Reforms to protect landowners underway
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Attorney-General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Anil Nandlall, S.C. with a member of the diaspora at the Town Hall event in New York city
Attorney-General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Anil Nandlall, S.C. with a member of the diaspora at the Town Hall event in New York city

– AG tells diaspora

ATTORNEY-General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Anil Nandlall, S.C., has guaranteed overseas-based Guyanese who own properties in Guyana that measures are currently being implemented and crafted to protect their estate in land from being fraudulently transferred in their absence.

Nandlall made the announcement while addressing the concerns of members of the diaspora during a Town Hall meeting, organised by the International Committee for Democracy (ICD) in the Queens borough, New York, on Friday last.

In explaining the system of landownership in Guyana, the Attorney-General reminded of the country’s history which contributed to its legal system. He highlighted that even though Guyana inherited the British common law system, remnants of the Dutch system remained.

“In 1917, the British officially launched its legal system as Guyana’s legal system and transposed the laws of England and made it the laws of Guyana; save and except, it maintained, reserved and preserved certain components of the Roman-Dutch law and one of those components was the Land Law,” he said.

Nandlall explained that it is against this backdrop the complexed ‘Transport’ land system is still existent in Guyana alongside the ‘Title’ system. He explained that under the Transport system, the conveyance of land is never completed until the Transport is transferred into the purchaser’s name.
“That system is a very complex system, the system is that when you enter into an Agreement of Sale and you pay a deposit, even if the deposit is 99 per cent of the purchase price, or you can pay the whole purchase price, you do not become the owner until that transport actually goes into your name,” he explained.

Prior to the transfer of the Transport from the vendor to the purchaser, the law mandates that the conveyance is advertised in the Official Gazette; this is to allow any creditor the vendor owes to file an application in the court objecting to the passing of the Transport but also effectively allows landowners to apprise themselves of properties that are the subject of conveyances.

“So, if you want to know if you are being defrauded, for example, you have to read that Official Gazette to see that publication and then file an opposition but a lot of people don’t read it,” Nandlall explained.
Cognizant of the large number of overseas-based Guyanese, the Minister of Legal Affairs had undertaken to publish the Official Gazettes online, on the designated website officialgazette.gov.gy, to allow anyone to be able to access the important document. It is also available on the various website of the government ministries as well as on Facebook.

“All of you go whole day and you comment on Facebook, spend some time and read the Official Gazette and you will see whether your property is advertised there or not,” Nandlall told the gathering.
“In addition to that, I have a menu of draft proposals from the Bar Association and from other stakeholders which I have to take to cabinet for approval to further reform the law to impose stiffer sanctions,” he added.

One such proposal is the reform of the Notary Public Act to mandate that in the absence of the rightful property owner, where a Power of Attorney is being used to transfer the property, valid forms of identification (ID) should be presented when attempting to draft the Power of Attorney.

“So, you’re in America, somebody executes a Power of Attorney on your behalf; in Guyana, they sign your signature, somehow, they get a form of ID or they don’t have a form of ID, but they go to a complicit Notary Public and he swears and stamps it which indicates that he has verified that you are actually the agent of that principal, but you are not; the entire thing is a fraud and then you go and you sell the man property,” he explained.

Recently, the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) in the case of Merlene Todd v Desiree Price and Jenifer Jeboo – a case of proprietary fraud – also ruled that significant reforms are to be made to the Deeds Registry Act, to prevent such from happening.

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