SEALING THE DEAL as a BVI newbie

By Willa Tavernier, O’Neal Webster BVI.

For many, buying property in the BVI is often the realisation of a personal dream. So you’ve finally gotten there and purchased your home in the BVI—now what? 

Legal Matters.

After completion, your lawyer should provide you with the following:

  • A stamped and registered original instrument of transfer (this takes several weeks to receive)
  • If there was a mortgage on the property, a stamped and registered original discharge of charge
  • If you purchased using a loan, a stamped and registered original instrument of charge (mortgage)
  • A certified copy of the land register reflecting your name as the proprietor (owner) of the property
  • If you are a non-belonger, a stamped and registered copy of your non-belonger’s Landholding Licence
  • A final bill and reimbursement of any unused fees

Bear in mind that the Land register—a public register—can be accessed by anyone. If your neighbours want to get a copy of your documents to see how much you paid when buying your house (and vice versa), then they can do so.

Utilities

At this point you will need to change all utilities into your own name.

The utilities will require an application for new service and the name of the last person who received service at the property. Most require a deposit on account sufficient to cover 2 months service. You will need to do this with the bVi electricity Corporation, The Water & sewerage Department, Cable TV, and the telephone/internet service provider (there are three: CCT, Digicel and LIME).

Taxes

You will have paid Stamp Duty and Registration Fees on your transfer (and charge, if any). However, annual property taxes must be kept up to date. As soon as you have a copy of your registered transfer, you should take it into the Inland Revenue Department for them to update your records. Property Tax is comprised of two elements: Land Tax, which is based on the acreage of the property; and House Tax—which is based on the rental value of the house.

You should also get specialist tax advice to guide you on the impact your home purchase will make on your tax liabilities in your country of citizenship, if applicable.

Immigration Status

If you are a non-resident, your property purchase under a non- belonger’s landholding licence entitles you to a six-month stay in the territory—in any twelve-month period—subject to any extension granted by the chief immigration officer. You can take your non- belonger’s Landholding Licence to the immigration Department, where you will receive a card that can be carried in your wallet and shown to the immigration officials at the airport or seaport when you re-enter the BVI. Without this, anyone entering is only entitled to a 30-day stay.

Insurance

The BVI is in a hurricane and earthquake belt. Fortunately, the last destructive hurricane experienced here was in 1924, and the last destructive earthquake in 1867 (causing a deadly tsunami). Homeowner’s insurance is a must. You should also consider flood insurance, as this is not typically covered by Homeowner’s insurance. There are several reputable insurance companies here offering a variety of policies. some even cover the cost of accommodation while necessary repairs are made to property.

Renting

If you are not a BVI citizen you will need permission (in your non-belonger’s landholding licence) to rent your property. Additionally, you will need a trade licence for this purpose. The trade licence is necessary even if you are renting through a real estate agent, unless it is being rented as part of a resort rental pool, in which case your non-belonger’s licence will mention this specifically. If you don’t want the hassle of dealing with tenants, most real estate agents have a property management arm that can deal with this, as well as with general maintenance of the property.

Relax & Enjoy

Most importantly, remember you bought a home in the BVI for your personal fulfillment. Making sure that all of the above matters are taken care of in a timely manner, will allow you to kick back, relax and enjoy your new home.

For further information, Please contact Willa Tavernier  (wtavernier@onealwebster.com).

This article is general in scope and is not intended to be comprehensive. It is not a substitute for legal advice.

O'Neal Webster is a leading offshore law firm in the British Virgin Islands providing superior legal services to clients globally. The firm is a member of Lex Mundi, the world's largest association of independent law firms.

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