Hundreds Of Virgin Islanders Face Eviction January 1, If CDC ‘Eviction Moratorium’ Is Not Extended
CHRISTIANSTED — Hundreds of U.S. Virgin Islands renters face the prospect of eviction in January unless federal officials extend protections put in place during the COVID-19 pandemic.
On September 4, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a sweeping order that temporarily halted all United States evictions through December 31, due to the health risks presented by people leaving their places of quarantine.
The CDC’s so-called “moratorium on evictions” applies to all states and territories, including the U.S. Virgin Islands. But if the CDC health order expires on January 1, 2021, many residents of St. Croix, St. Thomas and St. John could be put out onto the streets.
Since Governor Albert Bryan’s last order on rent evictions expired on September 27, barring an extension of the CDC’s order, Virgin Islanders would have to defend themselves in court — leading to the possible overwhelming of the judicial system with eviction cases.
The good news is, according to the Wall Street Journal — citing housing-industry executives — the CDC will likely extend its order. Additionally, many landlords believe they are more likely to recover some rent by working with tenants as opposed to evicting them.
The Virgin Islands Free Press has been contacted by several tenants who say USVI attorneys have contacted them and told them they will be filing court papers for eviction on January 1, 2021. According to WSJ, while the CDC order helps keep renters in their homes, it doesn’t prevent landlords from beginning the eviction process in court.
Details of the current order
Renters must express that they would likely become homeless if they are evicted.
The Trump administration said renters could face jail time if they lie in the declarations. According to The New York Times, an administration official told reporters the order was not an invitation to stop paying rent and said renters should pay a portion of the rent if possible. Renters will still owe accrued rent and face penalties for failing to pay, the administration official told reporters, according to the Times.
The CDC order says renters could be evicted “for reasons other than not paying rent or making a housing payment.”
In July, Americans owed more than $21.5 billion in past due rent, estimated global advisory firm Stout, Risius and Ross, the Wall Street Journal first reported.