This article is about Guyana property laws.
You probably grew up hearing about land inheritance issues in the Caribbean including: Guyana land law and disputes, Trini family disputes about land, and inheritance laws.
The inheritance laws can be daunting but I put together this general outline.
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Disclaimer: This article does not contain legal advice. The information contained herein is based on independent research by West Indian Diplomacy using both online resources and licensed professionals. We encourage you to speak with an attorney for more information.
Table of Contents
- Guyana’s Land History
- How is land transferred upon death?
- What recourse do you have if your land was transferred illegally?
- How can you find what land in Guyana is in your family’s name?
- How can you protect your land?
- Paying taxes
- Making sure to get a receipt in the owner’s name
- How can you transfer land in Guyana while living?
- How can you get land in Guyana?
- The real estate market in Guyana
- Speak with a professional
1. Guyana’s Land History and Guyana’s Property Laws
The first inhabitants of Guyana arrived over 20,000 years ago. The main tribes were the Arawak and Carib.
The word “Guiana” is an indigenous word that refers to the areas of modern Guyana, Suriname, and French Guiana. It means “land of waters” and is fitting given the many rivers and streams.
One of the longest-running land disputes in human history is between Venezuela and Guyana. “While the British line, accepted by Guyana, is the current de facto boundary, Venezuela maintains a historic claim to all territory currently administered by Guyana west of the Essequibo River.” https://sovereignlimits.com/boundaries/guyana-venezuela-land If you look at the map, this is about 2/3rds of modern-day Guyana’s land mass.
The Dutch were the first to colonize Guyana. In 1616, the first trading post was set up on the Essequibo River.
After that, the British took control, and then the French, and then the Dutch again, and then the British.
Guyana’s slavery system lasted from the 1600s to 1834. The indentured servitude system lasted in Guyana from 1838 to 1920.
For reference, the first lasting U.S. colony of Jamestown began in 1607. The U.S. gained independence in 1776 and fought the Civil War from 1860-1865.
Guyana was finally granted independence in 1966.
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2. How is land transferred upon death in Guyana?
In the U.S., if you do not have a will or a trust, property is inherited based on intestate laws.
Guyana’s intestate inheritance laws have roots in the British common law. If two parents pass away, the land automatically passes to all children.
Each child owns an equal share of land. For example, if the parents pass away and leave 10 children, each child is entitled to 1/10th of the land. One sibling is not entitled to the entire land.
At the time of this writing, there were no inheritance taxes in Guyana. That means if you inherit your parents’ land, you do not have to pay a tax for inheriting it. It is important to still consult with the local government agency to confirm since regulations can change over time.
See below for more information on the importance of maintaining land taxes even though you may not have had to pay an inheritance tax.
There have been mass migrations of Guyanese to the Americas and U.K. since the 70s and 80s. This created a system where many siblings have left Guyana but still have rights to their parents’ land.
3. What can you do if your land in Guyana was transferred illegally without your consent?
See below for more information on the distinction between the transfer of land and the transfer of a house structure.
As mentioned, land automatically passes to all children upon the death of parents.
There have been situations where one person transferred the land without consent from all other siblings who had rights to the land.
You may be able to bring a lawsuit against that family member.
Experienced attorney Camy Narain, Esq. explained that you have several options.
First, you may be able to sue that person in the United States even though the matter involves land in Guyana. An attorney could use the United States’ “Long-Arm Statute” to obtain subject matter jurisdiction and personal jurisdiction.
This may be an option for you if the other person currently lives in the U.S., or made a transaction that was consummated in the U.S. (like a wire transfer or mail).
Attorney Narain also notes that you may be able to obtain a judgment in a court in Guyana and then bring that judgment to the U.S. You could ask a U.S. federal court to enforce that judgment.
You may need to act quickly to ensure that the statute of limitations to bring a claim has not passed.
Camy Narain, Esq. has an upstanding reputation among the Caribbean community and also the legal community. We highly recommend contacting her for these matters. She also handles litigation and immigration matters. (I am always impressed by her every single time we speak!)
This is how you can reach her:
Camy T Narain, Esq.| NARAIN LAW FIRM P.C.
110-23 Rockaway Blvd.
South Ozone Park, NY 11420
Tel: 718.845.5840 | Fax: 877.845.5578
4. How can you find out what Guyana land is in your family’s name?
Many Guyanese descendants are in the United States. You may be wondering how you can find out what land is owned by your family.
Unfortunately, the land records are not available online for you to search. I know it's 2023 and this probably should not be the case. However, Guyana has implemented an e-service system which is a good indication that the country is moving towards digitization.
Most land records are handwritten or typewritten. You would probably have to visit the local office to find out more on accessing relevant information and copies.
Another way of determining a landowner would be to ask the community. Asking a neighbor could point you in the right direction. Families have occupied the same land for generations and they may have the information you need.
5. How can you protect your land or your family’s land in Guyana?
One of the most important ways to protect your land in Guyana is to make sure to pay the land taxes. The Guyana Regulatory Authority is the governing body.
Land taxes must be paid!
There is an annual filing requirement, with a 2% penalty for failure to do so.
If you have a beneficial interest in land in Guyana, you may be able to check on the status of the taxes in Georgetown.
One expert has noted that the taxes must be paid in person. The receipts for paying land taxes are often handwritten on a carbon-copy book.
You should always make sure that the receipt is made to the landowner– in the landowner’s name. For example, if Bob asked his neighbor, Paul, to go in person and pay the taxes for Bob’s land, Bob should ask Paul to ensure that the receipt notes that it is for Bob.
If the receipt lists Paul (or a tenant or squatter) that could create an equity interest in Paul.
Again, make sure that whoever pays the land tax gets the receipt in the owner’s name.
Many descendants are currently living in the States. If you want to keep your family’s land, you should confirm that the taxes are being paid on time.
You do not want the land to be transferred without your consent for failure to pay your taxes. It could be a costly battle to rectify, and in some cases, you may not be able to recover the land.
You should also be cautious if someone wants to buy your land. Conduct due diligence research into the potential buyer.
Agricultural families often own many acres of land. As the owners age, some are selling their land, or portions of the land, to foreign investors. There are concerns that foreign development is leading to the contamination of the water and fishing industry.
6. How can you transfer land in Guyana while living?
There are several things to consider if you want to transfer property in Guyana:
- Determine whether the transfer will be for the land, or for the house, or both the house and land.
- Determine whether you are receiving the entire percentage of property or just shares.
- Determine whether there are any leases or mortgages on the land and/or house(s). There might be a lease in place prior to the current occupant’s birth.
- Determine the occupants of the house (even if they are family members), and their rights regarding the house and land.
- Determine whether you need a Power of Attorney if transferring property from outside of Guyana.
- Evaluate whether the Power of Attorney agent could have a self-dealing interest. If this is the case, the property may be transferred to someone other than the intended beneficiary.
- Determine the requirements relating to the transfer of the title (also known as the Transport or Certificate of Title) for sale or gifting. These requirements include, but are not limited to, affidavits, GRA compliance, municipal rates, tax compliance receipt, original certificate of title, the current valuation of the property, and publication/advertisement in the Official Gazette.
- The filing costs vary depending on the state of title, valuation, and encumbrances (lease, mortgage, arrears, other parties' interest).
- Determine additional costs for attorneys to represent you on the transfer.
- Determine the tax on the sale or transfer.
- Remember that the transfer may be delayed due to backlogs.
- Remember to seek legal advice from a licensed attorney on the laws of Guyana!
My personal favorite attorney to consult on these matters is Camy Narain. She is also highly regarded in the Caribbean community. This is how you can reach her:
Camy T Narain, Esq.| NARAIN LAW FIRM P.C.
110-23 Rockaway Blvd.
South Ozone Park, NY 11420
Tel: 718.845.5840 | Fax: 877.845.5578
7. How can you get land in Guyana? What is the market like?
The real estate market in Guyana is similar to that of Florida and Connecticut, according to an expert. Houses can easily range from $200,000 to $500,000.
I know that is not good news for people hoping that the exchange rate from US to Guyana dollars would make it easier for them to purchase land or houses.
The valuation of the property is largely based on the “bottom house.” Properties can have businesses or rental apartments in that section. The Guyana government monitors land transfers and the values of the properties.
Squatters could also pose an issue if you are trying to obtain a particular property/land. Squatters do have rights in Guyana and they cannot be displaced without certain measures being taken.
It is important to act quickly if you believe there are squatters on your property.
Most US states have laws that allow a property to transfer to a squatter if a certain amount of time has passed. It ranges from 7 to 21 years.
There are also lottery systems where you can bid for land in Guyana, in exchange for employing the local Guyanese population.
One person inquired about getting abandoned land in Guyana. Land in Guyana is in someone’s name. You might have to take a lot of steps to figure it out. That can be a person or the government. You can follow the information above to buy land in Guyana.
You should contact a licensed professional to determine requirements for purchasing land, like having a Guyana ID or entering into a partnership with a local Guyanese citizen.
Guyana is becoming a key player in the global economy. Don’t wait until it is too late to understand your personal rights and business rights.
Consult with licensed professionals if you want to protect, sell, or buy property in Guyana. Make sure to protect this large investment properly by using experts.
You should also protect your businesses with trademarks, copyrights, and contracts. The Caribbean community should not be taken advantage of by foreign investors seeking to capitalize on our resources. And the best way to do that is to legally protect yourself and business.
For land matters, you can contact Camy Narain, Esq. at www.narainlawfirm.com.
For trademarks, copyrights, and contracts, you can contact Melissa D. Goolsarran Ramnauth, Esq. at www.mdgrlaw.com.
This article was about Guyana property laws.
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By Melissa D. Goolsarran Ramnauth, Esq. | This content is copyright of West Indian Diplomacy, LLC and may not be reproduced without permission.
She runs West Indian Diplomacy, a Caribbean blog aimed at promoting West Indian history and business in the global marketplace.
Melissa has been an attorney for over 10 years. She currently focuses on trademark registration, trademark searches, and office actions. She also has extensive legal experience in the areas of trademarks, copyrights, contracts, and business formations. She owns her own Trademark Law Firm that is virtually based out of Fort Lauderdale.
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