident Agent-Virgin Islands

    Your Registered Agent Matters to Your Success

                In the United States Virgin Islands, every corporation must have a “registered agent.”  A registered agent is a person designated to receive legal documents on behalf of the company and must be located in the Virgin Islands.  Many companies choose Virgin Islands law firms to serve as their registered agents.  The registered agent is the first to receive and review court documents if the company is involved in a lawsuit in the Virgin Islands.  This serves two important purposes for the company.  First, it reduces the danger of a default judgment if court documents are not responded to in a timely manner.  Second, it eliminates the potential embarrassment or harm to reputation caused by having court documents served at your place of business.  The law also serves to protect consumers or other business partners by ensuring a company cannot “hide” from lawsuits by providing a false address or business location.  Choosing a resident agent that is well established in the Virgin Islands community can give a business owner peace of mind that legal issues involving the company are addressed quickly and appropriately.    Our law firm can provide you with a resident agent. Please contact us for further information.




    The Case That Changed How Companies Appear in Small Claims Court…..but Didn’t

    How do off island creditors collect debts that are under $10,000.00 in the U.S. Virgin Islands?

    On June 28, 2013, the Superior Court of the Virgin Island’s issued Newman v. MacKay, 58 V.I. 170.  This case has come to be known as the case that held that businesses must appear in [small claims] matters by a [personal representative] that is either a principal owner of the business or an employee who has been authorized to bind the business in the small claims matter.  However, the Newman decision was only an adjunct to the case that actually held this, Gil Ron Jewelry v. Diamond World, ST-11-SM-380, an unpublished small claims decision by Magistrate Alan Smith.

     The facts of Gil Ron were simple.  Mr. Newman, who was not a licensed attorney, would have his clients complete a form that assigned him as a personal representative to appear on the client’s behalf in a small claims proceeding.  Mr. Newman would get a percent of any funds recovered.  Magistrate Smith explained that Section 112(d) of Title 4 of the Virgin Islands code provides that no party in a small claims matter may be represented; however, as an exception, this section provides that businesses may appear by personal representative.  As such, sole proprietors must appear in small claims matters personally.

    Section 112(d) does not define “personal representative,” however.  Magistrate Smith, in interpreting this provision to provide a “workable” definition of personal representative, explained that this section represents two competing policy interests.  These policies were the prohibition of the unauthorized practice of law and allowing parties to have access to small claims matters in a simple and inexpensive manner.  Section 112(d) is the only provision of the Virgin Islands Code that allows a non-attorney to appear on behalf of a business entity; but the Court cannot condone the practice of law by a non-attorney.  As such, the court found it reasonable and necessary to limit personal representatives to those with an on-going relationship to the business including those with the authority to bind the business by their position as an officer or manager and those who are granted specific authorization to appear in a small claims matter.  The Superior Court’s Appellate Division affirmed this decision finding the “rationale and the balance struck between these competing policies to be well reasoned and correct.”  The Appellate Division further explained that personal representatives must have personal knowledge of the facts underlying the small claims complaint.  In further clarification, the court explained that a power of attorney does not authorize a person to appear in a small claims matter absent an ongoing relationship with the business.

     What this means for businesses trying to [collect debts] in the Virgin Islands is that each business is limited to having either an officer or manager appear or have an employee or other person with an on-going relationship appear.  In an effort to help such businesses, The Law Offices of Karin A. Bentz, P.C. offers small claims counseling and help with the required forms.