The Assembly of Southern Lawyers (ASL) has written to Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi on the land bill currently in Parliament, warning it could negatively affect the ease of doing business in the real estate market.
Al-Rawi, in piloting the Miscellaneous Provisions (Registrar General, Registration of Deeds, Conveyancing and Law of Property, Real Property, Stamp Duty and Registration of Title to Land) Bill, said the legislation takes aim at schemers and corrupt attorneys seeking to defraud people of cash through fraudulent land transactions.
The assembly wants the AG to put a pause on further debate on the bill so that consultations can take place.
While admitting its membership was in general agreement that all agreements should be prepared by attorneys, it also gave the AG the views of its membership on other aspects of the legislation.
The ASL’s letter, signed by its president Michael Rooplal, was also copied to the Law Association.
The assembly said it was likely the legislation would lead to a cumbersome practice and jurisprudence of land law, with settled legal principles being reversed.
It also said it introduced unnecessary layers of bureaucracy in land matters which would “negatively affect the relative ease of doing business in the real estate market.”
The assembly said the bill would “undoubtedly result” in an escalation of costs of land transfers, as parties would have to pay extra legal costs every time a registration has to be done.
It also bemoaned that it puts a land owner in a disadvantageous position when a buyer delays or defaults on a sale.
“The bill places unnecessary fetters on the ability of a land owner to move on after such default,” the ASL said.
It added that the proposed mandatory registration of agreements would fetter the title of an owner when a buyer defaults and refuses or fails to formally cancel in writing or facilitate the registration of the cancellation in the Registry of Deeds. This, the ASL said, would force the owner to take legal action to clear his title.
“As you would no doubt appreciate, this would result in increased costs to a land owner and considerable delay in completing the sale of property.”
Also, it added, “The bill will provide a troublesome buyer the opportunity to delay closing a transaction.”
However, ASL’s members agreed all agreements for sale should be prepared by attorneys since it would protect gullible individuals from being fleeced of their deposits.
“Indeed, this proposed change should eliminate this issue or at the very least narrow criminal investigations into such instances.”
It also suggested including a provision that all deposits must be held by regulated stakeholders who would be responsible for paying the deposit at the closing of the sale and transfer.
In the letter, the assembly said the cumulative effect of its members’ concerns were an increase in litigation and additional burdens on the justice system which will negate the Government’s intent to make the administration of justice more efficient.
The ASL said “We are certain that the stated aim of the Government to eliminate fraud in land transactions can be achieved without recourse to such radical change to settled land practice, and without unnecessary disruption to the ease of doing business.”