No lawyer needed to register property
Land owners will be able to register their property without going through a lawyer after a change in legislation was passed in the House of Assembly.
The Land Title Registration Amendment Act 2018 will allow members of the public to carry out voluntary registration, although initial or compulsory registration of deeds will still need to be handled by a lawyer.
Lieutenant-Colonel David Burch, the Minister of Public Works, told MPs on Friday that other changes to the principal 2011 Act would remove the need to advertise registration before it can take place and to give the land registrar the power to appoint an external adjudicator.
He said: “The amendments will smooth the transition to registering title to land and open the door to allow the public to register their property voluntarily.”
Colonel Burch explained: “Under voluntary registration, the applicant already owns their property and the likelihood is that they have owned it for many years. To protect their property interests, it would be safer to keep it on the land title register.
“This amendment will also allow Bermudians who do not have the financial means to pay lawyers’ fees to register their properties, thus the benefits of land title registration will be enjoyed by all land owners.”
He said repealing the need for public notices in the Official Gazette was because “stakeholders inform that the procedure does not work and could further delay the conveyancing process”.
Trevor Moniz, Shadow Attorney-General, said the moves gave less protection to a genuine owner if title deeds are falsely registered by someone else.
He added: “What was required initially was that there would be a notice posted so that when you first register a piece of property, a notice is published, that notice will alert relatives of that person and neighbours of that person that something is being done with this piece of property and it may be that they have some real claim over the property, some interest in the property or a mortgage.
“None of these things are far-fetched, these are all things which I have seen in my time in the legal profession.”
Michael Scott, Progressive Labour Party backbencher, supported the Bill.
He said: “It’s an addition to what has been historically an honest transfer of land that is fairly routine.”
Mr Scott added that the measures put forward were not new, having been used in the UK since 1925, and were drawn up to “remove the high cost of conveyancing, to have more open, blue skies accountability by just having an open register.”
Colonel Burch also told the House: “I have been greatly encouraged by not only the competency of the registrar, who has been in this job for ten years and who has overseen the insertion into the land title registry of all of the Government’s estate.
“I’ve also been impressed by the recruitment of competent, committed, dedicated land title officers, four of them.”
Colonel Burch said last month that property owners would “finally” be able to secure their real estate, and “the land that they worked so hard to obtain, their piece of the rock that they want their children and grandchildren to inherit and maintain after they are gone, their legacy, will for ever be safe”.
He added: “It is unconscionable to this government that land owners would have to pay lawyers’ fees for this service, so we will amend the Act to remove the requirement for a lawyer to examine the deeds.”