A multi-faceted Caribbean property sale

Some Caribbean properties for sale require a number of actions before the transfer of title from seller to buyer can formally take place. I was recently involved in one such case where the property in Jamaica being sold by one family member to another family member was definitely multi-faceted.

Taxpayer Registration Number (TRN)
Prior to 1st January 2013 overseas residents were not required to have Taxpayer Registration Numbers (TRNs) when buying or selling property in Jamaica. That is no longer the case. Anyone now selling or buying property in Jamaica from abroad is required to have a TRN. The unique 9-digit number is similar to a National Insurance Number and once obtained should be kept in a safe place.

As the seller and buyer lived outside of Jamaica, applications needed to be made for them to obtain TRNs.

What’s in a name?
I am always amazed (and sometimes amused) when clients tell me that the name they’ve just given me by which I am to call them is not in fact the name on their official documents. It is a practice that has been going on in the Caribbean for many years where individuals are either given a nickname based on a habit, or another name that someone believes to be more suited to the individual than their actual registered name. I don’t have a problem with that. However, it is a problem when there are variations in the spelling of a person’s name on official documents.

The spelling of one of the seller’s name on the title deed for the property in Jamaica was different to that on their Birth and Marriage Certificates. The seller’s name therefore needed to be corrected on the title deed before the transfer from themselves to the new owner could take place.

Notice to Quit
The subject property was occupied by tenants who, incidentally, were also related to the seller and buyer. As none of the tenants were paying their rent, they were served with Notices to Quit, at the expiration of which none of them had vacated the property. The next stage would have been an application to the courts for the tenants to be evicted, but the buyer decided that, as they were family members, they could remain at the property and he would purchase it with them in occupation.

Application to Note Death of Joint Owner
The house to be sold was owned by a husband and wife as joint tenants. With the husband having passed away, his name needed to be removed from the title deed before the transfer from wife only to buyer could take place.

Vendor’s Mortgage
It was agreed between the parties that the seller would grant the buyer a Vendor’s Mortgage. A Mortgage Deed was drawn up between the parties that addressed such matters as monthly payments and term of years, but excluded interest which the parties had agreed to waive.

Although it was not necessary with this particular multi-faceted Caribbean property sale, there are other pre-sale activities that could have come into play. These include:

• Establishing current market value of the property for sale.

• Carrying out work to make a property ‘ready for sale’ and therefore more attractive to potential buyers.

• Applying for Letters of Administration. In addition to this application granting permission to the applicant to deal with the estate of a deceased person, it also gives the applicant the legal capacity to sell property owned by that deceased person (usually a Mum, Dad and/or grandparent).

Of all the topics covered above, the one over which you have the most control relates to names. ALWAYS check the spellings of your first, middle and surnames when these are being written by others. It is not for individuals to know how to spell ‘Clare Anne-Marie Griffiths, which may in fact be stated as Claire Annmarie Griffith’ on your Birth Certificate. And before the men out there accuse me of being one-sided, don’t allow your name to be spelt as ‘Jacob Philip Green’ when it appears on your Birth Certificate as ‘Jakob Phillip Greene’. After all, it’s your name, so who better to know how it should be spelt. Mis-spelt names will usually need to be corrected when doing official business in the Caribbean and costs may sometimes be incurred for corrections to be made.

Article by Maureen Smith


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