Understanding the Law
October 28, 2005

Your dream land

You have decided to buy a parcel of land or land with a house on it. You need to see the land/property. Look for hidden flaws because the seller/vendor does not have the duty to disclose material facts though if there is a defect with the title he has a duty to disclose. You would need a survey plan to ascertain the boundaries.

Make sure that no one is occupying the land as you need to have vacant possession. It is not wise to buy property with occupants and then have the problem of getting them off later. If the occupant is a good tenant and you intend to rent perhaps you would want to consider negotiating a lease at a suitable time. {{more}}

After you have made your decision you would need to retain a solicitor to provide the legal work in transferring the property. You may need to make an agreement for the sale because if the seller is offered a higher price than that you are offering he might be tempted to sell to the other person. You could make a deposit to make sure that you have a claim to the land. This deposit is normally 10% of the cost of the land. The vendor is required to provide you with an abstract showing root of title. Since our land laws are based on the common law, the vendor will have to give a history of transactions up to 60 years since the last transaction. This is done in SVG when requested.

The solicitor must make sure that the title that you receive at the end of the day is a good title. The vendor will let you see the title deed for the land. All you need at this point is the deed number which is given at the top front page of the deed. An example is No. 30 of 2004.

Having been informed of the number of the title deed your lawyer will initiate a search of the relevant indices and deed books in the Land Registry to find out whether there are any encumbrances. There are encumbrances on a parcel of land or a property when a mortgage or charge is obtained with the land as security. A charge on land must be registered and this is done by way of a deed. All original deeds including mortgages and further charges are kept at the Land Registry.

This search is done manually and is a tedious procedure which could take several weeks to complete depending on when the last transaction was done. If a deed has the number 23 of 1970, the search will have to start from the 1970 index up to the 2005 index. The search clerk goes through the index to find any transaction concerning the land/property. If he finds that a mortgage was registered against the land then there must be a search to see if the mortgage was paid off. Hence he must look for a re-conveyance to clear the land/property. A re-conveyance is done by way of a deed.

A search of the Cause Book must be carried out to determine if any judgment was entered against the owner of the land. The Cause Book is the record that is kept of all cases in the High Court and the order that was given against a person. Any judgment in the court against a land owner will be attached to the land and could be regarded as an encumbrance.

• To be continued next week.