Before a landlord can use the courts to evict a tenant and ask for back rent, the court will have to verify they have reported the rental income from the property to the Internal Revenue Bureau, if a bill [31-0167] sent on for a final vote Wednesday is enacted into law.
Sen. Nereida "Nellie" Rivera-O’Reilly, the bill’s sponsor, said it comes "on the heels of discussions over the past few years" over whether the government "is capturing all the taxes it should be."
It seeks to find out, "when owners of rental property seek to avail themselves of the judicial system for rental arrearages, that they show they too are law abiding citizens," who are paying their taxes, she said.
IRB Director Marvin Pickering testified in support of the measure and said it would mean a plaintiff would need a statement from IRB that they have reported the rental income when they filed suit in court. He said it would give IRB more enforcement teeth and would give property owners more incentive to report income and pay their taxes.
The V.I. Territorial Association of Realtors also supports the bill, according to written testimony from VITAR President Lee Seward.
The committee also approved two other bills sponsored by O’Reilly, relating to fines for damaging roads.
One of the measures [Bill 31-0157] would encourage enforcement of an existing law making those responsible for damaging roads with heavy equipment liable to pay for repairs by splitting the proceeds from a $500 fine between the V.I. Police Department and the Department of Public Works.
The other [Bill 31-0163] would clarify that anyone who damages a public road is liable for the cost of repair and potentially subject to up to a $1,000 fine.
All three bills were approved without objection and sent on for a final vote on the Senate floor. Voting in favor were: O’Reilly, Sens. Jean Forde, Novelle Francis Jr., Janette Millin Young and Kenneth Gittens. Sens. Neville James and Justin Harrigan were absent.