A number of U.S. citizens who have purchased or sold real estate in The Bahamas have reported tremendous difficulties in the process, some even losing their entire life savings. For example, U.S. citizens have reported that after “purchasing” property in The Bahamas, they discovered that the seller did not have clear and/or indisputable ownership of the property. Some of the incidents reported include high-end real estate development projects on family islands where the development project was not completed and individuals could not get their money returned. There also have been reports that after the final sale and purchase of property, a second individual appeared with a deed of trust claiming rights to the property, causing long legal disputes that sometimes pend for years and are not resolved in favor of the purchaser. Prospective purchasers are advised to check the veracity and status of the prospective seller’s ownership with a trusted attorney and/or title agency. A prospective purchaser may request that the Registrar General’s Office for Deeds and Documents verify the name under which a deed is registered.
When selling a property, similar issues arise. If a deal seems too good to be true, it usually is. A prospective purchaser or seller may contact the Government of The Bahamas to check for any discrepancies in ownership of property, assessment for taxes, and when taxes were last paid.
It is important that U.S. citizens work with a trusted attorney to make sure there is clear title to their property or proof that the sale was properly recorded or documented with the Real Property Tax Department. U.S. citizens are reminded that the list of attorneys reflected on the U.S. Embassy’s website is provided as a consular courtesy only, and that the U.S. Embassy cannot guarantee the quality of legal service ultimately rendered to you. There are at least five law firms/real estate practices that offer title insurance, so please look into the availability of title insurance at the time of the purchase. Be wary of any firm/practice that tells you that title insurance is not available or that it is not needed in The Bahamas. Even with title insurance, U.S. citizens sometimes still encounter unanticipated problems. U.S. citizens have also reported that they have had difficulties with attorneys themselves in real estate transactions, such as attorneys collecting money for services never rendered or swindling clients out of large amounts of money. Be very vigilant when it comes to the selection of an attorney.
If a lawsuit is filed, it can take a tremendous amount of time and resources, much longer than the average time in the United States, to get a judgment. It can be just as long if not longer to receive an enforcement of a judgment. Similar complaints are reported when reporting an attorney to the local bar association for sanctions against the attorney.
Time-Shares: When considering time-share investments, be cautious and aware of any aggressive tactics used by time-share sales representatives. Bahamian law allows time-share purchasers five days to cancel the contract for full reimbursement. Disputes that arise after that period can be very time-consuming and expensive to resolve through the local legal system.