Land Law & Conveyancing

  1. The Eleutheran Adventurers brought English Law with them when they came as settlers to The Bahamas based on the reception of law theory regarding settled colonies.
  2. English Law distinguishes between real property-land and things appurtenant to land and personal property i.e. movable things called chattels.
  3. With respect to land all belong to the Crown. The sovereign (king/queen) occupies a relatively small portion of land and the remainder is occupied by tenants who hold either directly or indirectly from the Crown. It is said that no land in England is owned by a subject and not held of some lord. These principles were implemented by William the conqueror who considered that because he had conquered England it was all his personal properly. To reward his followers and the English who submitted to him he granted land to be held on certain conditions. The condition were usually associated with some service to be performed e.g. to provide a certain number of armed horsemen to fight for the king.
  4. Irrespective of the services to be performed (tenure) the land was to be held by the tenant for a certain period of time this is called the "estate". The land may therefore be granted to A for life (life tenancy) or for a long as the tenant or any of his descendants live (in tail) or for as long the tenant and any of his heirs whether descendants or not are alive (fee simple).
  5. The largest estate in land known to English Law and by extension Bahamian Law is the fee simple, which most closely resemble absolute ownership and its proprietor is commonly called the owner. But if all of the issues of an owner die, the property reverts to the crown by way of escheat.
  6. The evidence of title to land usually begins with a Crown Grant which creates a fee simple estate. The grant is often preceded by a Lease from the crown on certain conditions (conditional purchase Lease is common).
  7. The holder of a fee simple estate has the power to grant lesser estate over the land e.g.:

    1. A lease (for a term of years or from year to year or other period)
    2. An easement or right of way over the land inclusive of light
    3. A Mortgage - This, in The Bahamas, takes the form of the Conveyance of the fee simple estate subject to the right of the borrower to retrieve it upon payment of the loan (equity of redemption). The repayment is evidenced by a document called a Satisfaction of Mortgage.

The transfer of title to real property in The Bahamas is by way of a deed of conveyance which must be signed by the transferor or vendor, and also be signed by the purchaser, if there are covenants contained in the deed which he is required to observe, such as restrictive covenants. Because there is no system of registered title to land in The Bahamas it is imperative that a purchaser records his conveyance at the earliest possible opportunity so as to give notice to the world of his interest in the land in question and to obtain priority over any other person who may record a purported interest at a later date. In order for the deed to be accepted for recording, however it must first be stamped by the Treasury which requires the payment of the appropriate stamp duty.

The deed of conveyance is exchanged for the purchase price at the time of the closing of the sale, and before that date the counsel who represents the purchaser has a duty to examine the records in the Registry of Records to ensure that there is no record of a prior interest, such as another conveyance, a mortgage or other lien over the land in question. He must also check the Registry of the Supreme Court to satisfy himself that there is no order of that Court granting a Certificate of Title over the land pursuant to the Quieting Titles Act, and that there are no judgments against the vendor or his predecessors in title going back for a period o f 30 years. The latter search is necessary because such judgment would constitute a charge over the land with priority over the interest which the purchaser is proposing to take.

A non-resident who seeks to purchase real property in The Bahamas must first obtain a permit from the Foreign Investment Board authorizing such purchase unless the property is a condominium or vacant land to be used as a single dwelling house and comprising less than 5 contiguous acres in which case the purchaser need only be registered with the Board following the completion of the purchase.

Evans & Co. has been engaged in conveyancing practice for the past 25 years.
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