Understanding the Law
January 27, 2012
Buying land in SVG – Part 2

We will continue to look at how freehold land is transferred from one owner to another. As said before, the search of the indices and deed books for encumbrances is done manually and will take some time so that your lawyer would ask for your patience.{{more}}

Search for encumbrances

Many lawyers have regular search clerks who spend most of their time at the Land Registry doing searches on land that their employers were asked to transfer. They search for encumbrances which could be in the form of mortgages or further charges (a second or subsequent loan to a mortgagor). If the vendor still owes money on the mortgaged land, your lawyer would advise you not to buy unless arrangement is made by the vendor to pay the debt. After the mortgage money is repaid, there must be a re-conveyance. Not all countries require a re-conveyance. Barbados for example, does not require a re- conveyance. A receipt or a release memorandum is all that is required.

The Deed

After the search is completed, your lawyer would draft the deed. The deed is a technical document and might not be readily understood by the layman. Your lawyer would explain it to you. It is done on parchment paper as this is durable and is expected to stand up to wear and tear for many years.

The Valuation Office

A statutory declaration is attached to the deed and it is then sent to the Valuation Office. The Valuation office is situated in the Inland Revenue building. The statutory declaration is a formal document which gives information about the vendor and purchaser and the price which the purchaser is expected to pay for the land. If the cost decided by the vendor and purchaser is consistent with that of the valuation officer, then it will receive his signature and the stamp of the office. It is sent to the Income tax division to make sure that taxes have been fully paid up. Any arrears must be paid off before the deed could be returned to the lawyer.

Sign, seal and deliver

After the deed is returned to the lawyer, it is a convenient time to pay the vendor. If a down payment was made, then the remaining funds should be paid to the vendor. The vendor must sign the deed and place his seal at this point as the law requires that the document be signed, sealed and delivered. The vendor’s signature is normally witnessed by the lawyer’s clerk, who must make a declaration to this effect. The purchaser is not required to sign. This is because it is the vendor who makes the covenants in the deed not the purchaser.

Fees to be paid

The deed is now ready for registration and must be registered within six months of the signing at the Land Registry in the Court building. If this is not done, then a late registration fee which is in addition to the regular registration fee must be paid. The registration fee is borne by the purchaser only. A government tax of ten percent of the cost of the land is required. This is borne equally by vendor and purchaser. The deed is given a number and the original copy is kept at the Land Registry. Your lawyer will charge a fee for the preparation of the deed. It is dependent on the value of the land.

Ada Johnson is a solicitor and barrister-at-law.
E-mail address is: exploringthelaw@yahoo.com