Property Registration Is On The Way For Bermuda

Property transactions in Bermuda could soon become faster and less complex as Government plans to introduce a Land Registration Office.

Primary legislation has already been enacted to support the move from a deeds-based system to a registration system, but the legislation is not yet in force because secondary legislation – designed to set out the operational details of the new system – has not been enacted.

A registration system will avoid the current paper chase for deeds, resulting in dealings with fewer Government departments than is now the case. Ultimately, the legislation anticipates that property transactions will eventually go online.

At present, all real property is unregistered with the exception of Government-owned land, which is in a shadow system, to become live when the new legislation comes into force.

Once the legislation is in force, all other real property shall compulsorily become registered, in due time, by "trigger events". Such events include the transfer of property by purchase, gift, court order, after death, partition, appointment of a new trustee, long lease and mortgage.

Registration is to be required prior to application for subdivision, for primary homestead designation, and the formation of a condominium under the Condominium Act 1986. Government has also reserved power, in the legislation, to phase in compulsory registration without the need for a trigger event.

Today, an unregistered property owner proves title through at least 20 years worth of good paperwork, known as deeds. Deeds should be kept safe, as if they are lost or damaged, a property can become unmarketable, and therefore less valuable and unmortgageable. The result is that property falls into disrepair, causing a loss to the economy and of precious housing for the community.

After registration under the new system, title is to be kept at the Land Registration Office and so deeds generally shall not be required. On request from time to time, the Land Registration Office shall provide evidence of ownership of a title, by way of a title document called an "Official Copy".

A Government scheme may provide compensation for inaccurate registration, resulting in loss. Compensation may not be payable in case of fraud, or lack of care. A compensation scheme is important, as there is no defective title insurance market in Bermuda, due to the inherent dangers in a deeds-based system.

On registration, a class of title is to be given, with "absolute" the best...

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