BUYING REAL ESTATE IN THE TURKS AND CAICOS ISLANDS
After having visited the Turks and Caicos Islands (“TCI”) on vacation, many people fall in love with the beauty and culture of the islands and wish to invest in a piece of real estate, in paradise. Here are a few things to know about real estate transactions in TCI.
The TCI has a Torrens title system and property is bought in accordance with the land register. The land register serves as conclusive evidence of the ownership of, and interests in, the land.
The system of registered land is set out in the Registered Land Ordinance Cap 9.01 (“RLO”). Essentially a register is kept of all land parcels in TCI. Each parcel of land has a specific number that identifies it. The number consists of a block number which identifies which broad area/settlement the land can be found in and a parcel number which identifies the specific land parcel. The Registrar of Lands has authority under the RLO to record all entries pertaining to land in TCI, i.e., details of registered owners and their address, appurtenances (benefits in favour of a parcel of land) and encumbrances (a burden or restriction on the land), etc. The land registers maintained at the Land Registry are public records and anyone can request copies by paying the relevant fee.
There is no title insurance
There is no title insurance in TCI, owing to the Torrens registered land system. A purchaser is not required to look beyond the records in the Government managed Land Registry. The Government guarantees the title to be accurate.
There is a one-time payment of stamp duty
Stamp duty is a document tax that must be paid on specific documents set out in the Stamp Duty Ordinance Cap 19.05. Land transfers are one such document. There is a scale for the rate of stamp duty to be paid on each real estate transaction ranging from 6.5% to 10% depending on the purchase price paid for the land.
Sellers do not get their funds on closing day
Land transfer documents are typically not registered on the same day as the closing of the sale/purchase transaction. Once the closing occurs, purchasers have to send the land transfer, along with other registerable documents i.e., mortgages, etc., off to the Land Registry for registration so that the registered owner details and the land registers are updated. Because of this, it is the legal industry standard that purchase monies are held in escrow for, usually, 14 or 21 days by the seller’s attorney. This escrow period allows purchasers to submit their documents for registration to the Land Registry with the assurance that if any issue arises during the registration process (which it shouldn’t because a competent attorney would have completed a title inspection and received a copy of the land register prior to closing) that their funds have not been released to a seller, often outside of the TCI, with no recourse save for litigation.
Tremmanie R. Harvey, Senior Associate
Tremmaine is a senior associate in Misick & Stanbrook’s real estate and real estate finance team. She has extensive experience representing purchasers and vendors in every type of real estate transaction from raw land, condominiums, single-family homes, and commercial complexes, with sales and acquisitions ranging from a few thousand to millions of dollars.