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Alien land holding licence

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The laws allow for nationals or companies of SVG to purchase real estate in the country without a licence. On the other hand, non-nationals (persons or companies) who wish to purchase land in SVG must obtain an Alien land holding licence.{{more}} This licence to purchase land is granted by the Crown on application by an alien (non-national) under the Alien (Land Holding Regulation) Act. There are similar laws in many countries to this effect.

Persons who do not need a licence

Pursuant to the act, a person who does not have to obtain a licence includes a citizen, a commonwealth person who is domiciled or ordinarily resident, the spouse of a national, a child, step child, or adopted child of a national who is eighteen years and over. This category also includes exempted persons (by the Governor General) who are individuals, partnership, firms and corporations that are mortgage financers, or who are in the business of banking.

Forfeiture to the Crown

According to the law, any land held by an unlicensed alien (non-national) would be forfeited to the crown, so it is incumbent on any person who wishes to purchase land to make the necessary application. However, if an alien came into possession of land through a will or through intestacy, that person must within one year of the death of the testator or interstate seek to adjust the status by making the application to the Governor- General or sell the land.

Powers of the Governor General

The Governor General may on application for licence grant that licence with or without conditions. The alien must thereafter register the deed with the Land Registry. The conditions are important and must be obeyed otherwise the subject land could be forfeited to the crown.
The Governor- General has the power to grant a licence to an alien mortgagee that is doing business in St Vincent and the Grenadines.

Procedure for Forfeiture

The Crown must put the matter before the court before the land could be vested. When judgment is obtained the land is vested in the Crown. The date of the title would be given when the forfeiture took place.

Chatham Bay Case

This is a matter that reached the Court of Appeal in 2010 and is now posted on the court website. The appellants were non-nationals who obtained a licence for lands in Chatham Bay, Union Island, in the Grenadines. The appellant came into ownership on 5th March, 1987. When they obtained the licence they agreed certain conditions. They pledged to build a resort with two restaurants and fifty-five guest rooms. Further, they were to develop the property in the next three years by spending EC$15 million. After 3 years, there were no activities to meet the conditions in the licence. The company tried to find investors but was unsuccessful. It then asked for an extension, but was told to negotiate new proposals. No new proposals were negotiated. It was in this state of limbo for sixteen more years when the government initiated forfeiture proceedings on 5th January, 2006. The government claimed that the appellant had breached two clauses in the conditions, and the other side claimed that the government had waived its claim when no forfeiture was brought against the company earlier. The Appeal court, consisting of three judges, dismissed the appeal and imposed cost on the appellants.

Ada Johnson is a solicitor and barrister-at-law.
E-mail address is: exploringthelaw@yahoo.com

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