Land Title Register To Be Implemented In July

June 15, 2018 | 7 Comments

“The long-awaited implementation date of the Land Title Registration Act 2011 will be July 2, 2018,” Minister of Public Works Lt/Col David Burch said, adding that “the days of Deeds are over” and the “age of a modern, efficient, safe and secure way of recording ownership of land and rights in land is upon us, and it starts on July 2nd.”

Speaking in the House of Assembly today [June 15], the Minister said, “Work on this initiative commenced in 1999 when the then Government first took steps to recognize that much relief would be afforded members of our community by the implementation of a parcel-based land registration system to replace the deeds-based property transaction system currently in place.

“The then PLP Government perceived significant benefits accruing to the public as a result of the implementation of a Land Title Registry. This system will provide for the guarantee of legal ownership of land and the simplification of conveyancing transactions.

“Currently, property transactions can take months to complete and at significant expense. Once a parcel of land is registered, the register will become the definitive record of title, and subsequent transactions can be carried out in a fraction of the time and at a fraction of the cost. Further, once a title is registered, title to that land is guaranteed and cannot be lost or stolen.

“A full media campaign will follow this statement over the weeks ahead leading up to July 2nd – so that those who have waited so long for that day will know firsthand the process to follow in order to get their properties registered.

“As you will appreciate the Land Title Officer’s position is a very specialized field that understandably suffers from a lack of qualified Bermudians. Over the years staffing generally has been a real challenge with various Bermudians electing to secure employment elsewhere. To meet the July 2nd operational deadline – we have sought qualified and trained staff globally recently recruiting 4 Land Title Officers one from the UK who started in April on a 6 month secondment and 3 from Jamaica, arriving tomorrow, on a one year contract.

“Concurrently, we are in discussions with a not yet fully qualified Bermudian to assume the role as a trainee Land Title Officer with the view to ultimately filling a Land Title Officer post and looking to employ a Bermudian to undertake the position as Office Manager. Once operational the Registrar and her staff will participate in career fairs and school visits to encourage other young Bermudians to consider a career in this area.

“From July 2, 2018 Bermudians will finally be able to register their land on the Land Title Register, and when they do so, their real estate will be secure.

“The land that they worked so hard to obtain, their ‘piece of the rock’ that they want their children and grandchildren to inherit and maintain after they are gone, their legacy, will forever be safe. No one will be able to take it from them saying ‘I have the Deeds.’

“The days of Deeds are over. The age of a modern, efficient, safe and secure way of recording ownership of land and rights in land is upon us, and it starts on July 2nd.

The Minister’s full statement follows below:

Mr. Speaker, it is with considerable pride that I advise this Honorable House that the long-awaited implementation date of the Land Title Registration Act 2011 will be July 2, 2018.

Mr. Speaker, work on this initiative commenced in 1999 when the then Government first took steps to recognize that much relief would be afforded members of our community by the implementation of a parcel-based land registration system to replace the deeds-based property transaction system currently in place. The then PLP Government perceived significant benefits accruing to the public as a result of the implementation of a Land Title Registry. This system will provide for the guarantee of legal ownership of land and the simplification of conveyancing transactions. Currently, property transactions can take months to complete and at significant expense. Once a parcel of land is registered, the register will become the definitive record of title, and subsequent transactions can be carried out in a fraction of the time and at a fraction of the cost. Further, once a title is registered, title to that land is guaranteed and cannot be lost or stolen.

Mr. Speaker, you will no doubt be aware of the long and sad history that surrounds the exchange of certain lands in this country. Many of our senior citizens have experienced the injustice of their family land being taken by what some might describe as unscrupulous professionals, and even at times by family members.

Mr. Speaker, many can tell the tale of land being swindled – many still feel the pain of that theft. This Act is intended to bring an end to this sorry and deplorable practice. It has been a long road from 1999 to today, and if you permit, I would like to share with this House a brief history of the journey to this place.

Mr. Speaker, in 2005 the Government approved the appointment of a project manager and the implementation of Land Title Registration. Between 2006 and 2007, further progress was made, including the staffing of a Land Title Registration Office and the procurement of a Land Title Registration information system. This system was tested, using the Government estate where all of the Government’s land holdings were entered onto the Register. At the same time, a policy paper was drafted and consultation held with stakeholders. This led to the Land Title Registration Act 2011 which passed successfully through both Houses of the Legislature and received Royal Assent in December 2011. In 2012, secondary legislation in the form of the Land Registration Rules was drafted, the professional stakeholders were advised how the new system would work in practice. Full implementation of the Land Title Registration Act was scheduled to come into force in early 2013.

Mr. Speaker, I don’t need to remind you that in December 2012 there was a general election, which led to a change of Government.

Mr. Speaker, for the next five years Land Title Registration stalled as the then Government during this period decided that the Land Title Registry and the Deeds Registry should be merged, and amendments to the legislation suggested by some conveyancing Attorneys were considered. Some of these amendments were the subject of the Land Title Registration Amendment Act 2017.

Mr. Speaker, it would be remiss of me not to acknowledge and agree with successive reports of the Ombudsman for Bermuda on this subject and I specifically quote an excerpt from the 2016 report.

And I quote: For reasons not entirely clear the Government has not launched Bermuda’s land title registration regime. It was surprising to learn that Bermuda was so far behind much of the developed world in its exclusive reliance on a deed-based property transaction system. The length of time taken for Bermuda to adopt a title-based registration system and bring this office on line frankly is embarrassing and expensive. There also has been lost revenues from fees the LTRO could have generated. We understand that the Government anticipates that, with amendments to the Land Title Registration Act and the required rules and regulations finalised, the public will be able to start registering land in 2016. This will be an important step in Bermuda’s administration of land rights. We anticipate that the Government will ensure this is not delayed any further and will proceed with all necessary steps. End quote.

Mr. Speaker, clearly that did not happen but presently under the legislation voluntary registration by members of the public is permitted, providing the deeds have been first checked by an attorney who will certify there is a good route of title. The attorney will also carry out additional searches to ensure that there are no judgments, private mortgage, or court orders concerning a divorce attached to the title before it is presented to the land registry. Mr. Speaker, the ultimate goal is to give land owners who wish to voluntarily register their deeds absolute title, which also gives them the cover of the indemnity. It is unconscionable to this government that land owners would have to pay lawyers’ fees for this service so we will amend the Act to remove the requirement for a lawyer to examine the deeds for a voluntary registration and instead suitably qualified members of the LTRO will examine the title, carry out the relevant searches and grant an absolute registered title to the land. Of course there are various fees associated with this service dependent upon the type of service requested [a copy of those fees is attached to this statement].

Mr. Speaker, we anticipate great interest from members of the public to have their properties registered so in the intial stages following the launch – voluntary registration will be by appointment only – so that the office can adequately manage the work load and members of the public are not frustrated by any teething pains.

Mr. Speaker, over the year’s significant stakeholder consultation has taken place, including the Bar Association, surveyors, the Bank Association, realtors, and the general public. In particular, the Land Title Registry has developed an excellent working relationship with the local banks and anticipates that upon implementation of the Act, the banks will be a major source of data and revenue for the registration of private land. The staff of the Land Title Registration Office will, between now and July 2nd, once again reach out to the professions and the public with information and training to facilitate the smooth transition from Deeds based conveyancing to electronic title registration.

A full media campaign will follow this statement over the weeks ahead leading up to July 2nd – so that those who have waited so long for that day will know firsthand the process to follow in order to get their properties registered.

Mr. Speaker, as you will appreciate the Land Title Officer’s position is a very specialized field that understandably suffers from a lack of qualified Bermudians. Over the years staffing generally has been a real challenge with various Bermudians electing to secure employment elsewhere. To meet the July 2nd operational deadline – we have sought qualified and trained staff globally recently recruiting 4 Land Title Officers one from the UK who started in April on a 6 month secondment and 3 from Jamaica, arriving tomorrow, on a one year contract. Concurrently, we are in discussions with a not yet fully qualified Bermudian to assume the role as a trainee Land Title Officer with the view to ultimately filling a Land Title Officer post and looking to employ a Bermudian to undertake the position as Office Manager. Once operational the Registrar and her staff will participate in career fairs and school visits to encourage other young Bermudians to consider a career in this area.

Mr. Speaker, from July 2, 2018 Bermudians will finally be able to register their land on the Land Title Register, and when they do so, their real estate will be secure. The land that they worked so hard to obtain, their ‘piece of the rock’ that they want their children and grandchildren to inherit and maintain after they are gone, their legacy, will forever be safe. No one will be able to take it from them saying ‘I have the Deeds.’

Mr. Speaker, we could not have arrived at this place without the work of the staff of the Land Title Office over many years – ably led by Land Registrar, Mrs. Debbie Reid – who in fact has been with the office since its inception – first as Legal Officer and now as Land Registrar. The commitment and dedication of Mrs. Reid and her staff is so significant that I wanted them present in this House today to personally witness this announcement and to receive our thanks on behalf of the Government and people of Bermuda for the outstanding job they have done.

Mr. Speaker, the days of Deeds are over. The age of a modern, efficient, safe and secure way of recording ownership of land and rights in land is upon us, and it starts on July 2nd.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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Comments (7)

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  1. Truth is killin’ me... says:

    But, but, but the law firms will lose a fortune by not providing this archaic paper based service anymore!

    • LOL says:

      I suspect that you still need to have some bonded person double check the transaction and verify all information to prove a clear and free title for the bank for a mortgage.

  2. cpm says:

    If the OBA brought in 4 foreigners to sort this there would have been a march and the people’s campaign would be mobilised
    Has Tweed got status yet?
    Just asking

  3. Joe Bloggs says:

    “Further, once a title is registered, title to that land is guaranteed and cannot be lost or stolen.”

    Excellent! No more squatter’s rights! And if my neighbour’s deeds overlap with mine, too bad. I will not lose any of my guaranteed land!

  4. LOL says:

    Who is checking to confirm that all the data was properly entered? That the spelling of owner’s names is correct? Property description is correct?

    Will the owners receive a copy of the registration/title/whatever official document, to confirm that all the information is correct?

    • Toodle-oo says:

      Very valid concerns what with the level of illiteracy around here. The smallest/simplest error could be a disaster if it’s made permanent .

    • sage says:

      What if unscrupulous people who are in possession of others’ deeds, which is a problem, just walk in and register the property in their name? My family sold a plot, subdivided from another, but the deeds were never returned after the sale, their ‘lawyer’ took 25 YEARS to recover them, only after I got fed up and approached the people who had them. They were returned in 5 days, the ‘lawyer’ called boasting how he retrieved them, a lie, I let him know I got them back. He sent me a bill for over 3 grand for “recovering deeds”. He no longer works for this family.

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