New law gives buyers more protection in sales agreements

Agreements of sale for immovable property, such as land or buildings, are going to be upgraded to bonds or leases, to help stamp out fraud due to multiple sales.

The Deeds Registry (Amendment) Bill, which passed unanimously by the National Assembly last Thursday, now paves the way for such agreements to be registered with the Deeds Registry.

The bill was tabled and debated in the National Assembly in 2012 but was subsequently sent to a Select Committee

Anil Nandlall
Anil Nandlall

“This amendment allows for every agreement of sale to be filed at the Deeds Registry… and for a prohibition to be lodged which could prevent the owner from reselling same without the consent of the person who lodged the prohibition,” Attorney General Anil Nandlall told Stabroek News.

“It (the amendment) captures the singular mischief which it was intended to address, which is to ensure that a transported holder is not free to sell that property, subject of the transport, fraudulently, to more than one purchaser,” he told the House last Thursday.

Nandlall praised the work of the Select Committee, and especially the contribution by the Guyana Bar Association (GBA) to its work, while noting that there was minimal amendment.

However, the GBA did not get its way to persuade legislators in the committee that the minimum deposit on sales should have been increased from 10% to 50%.

Prior to this amendment, an original purchaser had little or no legal recourse if land or other immovable property was sold to a third party and transport passed without his or her knowledge. Now, the agreement of sale would be included in the registry along with other supporting documents related to that sale to avoid resale to other parties without the knowledge and authority of the Deeds Registry until the transport is passed.

Nandlall expressed his personal satisfaction with the bill as a legal practitioner, saying that during his practice he has seen the many instances of owners making multiple sales on properties and defrauding prospective home owners, some of whom would have been swindled out of their life savings.

He explained that the bill seeks to protect the ordinary purchaser so that their deposits on a property aren’t lost. “If a property is sold for $100M and a purchaser paid $99M, he is conferred with no legal or equity interest in the land. That owner, if he is dishonest, can sell it to different persons…,” he said.

“The recourse that each purchaser has is to lodge a notice of prohibition against the passing of transport when it is advertised in the Official Gazette…but most persons don’t read the Official Gazette or have access so they don’t see the advertisement, so the property can pass and he loses his deposit… the only recourse is to sue for breach of contract… but that is a long process and is expensive and at the end of the day he can very well get a judgement that is not worth the paper it is written on,” he added.

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