LEGAL TIT BITS ON

BUYING LAND IN GUYANA AND TRINIDAD & TOBAGO

NOTES FROM A LECTURE  By Kulraj Kamta, Attorney at Law- LLB  Hons- UG /U.W.I.), LLM (London) LEC  -Guyana and Trinidad & Tobago*  
AttorneyGuyanaTrinidad@gmail.com
AttorneyTrinidadGuyana@gmail.com

DISCLAIMER – THIS IS NOT SPECIFIC LEGAL ADVICE. IT IS ONLY GENERAL LEGAL INFORMATION. FOR FULL ADVICE PLAY IT SAFE.YOU NEED TO CONSULT  A LAWYER. TELL HIM OR HER THE FACTS AND SHOW HIM OR HER ALL THE DOCUMENTS AND HE OR SHE WILL ADVISE YOU AT A COST.IT IS SMART TO PAY A LITTLE FOR UP FRONT  FOR ADVICE AND SAVE A LOT OF WORRIES AND MOST LIKELY MONEY.

A BIT OF HISTORY

To understand a bit of history of the law, the Dutch from The Netherlands ruled the three counties of Essequibo, Demerara, and Berbice. Dutch law applied then. Roman Law, in particular, the land law is part of Dutch law. So we speak of Roman-Dutch law in Guyana.

When the British took over the three counties, the unified British Guiana continued the Roman-Dutch law of Conveyancing which recognised the Transport as document of title.

In Trinidad & Tobago land title is either under a common law deed or the Certificate of Title. In Trinidad & Tobago, part of Roman law also persists in land law. Claim to the title by adverse possession is an aspect of the Roman law. In Guyana, the same thing is commonly referred to as prescription.

Claims to land by prescription or adverse possession is rampant and is done through the Land Court in Guyana where you can get a Transport or Certificate of title.

Similarly, in Trinidad, you can claim to vest title by adverse possession of lands governed by Certificate of Title and common law. You may even claim State land by adverse possession.


OLD STORY THAT TEACHES SENSE.

  • There is an old story in which an old city criminal known as Dr Crime was able to sell the City Hall to an old rich  country man.
  • The story goes like this. Dr Crime saw the man admiring the city hall.
  • Dr Crime, well dressed and soft spoken approached the man and ask him if he liked the building.
  • The goodly gentleman said yes.
  • Dr Crime then said to him softly that:“ Then I can sell it to you at a low price”.
  • After some conversation  Dr Crime accompanied the man to his home and was able to collect a substantial deposit after which Dr Crime disappeared with the good man’s money in hand.
  • So a word about the title to land. Dr Crime did not own the land  or city Hall,  so he cannot sell it. So you need to avoid being another victim of the likes of Dr Crime.  There are  instances in which one so called “owner” sold the same land to several buyers one after the other .

TITLE OR OWNERSHIP TO LAND

In Guyana, there are two types of title for land. One is called the Transport, and the other is the Certificate of Title. Additionally, in Guyana where a subdivision of land is prohibited, Lawyers using their thinking caps have created a long lease from the Transport and conveyed the same land into half or quarter lots.

Such a long lease may be for 99 years. Like Transport, a lease or sublease is also a title of land. The lease and sub- lease can be mortgaged.

The Transport is the dominant document of title under the Roman-Dutch system of Conveyancing of land which is also called real property. Real estate agents sell realty so ABC Realty Inc sells house and land.

So in Guyana, a vendor can also sell and convey or Transport his or her land or transfer or assign the unexpired term of his or her lease or sublease.


DOES THE VENDOR HAS TITLE? IS THERE ANY ENCUMBRANCES

Whether in Guyana or Trinidad and Tobago before you make an agreement or contract to part with your money, make sure that the seller or vendor has a title.

The practice in Trinidad & Tobago and Guyana is to make a contract for the sale of the land and then to do a title search, but it is prudent to search once you decide to buy, and before you enter into a contract.

In Guyana, you should ask to see the Transport, Lease, sublease, or Certificate of title. In Trinidad & Tobago ask to see the common law deed or certificate. A Lawyer is the best person to guide you. So make that effort.

A copy of the title may not be enough so check for encumbrances. That means that you must secure legal advice on the validity of the Transport or lease or sublease, or Certificate of Title in Guyana or the common law or certificate of title in Trinidad and Tobago.


HAVE YOUR OWN LAWYER

  • The owner of a lot or parcel or piece of land may have his Attorney.
  • As buyer make sure that you have your Attorney look at your interest for you before you sign any agreement.
  • Try not to sign in speed and regret at leisure for years in court. Lawyers are good, but it is better to have separate Lawyers and receive separate and independent advice.

THE AGREEMENT MUST BE IN WRITING.

Remember, you must have a contract in writing when you buy or sell land. If you do not have that at least get a proper receipt from someone authorized to do so if you pay for the land. For instance, a man may own the land, but his daughter writes the receipt. It is not Ok for her to sign the receipt, but the owner must sign.

The receipt must state the amount you paid as a deposit, identify the land by transport number, lease or sublease, or certificate number or common law deed number and the balance of the purchase price. It is best and sensible to have a Lawyer do this for you.

Next, make sure that the person selling has authority to sell. For instance, the property may have been put up by a real estate agent. You need to see the written authority authorizing the agent to sell or enter a contract or receive your deposit.


NEXT QUESTION IS THE REAL LEGAL OWNER DEAD OR ALIVE.

  • Do not think that you can agree with a dead man’s wife or dead woman’s husband unless you get proper legal advice and see the correct documents.
  • Before you do business find out whether the owner of the land is living or dead. If the owner is living, he should sign the agreement or receipt.
  •  If the owner is dead finding out whether his wife or her husband or any of the children or an executor a grant of probate or letters of administration of the Probate Registry of the Law Courts.
  • You would need to see that before proceeding to enter  a contract to buy land.
  • If the owner or vendor is alive and living abroad or sick make sure that there is a valid power of attorney in existence. Only a Lawyer should be consulted on whether the power is valid or subsisting or was not revoked.

* Former course director and examiner of the Roman-Dutch Conveyancing System of Conveyancing in Guyana at the Hugh Wooding Law School, Trinidad. Mr. Kamta first developed the course into an examination course. Mr. Kamta has appeared in court in complex land matters, representing landowners with hundreds of acres of land in Trinidad.

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