Buying Dominican Real Estate

By Felipe Castillo (fcastillo@aclaw.com)

Persons wishing to buy, sell, convey or transfer Dominican real estate property should note that Dominican real estate operations are governed by Dominican Real Estate Property Registration Law No. 108-05 of 2005 and its regulations, the Civil Code and other special Dominican laws which may apply depending on the type of transaction.

General Requirements of Form and Substance

Among the requirements of form to make a valid Dominican Real Estate property transfer is the need of a written definite purchase – sale contract, whether made by notary act or by a private agreement legalized by a notary public.

As to the requirements of substance, it is essential that contract parties be fully identified in the agreement including their full names, official identification document, civil status, and domicile. The purchase or sale price, the payment terms, the conditions and the Dominican Real Estate property’s full description indicated in the title certificate should be included in the agreement and stated clearly.

Powers Of Attorney

The issuing of powers of attorney in the Dominican Republic from the buyer or the seller in favor of a legal representative or authorized person requires a written document through notary act, or in private document form and legalized by notary public and attorney general, for purposes of complying with title registrar regulations.

Among the main provisions or information to be included in such Power of Attorney is the full name, official identification document, civil status, and domicile of the empowering party, and the full description of the Dominican real estate property over which any transfers or conveyances will be made, while including sufficient language and clear provisions as to the extent of such powers granted to the empowered party.

Powers of attorney issued outside of the Dominican Republic may be executed in Notary Act form if the empowering party appears before a Dominican Republic Consulate.

If a private document form is followed in a foreign country, the power of attorney must be legalized by a Notary Public, the Attorney General or County Clerk and finally before the Dominican Republic Consulate and the Dominican Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Chancillery). If the foreign country is member of the Apostille (Hague Convention of 1961), then the document may be legalized by Notary and Apostilled, thereby reducing legalization steps.

It should be noted that in all cases, powers of attorney executed in a language different than Spanish, official language of the Dominican Republic, must be translated into Spanish by an authorized Judicial Interpreter before it can be filed before the Title Registrar as part of the property transfer request of registration or any Dominican public institution.

Rights and Obligations of the Sellers

The general obligations of Seller upon the closing of a Dominican Real Estate transaction include delivery of the real estate property itself and delivery of the original certificate of title (Certificado de Titulo Duplicado del Dueno) of the purchased Dominican Real Estate property, including cancellations of any liens and encumbrances or other guarantees which may have been recorded on the property. It is very important that upon payment of the purchase price, purchaser receives an executed and notarized original of the purchase sale agreement.

Purchasers General Obligations

The only vital obligation Dominican Law places on purchasers of property is that the purchaser pays the seller the purchase price of the acquired Dominican Real Estate property and complies with any other requirements, terms or conditions for payment existing in the purchase sale agreement.

Brokers Obligations

Dominican real estate broker obligations are almost non- existing as there is very lax Dominican regulation in this regard.

For instance, brokers are not required a license to represent, offer or sell real Dominican estate property, there is no full disclosure duty and the lack of regulation suggest difficulty in assessing fiduciary duty obligations or avoiding conflict of interests, as brokers duties are presumed similar to sales agents working for a commission of the Dominican Real Estate business.

The above means that potential buyers or sellers should retain a qualified real estate attorney and legal counsel, as brokers interests or capacities simply focus on sales, but not on handling the legal aspects of a real estate transaction and averting possible complexities.

The Real Estate Closing Process

On the day the purchaser and seller have decided to close on any Dominican real estate property transaction, the seller may be asked to furnish the buyer in addition to the original certificate of title (owner’s duplicate) a series of legal documents which are most commonly gathered, requested and obtained by the seller’s attorney.

Among these documents is the certification of legal status of the real estate property, which is issued by the title registrar of the jurisdiction where the property is located and which reveals the legal status of the property, whether the property survey has been completed for transfer purposes, and if there are any registered third- party liens, encumbrances, mortgages or privileges affecting the free and clear title to the property.

Another important document is the certification of good tax status of the property which is issued by the DR Tax Administration and states whether real estate property taxes have been paid and/or if the property is tax exempted.

If the seller of the property is a legal entity, the same shall deliver to the buyer a copy of its tax identification card, a copy of its business register certificate and an original written minutes of the shareholders or directors of the company authorizing the sale and designating the company officer authorized to execute purchase sale agreement on behalf of the company. This document must normally be registered before the local business register.

Finally, other relevant documents for a real estate property closing may include, the personal identification card or passport of seller and its representative, a certification of no debts issued by the condominium or project manager, evidence of payment of all utilities or services (such as electricity, water, garbage disposal, cable, telephone) used in the real estate property as well as a copy of the condominium or project blueprints, bylaws and regulations.

Filing Of the Request of Transfer before the Title Registrar

The completion of any Dominican real estate acquisition will require the payment of property transfer taxes and the filing of a request of transfer before the title registrar of the jurisdiction where the property is located or from the Central Title Registrar offices located in the Santo Domingo, Capital of the Dominican Republic. Such request of transfer shall include most of the documents requested to seller at the time of closing (above).

Title Registrar Regulations and internal memorandums explain the documentation and legal formalities to be met for Dominican real estate property transfers. They are subject to amendment from time to time and must be observed by legal representatives to avoid rejection, unnecessary request of transfer delays if title registrar requests new documents in substitution of former documents that do not meet legal and regulatory requirements.

Due to the above, it is best to retain a qualified Dominican real estate attorney and avoid complications and delays, as title registrar requirements for real estate title transfers are very strict and specific in both form and substance and will need to be present when filing a request of transfer before Dominican title registrar.

Processing Of Property Transfers before Title Registrar

Once a complete and accepted application for transfer of property is filed before the title registrar, the title registrar official will provide petitioner or its representative with an estimate of time, promise or projected deadline for delivery of title.

The amount of time will depend on work load at the local title registrar and will usually take about two months’ time provided no additional documents are requested by the title registrar.

Obtainment of Certificate of Title Or Deed To The Property

On the day of the promise of delivery of the new certificate of title before the title registrar office and provided there are no delays and complications in the process, the new owner presents its official identification document and if done through a representative, the latter shall present an executed and legalized original of the power of attorney granted by the new owner in order to be able to receive the new original certificate of title from the title registrar.

When the certificate of title is delivered by the title registrar, it is important to verify (at that very moment) that the property description and owner information contained in the certificate of title are correct to avoid the risk of having to go through a new administrative process for the correction of the material errors appearing in the certificate of title.

Delivery of clear and marketable certificate of title to the new owner or its representative will conclude the process for purchasing real estate property in the Dominican Republic.

After delivery of the new property title, real estate property owner should stay informed of applicable property laws and regulations and legal alternatives, allowing for its full use, enjoyment and possible disposition of its Dominican real estate property moving forward.

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