Prime Minister and Former Chief Justice spar in the media – but still no Land Titles in Barbados

“To International Investors and retirees considering purchasing land in Barbados: Good luck suckers. Welcome to the Third World.” *

“Do foreign investors and retirees realize they can never obtain titles to lands and homes in Barbados?”

One Canadian’s Title Deed missing for 37 years!

Prime Minster Stuart and former Chief Justice SIR David Simmons are currently engaged in a public war of words over who is the most incompetent. We’ll reprint two newspaper articles at the end of our post, but for now you can sum up the little boys fighting as this:

Prime Minister Stuart: Did so!

Chief Justice Simmons: Did not!

The land titles system in Barbados has been in chaos for decades. Incompetence, corruption and a laziness by elected and appointed government officials combined to get us where we are now: No land titles have been issued for years, and those previously issued are ALL SUSPECT.

We spent $200 million dollars renovating Kensington Oval for a failed Cricket World Cup. We gave $20 million to rich horse owners at the Turf Club. We blew $150 million building a failed dump on shifting soil (Thanks Environment Minister Liz Thompson. What a legacy!). We pumped hundreds of millions into a failed attempt to nationalize the tourism industry through GEMS, and wasted so much more on dozens of ill-conceived and poorly executed projects too numerous to mention here.

And while we blew all that money on fancy mega-projects that briefly looked good for photo ops, we ignored the basics: Public safety, Health infrastructure, sidewalks and pedestrian safety, public transit and, most of all – we ignored the laws and the administration of the laws.

Oh, we built a shiny new court building, but we didn’t pass modern laws or enforce laws or provide the administrators with training and tools.

“In the case of the laws and administration of Land Titles, Barbados now finds itself unable to say who owns land. Barbados is unable to issue a certificate of ownership for land.”

Friends, this is surely a crime and if not it should be for it strikes at the very heart of our foreign investment economy and at the rights of Bajans to own homes. The fact that it is again front page news in the Barbados media is by itself unremarkable. This situation has existed for decades.

A few years ago, Barbados Free Press said “Thinking of buying land in Barbados? It is not as risky as purchasing land in Nigeria – but neither is it the same as buying land in New York or Leeds.”

Now… the Government of Barbados has just admitted that buying land IS so risky that we had to put everything on hold to fix it.

Except the system didn’t get fixed in the three years since Land Titles have been on hold!

* “To International Investors and retirees considering purchasing land in Barbados: Good luck suckers. Welcome to the Third World.”

* Many folks have trouble with Barbados Free Press and other bloggers publicizing negatives about Barbados. They say we are disloyal. They say we want to destroy our country.

Nothing could be further from the truth. We publicize the negatives because we know that without international pressure and embarrassment, nothing changes ’bout hey. You saw how quickly the government recently moved to make some changes after the OECD announced Barbados fails tax transparency standards. Oh yes, our leaders moved very quickly to fix that one after their fault was publicized internationally.

So we at Barbados Free Press and others will continue to expose our corrupt and incompetent leadership to international pressure whenever we believe that nothing will get done without it. In the case of Land Titles, let the truth out. Only foolish foreigners would purchase land in Barbados at this moment in history.

“Only a fool would pay money for land in Barbados if the government won’t and can’t certify their ownership.”

Further Reading from BFP

April 14, 2008: Chaotic & Corrupt Land Titles System Makes For Risky Real Estate Transactions In Barbados

July 15, 2007: Only A Fool Would Buy A Condo In Barbados – Canadian In 17th Year Of Barbados Condo Hell

February 25, 2007: Buying Land In Barbados? Welcome To The Crap Shoot!

Current Discussion in The Nation

Folks, we’re going to reprint the Nation articles in full here because that paper often removes or revises history for political reasons. To be fair you should read the articles at the Nation, (Story One, Story Two), but we at BFP must act to preserve the source for our article.

Hands Tied


by Chris Gollop HUNDREDS OF BARBADIANS seeking title to their lands but unable to do so since a new rule was introduced in October 2009 have been assured that legislation is on the way to help.

That assurance has come from Prime Minister Freundel Stuart, who defended staff at the Registry of the Supreme Court for not processing any new applications because of the dilemma in which they had found themselves since the courts relocated from Coleridge Street to Whitepark Road.

Besides having to adapt to the new technology, the staff were confronted with having to follow an instruction from then Chief Justice Sir David Simmons to move away from the “old set of rules” in the titling of land to a “new set of rules” without the corresponding legislation.

In legal terms, Sir David had given a “practice direction” with regard to the new way in which title suits should be processed, Stuart said.

According to the Prime Minister, some senior lawyers, as well as others versed in title suit applications, “took the position and still take the position that a practice direction had to rest on something . . . and that something is called law”.

So without the passing of corresponding legislation, Stuart said, that “practice direction” had no value, and so staff at the registration department had reason to stop processing any new title suits.

For had the staff processed any new title suits “on the basis of a practice direction in these circumstances, they would have no validity”, Stuart argued.

The Prime Minister had risen to the defence of the Registry staff during yesterday’s debate in the House of Assembly on a $3.6 million supplementary resolution for the Ministry of the Attorney General and the Office of the Director of Public Procecutions.

Former Attorney General and now Deputy Leader of the Opposition Dale Marshall raised the issue about the failure of staff to process suits for title deeds, as well as foreclosure suits.

Marshall said that this had put many Barbadians at a “disadvantage” and argued that the department had a legal and moral obligation to process such suits. It was not good enough, he argued, for the Registry staff to take the decision not to process such suits because new legislation was not yet on the books.

But Stuart made it clear that the staff at the Registry were not being “indolent or malicious”, rather their actions were based on the circumstances in which they found themselves.

However, Stuart said he could understand the frustration of hundreds of Barbadians affected by this delay and promised Government would act with some urgency to pass new legislation.

The delays being experienced, he said, affected from the small landowner to the big developers.

To this end, he said, legislation had been drafted and had first been reviewed by the late Justice of Appeal Colin Williams and since then by a committee chaired by Justice William Chandler.

“This is an important piece of legislation,” Stuart said, adding that he was glad to report that the Attorney General [Adriel Brathwaite] would shortly table new legislation in Parliament.

Oh no, PM

SUN, FEBRUARY 20, 2011

STATING THAT HE was driven to set the record straight and clear his name, former Chief Justice Sir David Simmons is today taking issue with recent statements made by Prime Minister Freundel Stuart on the floor of Parliament.

Speaking during last Tuesday’s debate on a $3.6 million supplementary resolution for the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, the Prime Minister informed the House that during his tenure which ended last January, Sir David had given a “practice direction” with regard to the new way in which land title suits should be processed.

He also took the position that “a practice direction had to rest on something . . .  and that something is called law”.

In further defending the decision of staffers in the Registry who had stopped processing any new title suits, the Prime Minister insisted that without the passing of corresponding legislation, that “practice direction” had no value.

But Sir David has categorically denied he ever issued any such practice direction.

In a clear-the-air statement sent to the SUNDAY SUN, he also said the Prime Minister had created the impression that he (Sir David) had acted “whimsically or without legal authority – which, of course, I did not, since I never issued any practice direction”.

“I had hoped that I would never have had to defend my tenure as Chief Justice in the Press. However, I am driven to set the historical record straight conscious that where an inaccurate statement gains a head-start on the truth, the latter has to make a massive effort to catch up,” the statement said.

He also pointed out that under the Supreme Court (Civil Procedure) Rules, a practice direction did indeed “rest on something called law” and therefore “is not some illusory concoction of a Chief Justice”.

He noted that as far back as 2004, the Judicial Council of Barbados had established a sub-committee of judges and attorneys-at-law, under the chairmanship of the now deceased Justice Colin Williams, to devise a new procedure for providing good title to land without a title.

That sub-committee prepared a draft bill, which Sir David said he circulated before going on pre-retirement leave on January 20, 2010, but is yet to be approved.


Filed under Barbados, Barbados Tourism, Business & Banking, Consumer Issues, Corruption, Economy, Offshore Investments, Real Estate

9 responses to “Prime Minister and Former Chief Justice spar in the media – but still no Land Titles in Barbados

  1. Manchester United Fan

    You don’t want to know the horror story my wife and I experienced four years ago when we purchased a promise made of nothing from a developer. Once something goes wrong you are on your own. There is no regulation to protect condo buyers. They sell you on the sand and the beach and take your money and abscond and there is nothing you can do. Beware of Barbados: you are better to rent. Never purchase in Barbados.

  2. Jason

    What did Sir David do that gave the impression that he issued a “practice direction”? He won’t address that hot potato. This stinks, but this is land titles in Barbados so it must stink. Thank g*d I don’t have enough money to buy a home anyways! 🙂

  3. Forget land in Barbados

    Or if your family has held land which has been passed down for generations, as soon as you let people move pun-it the government will come trying to tell you it is a tenantry and therefore the government of Barbados should have the right to take it and give it away to those occupants… Barbados is indeed the WORST place to own large swathes of land.

    Worst of all, when you’re ready to just sell it all and be rid of all the aggravation you still can’t get the jokers at the courts to move their fat-behinds in order sell it out and move to one of the better managed overseas territories in the region… I’m thinking Bermuda, Cayman Islands, Curacao, British Virgin Islands, St. Maarten or the like…

  4. BA88/98

    When the govement compulsorily acquires land they take up to 25 years to pay and when they pay they pay at the price 25 years ago when they took it. They long time ago sold it to friends who resold it and made big money. The owner that was stolen from gets pennies happens all the time.

  5. Notice for foriegn citizens

    At what point do the US, UK , Canadian and EEU governments step up to plate and warn their citizens to stay away from Barbados?

    Whats holding them back?

  6. Wily Coyote

    Barbados Land Title System
    Or Lack Thereof

    The above article touches on many good points but also misses a few other points. When any Bajan is contemplating buying land the first question you hear is “SHOW ME THE IRONS”. When I first heard this expression and being aware of USA, Canada, UK, France etc. land titles, I assumed one meant the official land survey markers delineating the property boundaries. Unfortunately in Barbados, IRONS, refer to various things (Rocks, wooden stacks, old railway irons, wells, fences and in a lot of cases individual memories) of property boundaries.

    When I first heard, some 10 years ago, that Barbados was going to go to an Official Land Survey Title system similar to USA, Canada, UK, France etc. I knew that they were opening a “can of worms”.

    I believe the last entire Barbados official land survey was by the British Ordinance in 1943. Barbados since independence, through Town & Country Planning, have tried to formalize a survey and title systems in an attempt to standardize, modernize and bring the system into the 20th if not the 21st century. This has not been very successful and not entirely the fault of Town & Country Planning. To put into place a modern land titles system, from what is essential a feudal system that exists in Barbados, would/will take considerable planning, substantive financial commitments, dispute resolution mechanisms and what survey datum will the new title system will be based on. In typical Barbados fashion the political support was a lot of talk and not too much walk, and therefore the end result has been failure.

    For instance in North America, USA & Canada, survey datum until 1984 was based on what was known as NAD27 survey references(Clarke Spheroid) and in 1984 was updated to NAD84 survey references(GPS Data). The question is why were the survey references changed/updated in 1984. Well since the original 1927 survey datum, technology has progressed by leaps and bounds and by the mid 1970’s, with the advent of Global Positioning Satellites(GPS) , it was shown that the 1927 survey datum had significant errors and omissions that new technology could now account for and correct. It was then through a joint USA/Canada agreed initiative that the 1927 survey datum would be updated to a new 1984 datum to correct these deficiencies. This did not mean any existing property owners gained or lost any land, it just meant that the numbers identifying the property boundaries may or may not change. Similar datum reference updates have taken place in numerous countries worldwide.

    Now in the case of Barbados, there was no 1927 or other official survey datum to start from, leading to considerable risk that any attempt to implement a modern land titles system would fail unless careful planning was first undertaken and all the unknowns identified and processes put in place to resolve the areas of conflict that would arise. Once again through political interference it was decided that a new land titles system was needed NOW, however the necessary planning, funding etc. was not forth coming.
    I believe if this situation had have been fully evaluated prior to the initial leap off the cliff, then Barbados could have successfully implemented a more modern land titles system that over an extended timeframe(many years) which would be on pare with the existing North American system. The result now is that Barbados land title system is in chaos, rapidly grinding to a halt and no resolution to the problem appears to be in the works.

    Several commenters’ have raised another thorny issue in Barbados, the sale of property by developers, real estate companies, individuals etc. when what is being SOLD or OFFERED FOR SALE is questionable and there are limited or no government regulations governing these sales. Developers are not licensed or registered, Real Estate Companies or agents are not licensed or registered, land offered for sale does not have Town & Country approval, Funds paid by purchasers are not protected(ESGROW), no Building codes etc. The term Third World comes to mind.

    I have no solution to the problem as it now exists, however I can offer a solution to it never happening again, get rid of the JACKASS POLITICIANS and put the CIVIL SERVANTS on a performance mandate, produce or your FIRED.

  7. Pingback: Barbados “Mafia” waits for Violet Beckles to die | Barbados Free Press

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  9. Pieter Pieper

    First,in buying or selling land/property in Barbados you have to deal with lawyers most of whom are not only dishonest but are incompetent as well.Next,you have to deal with the Land Registry where you can expect to encounter corruption, dishonesty and incompetence.Buy property in Barbados ? Only if you’re crazy !