Property Owner Did Not Have Right to Evict Tenant

Property Owner Did Not Have Right to Evict Tenant

Facts: On December 22, 2006, a resident who signed a one-year lease for a two-bedroom unit in a low-income housing tax credit property that was receiving rental payment assistance under the LIHTC program run by HUD. On December 27, the property owner signed a Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) contract for the property with the Virgin Islands Housing Authority (VIHA) for 42 rental units located in the same apartment building where the resident resided. Under the HAP contract, the effective date for all units was December 27. On March 22, 2007, the VIHA found the resident was eligible to occupy one of the project-based units with her younger daughter. While remaining in the original unit, the resident was also receiving also rental assistance through the VIHA. On October 3, the resident received a notice to vacate her apartment by December 1, due to the expiration of her lease the following month on November 30. On December 12, the resident received another letter to vacate, which stated that her lease was not being renewed because of alleged misconduct. Later that month, the VICH began a summary action for forcible entry and detainer, which would evict the tenant from the unit. The resident asked the court to dismiss the case.

Decision: After a trial, the court dismissed the action because it lacked subject matter jurisdiction over this matter as a forcible entry and detainer action.

Reasoning: According to the court, a forcible entry and detainer action isn’t proper when “there is a lease between the parties, the meaning of which is in dispute.” In addition, although a new lease was not signed when the resident was approved for the Section 8 program, the terms of the tenancy addendum prevailed over other provisions of the lease. The VICH had argued that there was a provision in the original lease, which provides for automatic termination without notice at the end of a one-year lease period. However, the resident argued that the addendum, which became part of the lease, contradicted and superseded the original lease.

In addition, the court said that although the VICH had presented evidence of numerous alleged lease violations by the tenant, it did not present evidence that proper notice of the violations and an opportunity to cure were presented to the resident according to HUD regulations and the lease contract.

u Virgin Islands Community Housing Limited Partnership v. Lorelie Rivera (12/24/2008)