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Conveyancing in T&T

Conveyancing is the process by which the ownership of land or property is transferred from one person to another. In Trinidad and Tobago there are two systems under which land is registered: the common law system and the Torrens registration system (Real Property Act system).

The system of registration that your transaction falls under depends on the document showing ownership of the land or property. If the vendor’s (seller) title document is a deed, then the system of registration is common law. On the other hand, if the document is a Certificate of Title then the system of registration is the Real Property Ordinance (RPO) system.

The information below summarizes the steps and documents involved in the conveyancing of both systems.

Steps
  1. Agreement for Sale and Deposit – this is the sale agreement for the purchase of the land. The agreement must be in writing and signed by both the vendor and purchaser. A deposit of 10 per cent of the purchase price is paid by the purchaser to the vendor. This does not transfer ownership of the land but begins the process to transfer the property.
  2. Title Search – the purchaser’s attorney must ensure that the vendor has good title to the land and this is done by conducting a title search at the Land Registry Department.
    a. Common Law System: a manual search is done in the Deed Registry of the Registrar General’s Office. The search must be for a period of at least 20 years or as far back until a good “root of title” is found.
    b. Real Property Ordinance System: since the certificate of title provides all the information of the previous owners on it, a general inspection of the original certificate of title is conducted.
  3. Obtain Certificate of Assessment – this application is made to the District Revenue Office to verify that the vendor owns the property and to identify WASA lines on the land.
  4. Obtain a WASA Clearance Certificate – the vendor applies for this to confirm that there are no outstanding monies due on the property.
  5. Stamp Duty Assessment – the Deed or Memorandum of Transfer is sent to the Board of Inland Revenue along with the property valuation, utility rates and land and building receipts for assessment.
  6. Completion of Sale – the purchaser pays the vendor the outstanding monies towards the purchase price; the parties sign and execute the Deed/ Memorandum of Transfer; a witness to the transaction signs this document before a Commissioner of Affidavits.
  7. Payment of Stamp Duty – the signed Deed/ Memorandum of Transfer is submitted to Board of Inland Revenue where Stamp Duty is paid by the purchaser and the document is stamped.
  8. Registration – the Deed or Memorandum of Transfer and the original duplicate Certificate of title are submitted to the Land Registry Department for registration/ endorsement.
  9. Prepare and Submit Return of Ownership – this form is prepared by the Land Registry Department to show change of ownership for the purpose of property taxes.
Documents

The following documents are usually required for the transaction to flow smoothly:

  1. Sale Agreement signed by both vendor and purchaser
  2. Original Deed/ Certificate of Title
  3. Current Receipts for WASA and Land and Building Taxes
  4. WASA Clearance Certificate
  5. Approvals from Town and Country Planning and Local Health Authority
  6. Redemption Statement, Deed of Release/ Memorandum of Discharge (if there is an outstanding Mortgage on the property).

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