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Housing in US Virgin Islands


The property market in the US Virgin Islands is experiencing a slow but gradual recovery from the worldwide market slump. Condominium sale price averages on the islands rose in 2009, and there are signs that the market for villas in St. John, the most expensive of the islands, has become more favourable in 2010. Construction permit values, which had fallen in 2009, have risen again in Q1 2010.

The real estate market in the US Virgin Islands is usually strong and property values are high. Depending on the island you purchase property on will determine the cost. The most expensive island to purchase property or lease/rent is St. Thomas, followed by St. John and then St. Croix.

Buying a Property

There are no restrictions on foreign property ownership. Owning a property in the US Virgin Islands is “fee simple”.

When the property has been decided on and negotiated, hire a lawyer to graft the purchase contract. This states the price, deposit, and terms of transaction. Upon signing, and earnest money deposit of $1,000 is paid, which is then raised to 10%-25% of the property value within 10 days.

The rest of the process will be handled by the lawyer. A title search is recommended. It is also an option to hire a professional inspector to check if the property is in good condition.

Closing usually involves meeting with the seller when the final payment is made and the deed transferred to your name. Deeds are recorded and filed at the Recorder of Deeds. Ownership of property in the US Virgin Islands has the same guarantees and constitutional protections as any other state within the US.

Renting a Property

For leasing/renting, expect to spend about $1,000 to $1,500 for a one or two bedroom. Apartments and condos are the most affordable while a beach house can easily cost several thousand dollars with prices averaging around $3,000 to $5,000 for a 3 bedroom beach house.

For long term rentals (three months to a year), it is normal to request the first and last months’ rent prior to occupancy. In addition to that, a security deposit – equal to a month’s rent – may be held in an escrow account, refundable if the property is left in good condition.

Although there are no specific landlord and tenant laws, there are provisions contained in previous court decisions that protect tenants. Nevertheless, it is the signed contract that largely governs the relationship between the landlord and the tenant, which is admissible in court as well.

Most landlords require long term leases to be at least 6 months to one year. The tenant can terminate the contract by giving a month’s notice. But if the rental payment is given every three months, then the notice to terminate must be given three months in advance.

A tenancy may be terminated for non-payment of rent with at least 14 days’ notice. For reasons other than rent default, the landlord is required to give a 30-day notice and apply for a court approval prior to evicting the tenant. If the landlord is given the right to recover the premises, the tenant may delay the eviction up to 6 months only. This is to give the tenant ample time to look for another unit of housing. The tenant must pay the rent for the court-granted extension.

Acceptable grounds for evicting tenants are owner’s use of the property, demolition to create a new building, and breach of contract. In case of personal use and reconstruction, if the landlord decides to lease out the unit the previous tenant has the right of first refusal (i.e. the landlord must offer it first to the previous tenant). The tenant must reply within 30 days. If the landlord violates this provision he must pay the evicted tenant double of everything he earned from the new tenant or $50, whichever is greater.





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