Chaotic & Corrupt Land Titles System Makes For Risky Real Estate Transactions In Barbados

About a year ago we printed our article Buying Land In Barbados? Welcome To The Crap Shoot! and cautioned…

Your Land Might Not Be Yours

The stories are legion in Barbados…

– The same lands are sold to two or more different buyers, each holding title documents in their name.

– An archaic land titles system that is fertile ground for abuse and theft.

– Lawyers selling estate lands without informing beneficiaries.

– No conflict of interest rules for the legal profession, and an “old boy” club atmosphere in the courts.

– Documents missing at the Land Registry Office that surface only when certain parties need them and then disappear again into the void.

– Foreign landowners who return to Barbados after a few years to find a house built upon “their” land. Then after an expensive legal battle, a court that blames the landowner and will not return the land – instead ordering the interloper to pay a modest amount to “purchase” the land – with the crooked lawyer who arranged everything protected by the court and walking away free and unnamed. (Can’t take down one of “the club” don’t ya know?)

… from BFP’s Buying Land In Barbados? Welcome To The Crap Shoot!

Here we are a year later and the Barbados horror stories keep on coming.

As we said, there is an “old boy” club atmosphere in the Barbados courts and legal profession where they cover for each other left right and center. Chief Justice David Simmons is a former Attorney General who was right in the thick of many political concessions made to land developers, and also did a few land deals himself.

And, oh yes, when his old political buddy and fellow lawyer Ezra Alleyne was convicted for scooping trust account money in the middle of a land deal, who do you think got him off on appeal? Ha! None other than David Simmons… now the Chief Justice of Barbados.

So our courts are run by the top “old boy” himself Chief Justice SIR David Simmons.

If you get into trouble with a land deal in Barbados, good luck finding even the appearance of justice under that system!

from the Nation News…

More Missing Deeds

A BARBADIAN resident in Canada is up in arms over what he calls bureaucratic bungling in the matter of his title deeds which have been missing for 34 years.

Wendell Pilgrim, who bought land at Wanstead and Rock Dundo Heights, both in St Michael, in 1974, considers himself “a victim not only of an unscrupulous attorney, but also of bureaucratic bungling . . . and others in positions of power and authority who generally pursue their narrow self-interests”.

Pilgrim told the SUNDAY SUN that in 1974 he hired an attorney to handle the conveyance-transfer and registration of title to the properties, and was promised the matter would be concluded in a month.

However, between that year and 2005 the Toronto-based professional travelled between Canada and Barbados, visiting the attorney eight times and getting a relative to maintain contact with the lawyer.

“The attorney never registered the properties,” said a frustrated Pilgrim. “Neither did he ever return the conveyances to me, nor did he ever submit an account until I complained to all and sundry.”

He added that he also wrote to two chief justices, who said they were unable to help, and lodged a formal complaint with the Bar Association which found there was no prima facie case for the attorney to answer.

“I then wrote to the president of the Bar Association [and] to the registrar who attempted to get to the bottom of the matter,” he recalled, noting that the registrar had finally informed him that the papers had been burnt.

Subsequent attempts to contact the former Attorney-General were also futile, Pilgrim said.

“In sum, after 34 years, I am still trying to obtain my title deeds,” he added.

It is the second such case in recent times, with funeral director Ken Jones claiming that the title deeds to his family’s land in Top Rock, Christ Church, had disappeared in 1990 when they were held by the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC) as a loan guarantee.

… continue reading this article at The Nation News (link here)

Thanks to reader J for the tip!

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40 Comments

Filed under Barbados, Crime & Law, Political Corruption, Politics & Corruption

40 responses to “Chaotic & Corrupt Land Titles System Makes For Risky Real Estate Transactions In Barbados

  1. NOT A BIT OF JUSTICE

    I am convinced that not only would many lawyers in Barbados lose their right to practice law in many other jurisdictions but a good portion would and should be in Dodds.

    Making David Simmons Chief Justice is akin to giving control of the hen house to the fox.

    ******************

    BFP says

    Hello there,

    We’ve changed your name because the handle “Justice” is already in steady use by another reader.

    Thanks!

    Cliverton

  2. I wonder how many hoteliers, hell, even white ex-pats in Barbados ever experience this sort of thing?

  3. So Long

    BFP sure, introduce a new topic but please let it ride for a week or so… can ya, can ya?

    ******************

    BFP says,

    Hello SL,

    What do you mean “let it ride for a week”? Haven’t a clue what you’re trying to say. Really.

  4. Hants

    I am very interested to hear if White Rich Foreigners have to put up with the unreasonable delays caused by Lawyers in Barbados.

    How is it that so many Mansions and Condos are built in such a short time between the sale of the land and the start of construction?

  5. Anon

    I’ll just add my two cents to this topic by first saying that they are certain procedures that Conveyances go through. In years gone by it was easier to cheat people out of their lands. However, through the hard work of the Land Registry department this is no longer the case.

    In this world today their are three entities involved in these transactions; the Vendor, the Purchaser and the Mortgage Co.

    When a Vendor attempts to sell land he has to produce TITLE DEEDS to prove that they own the land before a 10% deposit is handed over. The purchaser’s Attorney using the same title deeds then has a search done to ensure that their are no outstanding debts on the property and also to make sure that their is a clear line of title. And just so you know all of these searches are done at the Land Registry that you are so quick insult.

    You people insult these departments with no thought to the people that work their. I have had numerous interactions with the Staff their from the Head to the lowliest employee and I have found the very helpful. Take a trip to the land Registry to find out about your land noone is stopping you.

    So next time you want to criticise then criticise yourselves for allowing your matters to drag.

    If you have a problem with an Attorney then contact the Discplinary Committee of the Barbados Bar Association. And despite popular belief they do have hearings which the Complainants are invited to but seldom if ever turn up.

    If you want to know the history of your land and what is going on with your papers a quick trip to the LAND TAX DEPARTMENT will tell you whether or not the property has been transferred to you.

    Attorneys seldom keep title deeds they are more often than not handed over the banks who hold Mortgages over these property’s or to the owners.

  6. Anon

    Hants

    Lawyers only cause delays to ensure that you have a clear line of title.

    That is to make sure that the land don’t have two owners. However, if you want to avoid this step then feel free to do so. But please don’t complain after.

  7. Outsider

    Anon, title deeds are not required for registered land, no?

  8. So Long

    BFP,
    If you introduce new topics so rapidly behind each other, I don’ know, just seems that discussion on the real juicy ones is not exhausted before you start with another topic.

    **********************

    BFP say,

    Ok SL, I follow you now. I see your point. When a topic is still generating interest, we try and introduce a new story at the top, but like any newspaper it becomes pushed back as new news arrives. I don’t know what the answer is. Maybe an index of topics?

    thanks for your input. We’ll talk about it at our weekly big lunch meeting at Oistins.

  9. justice

    BFP, is there another “justice”? Just to let you know that this “justice” does not at all share the views of the other one, your first contributor, on this matter..

    ****************
    BFP says

    Hi Justice, now that you’ve mentioned it we can see that somebody scooped your handle. Not allowed!

    We’ll rename him “NOT A BIT OF JUSTICE” and maybe he/she will not do that again.

    cliverton

  10. So Long

    Please give us an invite

  11. justice

    Thanks, Cliv, much obliged.

  12. Hants

    Anon you present interesting opinions and you say”Lawyers only cause delays to ensure that you have a clear line of title.”

    So it takes years to ensure clear Title?

    Anyhow, I have an ongoing situation involving land and lawyers and if it gets “out of control” I will go public starting here at BFP.

    There is another way to deal with these issues. Hire a Lawyer to do the work and another to Consult.

  13. Tell me Why

    Are we speaking about Real Estate purchases way back in 1974? Who lend this gentleman the money in the first place? If the loan was repaid in full, why would the lender place the ‘Bill of Sale’ in the lawyers hand without first contacting the payee?

    Thirty-eight years is too long to now lay blame on any Attorney General et al. The Lender should be held responsible for the disappearance of these documents.

  14. Amused

    BFP Claims ;

    – The same lands are sold to two or more different buyers, each holding title documents in their name.

    – An archaic land titles system that is fertile ground for abuse and theft.

    ————————————————————

    Since the land registration act of 1988 the above is pure nonsense.

  15. Jason

    Amused hasn’t been reading the papers for the last five years as there have been so many incidents reported that you have to wonder how many go unreported in the media.

    Throw in the whole condo law idiocy where people don’t own what they think they own and Barbados has a big disconnect between a stable titles system and reality.

    True, the land registration people are doing their best but the whole system is built upon a house of cards that dates from a hundred years ago. Unlike most places Barbados has never addressed the mistakes, the lack of laws and the corruption that flavours our land titles system.

    It is also true that many of the problems with land titles are a spinoff from a corrupt legal system. There are few lawyers who are ever held to account for thieving acts. BFP is right that the “old boy network” do look after its own.

  16. Straight talk

    Why would anyone invite a journalist from The Nation?

    They haven’t been able to ask an original question in 15 years!

    Send them a transcript, or a precised press release, and they will print it verbatim.

    No analysis, no comment, no sweat.

  17. Anon

    Yes there are registered titles. What this essentially does is have the title deeds in one document call a Cerfiticate of Title.

  18. Amused

    The land registration act is modelled on that from Australia and the property law of Barbados is practically identical to current UK law.

    It is neither archaic nor built on a house of cards.

    The two claims that I referred to above made by BFP are nonsense.

    If you hold title deeds to land acquired before the act I suggest you register your title. This will go a very long way to avoiding legal issues relating to title.

  19. Jason

    Amused, I take it that it is your position that only two of BFP’s claims are nonsense and the rest of the article’s claims are credible?

  20. Amused

    well of the four remaining claims

    – 2 are made without evidence, typical of BFP and in any case relate to actions of individuals not the in adequacy of the law.
    – 1 is made based on the outcome of a single case where the judge was at pains to explain it was very difficult to find an equitable outcome

    The other claim about rules about conflict of interest is strictly also nonsense because there are rules (in fact there are laws) against conflicts of interest in land law but I doubt highly it would meet the standards of BFP (nothing ever does) so I did not bother to even raise it.

  21. Hants

    BFP this should be the next hot topic.

    Slimey,crooked,theiving,coniving members of the Legal profession.

  22. Pen Power

    The Registry staff is indeed exceeding helpful all you have to do is to be polite and courteous. Be upfront and tell them that it is a contentious matter. Please don\’t blame them for the behavior of unscrupulous lawyers.

    Cleverly name the lawyers so the word can spread on the island that he/she is not honest or trustworthy. If they can\’t get work, that hurts, doesn\’t it? Don\’t stand idly by and let other unsuspecting people fall victim.

    Blacklist them on all Bajan websites. Nowadays, with the power of the Internet, it is far easier to spread the word than it would be 10-years ago. Blog about them, start a blog about them, write letters on forums, BFP and be relentless.

    The disciplinary committee is no longer your only source to complain. Ruin their reputations abroad. You have to be on some of them like a leech to see that they do what they are paid to do.

    They have their secretary lie and avoid your phone calls (caller ID) is used to ignore you and more. 34-years to get Title Deeds what are they searching for? That\’s ridiculous, people die in 34-years, is this what someone is waiting for? How could anyone seek to depend this, 34-years?

  23. no name

    Hants,

    How about?

    “Slimey,crooked,theiving,coniving members of the Legal profession”, the auditors and the co-conspirators who keep them crooked and in business.

  24. Independent Thinker

    Now Hants is definately on to something! The article below from today’s nation certainly supports this topic. But let’s not stop at the lawyers, let’s also talk about the doctors that kill people and get away with it, let’s talk about the big motor retailers that sell us lemons and get away with it, let’s talk about how banks simply withdraw funds from your account, without informing you in writting or verbally, because they made a mistake in their calculations, let’s talk about the inept consumer protection agencies, let’s talk about how bajans get screwed at every turn cause I am just sick of it!

    OBJECTION!
    Published on: 4/17/08.

    by JULIA RAWLINS-BENTHAM

    PRESIDENT of the Barbados Bar Association, Wilfred Abrahams, has objected strongly to a recommended reprimand for a lawyer who used a client’s $130 000 for personal reasons.

    Addressing the Court of Appeal yesterday when the matter was called, Abrahams said the interests of the public and attorneys needed to be protected. He added that there was still an outstanding $35 407.04 expense which was incurred in travelling back and forth from England in an attempt to retrieve the money.

    The Disciplinary Committee of the Barbados Bar Association recommended last September that attorney Mortimer Clarke, who was retained by Michael Atkins in a 1999 property transaction, be reprimanded.

    Clarke was Atkins’ attorney for the purchase of a property at Maxwell Coast Road, Christ Church, and received $150 000 for the completion
    of the purchase.

    However, he only passed on $20 000 in 2002, keeping the other $130 000 to help with the running of his office and circumstances at home, among other things.

    He has repaid $130 000, but still owes $35 407.04 in interest and travel expenses incurred by Atkins who resides in England.

    However, Abrahams said if the matter was terminated with just a reprimand, the issue of the outstanding money would remain live and might end up before the court again. Therefore any sanction passed by the court must take into account the money which was still outstanding.

    Attorneys Cicely Chase-Harding, QC, Andrew Brewster and Shelly Stuart appeared on behalf of the committee; Abrahams
    for the Bar; and attorneys Donna Brathwaite and Rosalind Jordan for the Attorney-General.

    Clarke’s lawyer was Tyrone Estwick, who was absent from yesterday’s hearing. They have until Thursday to say why the court should not increase or vary the reprimand.

    In her response, Brathwaite also said she did not believe justice would be fully served with a reprimand if funds were still owed.

    The recommendation for the reprimand, said Chase-Harding, was based on the fact that Clarke had admitted to misappropriating the funds and repaid the $130 000.

    However, she said, there was the outstanding $35 407.04.

    Chief Justice Sir David Simmons said he believed that an adjournment was reasonable to allow Clarke and his attorney to prepare a response to Abrahams’ claim.

  25. John

    … We don’t have to settle for less!!

    It is all about expectations.

    We need to decide that we want more accountability, more people doing it right the first time, more transparency , more satisfaction.

    A quote I saw somewhere goes like this:

    “Blessed is he who expects nothing for he will not be disappointed.”

    The example above of a lawyer misusing a clients money probably explains why so many politicians are lawyers.

  26. Pen Power

    Hants, it can’t hurt to write the law society’s disciplinary committee to bring their attention to your plight with that lawyer you have your land issues with, if you have not already done so. It seems that Abrahams is at least trying to address serious issues in a professional way.

    I would like to respectfully advise fellow contributors to keep this post for legal issues and about the corruption of lawyers for the benefit of others like Hants.

  27. Straight talk

    Wig and Pen Power:

    You cannot be serious.

    The man has used monies entrusted with him as a paid professional for his own private use.

    Spin repayment all you like, but the bottom line is the man thiefed the money from his trusting client for his own benefit.

    Anyone outside the legal profession would now be in Dodds.

    Give me one good reason why he is not there.

    I’m waiting for your reply.

  28. Hants

    Straight talk you are correct ,except in addition to a jail sentence,the lawyer should have been made to pay his client at least $1/2million dollars just for the mental anguish he caused him.

    We need to do our Bajan brothers a service and warn them of the nefarious practices by some members of the legal profession.

    Over the years some Bajans have lost their entire savings to crooked lawyers and some were “too shame” to “let people know”.

    Any Overseas Bajan dealing with land,money and property in Barbados through a lawyer must travel to Barbados twice a year and make sure their business is dealt with properly.

  29. Pen Power

    This land purchase story is disturbing on a lot of levels. How do you keep a client’s money to run your office and circumstances at home. Does Mortimer Clarke not know about a Line of Credit or credit cards? This should be a case of fraud.

    Didn’t Keith Simmons’ brother, Michael Simmons run to Brazil (it is said he’s now living in Florida) over using clients’ account money, deemed to be fraud, at Cottle Catford to build condos in Holetown and a house for himself in Sandy Lane Estate.

    Isn’t what’s good for the goose also good for the gander? I agree with President, Abrahams a reprimand doesn’t cut it – a suspension is in order only if this is his first offense. This would send a strong message to others that this behavior will not be tolerated.

  30. Independent Thinker

    Clearly a case of one rule for the”legal class” and another rule for all others! Employees in the banking sector who help themselves to people’s money usually find themselves in jail. Lawyers, no way! Straight Talk, they are regarded as a privileged class in our society and are hence untouchable.

    What really hurts is when some lawyers get disbarred for stealing their clients money and then in a couple of years they are allowed to practice again WITHOUT having repaid the poor client. Where is the jisutice?

    And Pen Power, you say that a reprimand is only in order if the unethical conduct is his first offence? Whether it is his first or fourth, someone out there has been fleeced of over 35k of his hard earned money! The lawyer should have to repay the sum with interest!!!

    (And to digress, but to show that lawyers and doctors are an elite class, I would love the Revolving Loan shceme to produce the figures as to professions into which the major culprits in terms on non-payment of loans have entered. I have a suspicion that lawyers and doctors would top the list. It is pity that they dont name and shame!)

  31. Rumplestilskin

    Why does someone not set up an internet page with a list that people can add to, of those lawyers who stole money and did not repay pronto, especially where no legal action has been taken by the authorities?

    As far as I know, any lawyer should be disbarred for such action.

    Of course, there is always the ‘other’ course of action.

    But then, bullies always seem to know whom to pick on.

  32. Pen Power

    Yeah, Rumplestilskin it’s a case of “duppy know who to frighten” for sure. We have to learn not to give or treat anyone as elites – that’s our first mistake. They should and do bleed red like us so we should name them and blacklist them too.

    I agree that an internet page would be a first start to show them that we intend to act on our own behalf and allow people to name, list and link back to their email addresses or websites for those with an internet presence.

    If we continue to suffer in silence, nothing will change. If Rosa Parks hadn’t got up from her seat, we would still be riding in the back of the bus to this day.

  33. this is to anon, you seem so knowledgable about deeds and land, maybe you could tell me why it takes so long for my mother’s will to be probated and distributed to it’s heirs when she’ been dead for almost two years, she made sure she wrote a will and did everything she was suppose to, we feel as if she has just gone on vacation, because everything is as she left it. Her attorney won’t return my calls, what is the procedure. I feel from the stories I have been hearing it’s just like the land and deed.

  34. Pen Power

    Pele:

    You are not alone, ’cause I have a friend whose mother’s property isn’t settled after more than 10-years partly because of a lawyer too. There’s another person still waiting to have her paternity suit heard in court so that she can know about the status of her mother’s estate since she died intestate more than 3-years now. That lawyer is still waiting for a court date for 3-years now. What’s more that same lawyer has the insurance settlement money for a poor man who was injured in a road accident from 4-years ago and he can’t get his money up to now.

    If these stories weren’t bad enough, check out Friday, April 18th edition of the Nation “Action Line”, page 20 captioned: “Brothers left sleeping in Van”. These two brothers, Adrian and Charles Gilkes thought they could lay claim to their grandfather’s (Burton Grannum) land when a woman showed up with a paper from her attorney outlining that their grandfather left the land to his son, Clyde Richards. Problem is that these boys ain’t never heard of Clyde Richards in their life. As far as they know their grandfather had only 2-children (their mother Enid Gilkes and her brother Frank – all two deceased).

    So they hired another crooked lawyer in Barbados to resolve the matter of title after confirming with Town & Country Planning whose research said the land was indeed Burton Grannum’s (their grandfather). Problem this lawyer didn’t do swat and they were forced to complain to Barbados Bar Association for him. However, while they are waiting on that body to hear their case against this lawyer some fellows showed up with a court order and demolish both their houses and all their worldly possessions.

    Can you believe this is Barbados? As I read these stories, I feel like we are talking about some other place where no laws exist and we should have take the law in our own hands or use the law of the jungle like organize crime does. Is anyone in Barbados paying attention to any of this? Bajans keep electing all these bloody lawyers so that they can remain above the law. If Rt. Hon. David Thompson visits this blog, he should order some kind of inquiry into the conduct of his colleagues in the legal profession.

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