General Info and Purchase procedures.

IMMIGRATION

Everyone is allowed to purchase a Residential, Commercial, Industrial or Agricultural property in Trinidad and Tobago*, no matter what nationality you have or what country you reside, as long as you comply with the following 4 rules:
  1. The payments have to be transferred directly from your bank abroad into a local bank account, in accepted currency such as US$, British Pounds, Euros....etc. No other form of payments will be accepted in order to comply with "THE PROCEEDS OF CRIME ACT, 2000" to prevent money laundering.
  2. Under the Foreign Investment Act of 1990, foreign nationals are currently permitted by law to buy up to one acre for a private dwelling house and up to five acres for commercial purposes in Trinidad.
    If the property is over those limits, a special permit from the Ministry of Finance has to be applied for by the foreigner's Attorney-at-Law. It has to be mentioned however that this application process can be very tedious and lengthy, and it might take up to a year or longer before the special permit will be granted (or refused), because the application has to pass many different Government departments. The Government's decision is mostly based on the grounds on which you apply, and its validity.
  3. Under the Foreign Investment Act of 2007, any foreign national acquiring Residential, Agricultural, Commercial or Industrial land, with or without building, in Tobago has to obtain a license under the Foreign Investment Act. An order to this effect was signed by the Acting Minister of Finance Conrad Enil on February 14 and came into operation on February 16, 2007. It is called the Foreign Investment Tobago Lands Acquisition Order 2007. This need for a license in Tobago (not Trinidad) is still under review in terms of the details of its implementation. It is expected that an automatic license (subject only to proof of good character) will be granted on application for all purchases within Designated Development Areas in Tobago.  Purchases outside of these areas will be discretionary and dealt with on a case by case basis.
    Application forms will be available online from the Ministry of Finance and applications can be made through your real estate Agent or your local Attorney.
  4. The Designated Development Areas in Tobago will be precisely defined by maps prepared by Town & Country Planning Division and posted on their website. Those areas were broadly described in the 7th September 2009 Budget Presentation as follows, but the actual boundaries must be verified on the maps. DDAs will include: Englishman's Bay Estate, Culloden Estate, parts of Arnos Vale, parts of Grafton, Mount Irvine Estate, Buccoo Estate, Golden Grove Estate, Lowlands Estate including Tobago Plantations Resort, Diamond Estate including Indigo Bay Resort, parts of Bacolet Estate. The list may be amended from time to time.
    • If you are a foreign national who purchased property in Tobago prior to the licensing order of Feb 2007, you have nothing to worry about in terms of the legality of your ownership. The T&T law will continue to recognize your good title and Government will not be making the need for a license retro-active. If the property is not located within the newly-defined Designated Development Areas however, you may only be allowed to sell on to T&T nationals when the time comes.
    • Should you inherit a property in Tobago, you have one year to apply for a license to own it, or to put it on the market for sale.
    • Foreign nationals wishing to invest in larger properties of over five acres can apply for a development license through the Tourism Development Company (TDC). Again, your real estate Agent can help you deal with TDC who will facilitate all applications and advise on matters such as fiscal incentives for hotel and resort developments.
    • Foreign nationals must purchase in an internationally-traded foreign currency and proof of transfer of funds is needed by the Ministry of Finance. Your attorney will handle this along with registration of title.
    • Permission to buy land does not confer residency. Buying a commercial property does not confer the right to work (earn an income) in Trinidad and Tobago. Work permits are needed for any work that lasts longer than 30 days.
    • If you are intending to live in Tobago, foreign nationals should contact the Trinidad & Tobago High Commission in their country for information on immigration and/or work permit requirements.
    • If you are planning to come on holiday to enjoy your new property, a non-resident is usually allowed up to three months in T & T, with or without the need for a visa, which depends on the country of origin. Discretionary extensions can be applied for.

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If you are not a Citizen or Resident of Trinidad and Tobago, and you are planning to stay longer than your Visa permits you, or even decide to reside permanently in T&T, you need to apply for Permanent Residency Status or Citizenship, in which case I recommend to check your relevant Embassy or Consulate in Trinidad and Tobago, (CLICK HERE for a complete listing of addresses and phone numbers), or you can also get in touch with the Trinidad and Tobago Embassy or Consulate in your Home Country.
Trinidad and Tobago has strict Immigration Laws and if you wish to reside permanently here, I advice not to buy until you have at least Permanent Residency Status.
I also would like to point out that buying or owning a residential property in T&T does not give residency status, and buying or owning a commercial property in T&T does not give the right to work (earn an income) in Trinidad and Tobago.
There are three and only three grounds for submitting an application for residence in Trinidad and Tobago:
  1. Married to a T&T national,
  2. Parent or grandparent of a T&T national,
  3. A professional who has lived and worked in T&T for five (5) years or over.

You also have to keep in mind, that submitting an application for permanent residency status, does not mean that it will be granted.

Of course, the above is not applicable if you have Permanent Residency status, you and/or your spouse are Citizens of Trinidad and Tobago, or if you want to purchase and/or build for vacation and investment reasons. A Non-Resident can usually get a visitor's visa for up to three months. Extensions can be applied for, but are not guaranteed, especially over six months.

If you wish to work in Trinidad and Tobago, you have to get a work permit which can only be applied for by a local company. However, in order to protect local employment, the Government of Trinidad & Tobago is very selective in giving work permits.

A foreigner who is not a Resident or Citizen of Trinidad and Tobago and who does not have a work permit, is allowed to own a business in T&T, but is not allowed to run it, and has to seek the assistance of a Trinidad and Tobago Citizen or Permanent Resident to run and manage the business or company.

If you wish more detailed information on all of the above, you can go to the Investment Guide on the WebSite of
The American Chamber of Commerce.

PURCHASING PROCEDURES.

The Purchasing procedures in Trinidad is for Residents/Citizens as well as Non-Residents the same, again no matter what nationality or what country you reside.
Once you made a decision to purchase a property in Trinidad or Tobago, the first step to take is to make a 10% deposit, as guarantee of good faith, and to prevent the property to sell to someone else. At that moment we enter into an AGREEMENT of SALE, in which is stated that both Parties (Vendor and Purchaser) have 90 days time to organize each their side of the AGREEMENT. This means that the buyer has to organize a local Attorney (read further for details), and the balance payment within this time period as well, so if the buyer has the money cash available, no problem, the sale can be complete on or before the 90 days.
If the buyer has to get a Mortgage, it is important to find out if a Mortgage will be approved before making a deposit, because if the buyer is in default, the deposit will be forfeited.
This deposit will be held in Escrow, by the Broker/Agent. An Escrow is a written agreement (or property or money) delivered to a third party, or put in trust by one party to a contract, to be returned after fulfillment of a specific condition.
We will provide you with a package containing a copy of the Deed, A Receipt of the last paid Land (and Building) Taxes, if available a Cadastral Sheet* (*Map which shows the land area) and an original of the AGREEMENT of SALE which will be made in Triplicate, one for the Purchaser, one for the Vendor and one for the Agency.
As Purchaser you will have to call in the services of a local Attorney-at-Law,
TIPS FOR NEWBIE HOME BUYERS
TIPS FOR NEWBIE HOME BUYERS
to prepare the necessary documents for the Conveyance, to do a Title Search and to Register the property in the Registrar General, at the expense in all respects of the Purchaser. It is always advised to do a Title Search because you and your Attorney need to be sure there are no encumbrances on the property.

If you are residing outside of Trinidad and Tobago and it is not possible for you to be personally present for the signing of the AGREEMENT of SALE and/or the completion of the Sale, that is not a problem. Once you purchase a property from or through an AREA (Association of Real Estate Agents) Registered Agent or Agency, all you have to do is to make sure that the funds for the required 10% deposit are available, and at the time of completion of the sale, the balance payment. Your Realtor will organize all the rest *.
The AGREEMENT of SALE can be done via e-mail and/or Fax, and at the time of completion the documents will be sent to you via a Courier service such as FedEx or DHL, and upon receiving you take them to a Notary Public, where you will sign the documents and the Notary Public will notarize them, after which you send them back to the Attorney by Courier service.
However, it is usually not necessary that the Buyer has to sign the Memorandum of Transfer, because in many case there is no Restricted Covenant.
If a property has a Restricted Covenant, this basically means that there are restrictions and rules stating what you are allowed to do and not to do with the property, and what kind of building you are allowed to build and what not. When purchasing a property which has a Restricted Covenant, you have to abide by these restrictions, and therefore need to sign the Memorandum of Transfer as well, acknowledging that you have read and understand these rules and restrictions.
In general, you will find a Restricted Covenant in large developments and in cases of lease hold lands.
In case there is no Restricted Covenant the Buyer DOES NOT have to sign the Memorandum of Transfer. Only the Owner has to sign it, and after (s)he received the balance payment, it can go straight to the Registrar General to be registered in your name.

In Trinidad and Tobago there are 3 types of Deeds:

  1. Common Law Deed.
  2. R.P.O. (Real Property Ordinance) Deed.
  3. Leasehold Deed.
1. If a property has a Common Law Deed, a new Deed is made up every time there is a new owner, and unless there is a Restricted Covenant, only the Vendor has to sign the Conveyance, at the time of closing the sale.

2. If a property falls under the R.P.O., the exact same Deed goes from owner to owner, and at the time of closing both the Vendor and the Purchaser have to sign the Memorandum of Transfer.

3. When a property has a Leasehold Deed, the person(s) whose name(s) are on the Deed are the owners for the duration of the lease which is usually a long term , such as 99, 199, 299 or even 999 years, also here both the Vendor and the buyer have to sign the Memorandum of Transfer.
A Leasehold Deed usually has a Restricted Covenant as well.

The registering of the Deed usually takes about 4 to 6 months. However, from the day the balance payment is paid, and the owner signed over the Deed to you, the property is yours and you can do with it what you want, no matter if the Deed is still in the process of being Registered.

*PLEASE NOTE: Every Company and Attorney has of course their own services and way of doing things, and concerning the above mentioned services,
I can only refer to AREA Members.

Most customers need a Mortgage to purchase a property and two of the most asked questions are: "Can I get a local Mortgage, even though I do not live in Trinidad and Tobago?" and "What are the interest Rates?"
The answer to the first question is "Yes", once you and/or your spouse are a Resident/Citizen of Trinidad and Tobago it does not matter where or in which country you live. Of course just like any local person you have to qualify before you can get a local mortgage.
Foreigners however will not be able to obtain a local mortgage.
To answer the interest question; There are no typical or set interest rates, it all depends on:

  • The amount you borrow.
  • The duration of the loan (the longer, the lower the interest rates, but in the long run you pay back a lot more).
  • Which Finance Company you choose.
  • And the package you choose.
By the way, it is not said that the package with the lowest interest rate is the best one for you, they usually come with a lot of restrictions.
Please, also read our "Mortgages" page for more information.

NOTE: For Trinbagonians or Residents who are planning to return permanently to Trinidad but have lost their T&T Citizenship or Residency Status, you can re-apply, however be prepared that this is a lengthy process and will take at least 6 months to 1 year, so if you are planning to return immediately after you purchased a property, or in case you have to get a Mortgage, make sure you have your Citizenship or Residency status in order before making a deposit on a property.

It is very important for the Purchaser to know that after you made the 10% deposit, and you change your mind on buying, or you can not make the outstanding balance payment, or for whatever reason you make default in completion of the sale, your deposit will be forfeited, because you are in breach of Contract. So before making any deposit you have to be absolutely sure that this is the property you want, and that you have the balance payment available within the stipulated time.
On the other hand however, if your Attorney is unable to complete the transfer, because the property has encumbrances which can not be rectified within a for you acceptable time (or not at all), your deposit will be refunded in full.
If this all sounds complicated, there is no need to be worried, we assist and guide our clients throughout the whole process from the start to the end.

... Additionally, a foreigner must, through his Attorney-at-Law, deliver to the Minister of Finance a Notice specifying his name, address and nationality, the date and registration particulars of the instrument by which he became the owner of the property and evidence of his payment in an accepted foreign currency.

Property Transfer Taxes or Stamp Duty (the stamping of the documents by the Board of Inland Revenue):

The present law provides that where the property is or includes a dwelling house and the property is for use wholly or mainly for residential purposes (Residential Transfers) the stamp duty payable as of 23 September 2008 is as follows:

Residential Transfers:

  • When the purchase price does not exceed TT$ 850,000.00. - 0%
  • When the purchase price is between TT$ 850,001.00. and TT$ 1,250,000.00. - 3%
  • from TT$ 1,250,001.00. to TT$ 1,750,000.00. - 5%
  • Over TT$ 1,750,000.00. - 7.5%
This brings us to the following Stamp Duties:

TT$0.00. to TT$850,000.00. Nil
On every dollar of the next $400,000.00.
being TT$850,000.00. to TT$1,250,000.00.
3% = TT$12,000.00.
On every dollar of the next TT$500,000.00.
Being TT$1,250,000.00. to TT$1,750,000.00.
5% = TT$25,000.00.
For every dollar thereafter
TT$1,750,001.00. to TT$ ----
7.5%
Tips and Advise on selling your property
Tips & Advise on
selling your property

When the property is a commercial property or land only (Non-Residential Transfers) the Stamp duty payable is as follows:
Non-Residential Transfers (Includes Commercial Properties and Land) where the consideration for the sale and/or Market value:

  • does not exceed TT$300,000.00 - 2% Stamp Duty
  • exceeds TT$300,001.00 but does not exceed TT$400,000.00 - 5% Stamp Duty
  • exceeds TT$400,000.00 - 7% Stamp Duty
The above rates for non-residential transfers are to be applied to the total consideration.
e.g. If the consideration is $350,000.00 the stamp duty payable will be 5% of $350,000.00 = $17,500.00.

Once the appropriate stamp duty has been paid, as certified by an embossed stamp affixed by the Board of Inland Revenue, the original transfer documents are lodged with the Registrar General's Department and a registered copy will be delivered to the Purchaser as proof of his ownership of the land in question. The registration fee payable is typically TT$100.

Stamp Duty on Mortgages
Residential Properties: It is also obligatory that stamp duty be paid on mortgages greater than TT$315,000 as follows:- 0.4% per $1,000 on the full amount of the loan.

e.g. For a mortgage of TT$300,000. Stamp Duty = 0.4% of TT$300,000. = TT$1,200.00.

Non-Residential Properties (Land & Commercial Properties) Stamp Duty is calculated on all mortgages for land and commercial properties as follows:- 0.4% per $1,000 on the full amount of the loan.

e.g. Loan requested = $50,000 Stamp Duty = 0.4% of TT$50,000. = TT$200.00.

Conveyance charges and costs:
  1. Legal fees on an average 1.5% of purchase price.
  2. Search fees $500.00.
  3. Registration fee $100.00.
  4. Oath/Copies $100,00.
  5. Preparing Contract $600.00.
  6. Preparing Land Tax Return $200.00.
  7. Preparing Foreign Investment Return $450.00.
  8. Obtaining Valuation Report (if needed) usually 0.5% of the value of the property
  9. Stamp Duty calculated as above (No VAT)
  10. VAT 15% on all except on:- Stamp Duty (9) above and Registration fee (3)above.

If you are purchasing a property with the help of a Mortgage, your Legal fees will usually be double, because there are actually 2 Transfers taking place. The first one is from the Vendor onto you and the second transaction is from you onto the Mortgagee.

Registration
It is only after stamping that the instruments may be registered. Under the Old Law System registration is not compulsory. A purchaser can show good title by producing his original executed deed. However it is advisable not only to have one's deed registered but also to have it registered expeditiously. Every deed that is registered has priority over all other deeds or conveyances of the same property and over all judgment creditors. It is provided by law that an unregistered deed shall be deemed to be fraudulent and void as against any other purchaser for value or mortgagee without notice of the unregistered deed. As a result a subsequent disposition of the same property once registered will rank in priority to the unregistered disposition even though the latter may be first in time.

Under the R.P.O. (Real Property Ordinance) system the situation is quite different. Registration is mandatory. The Real Property Ordinance provides that no instrument shall be effective to pass any estate or interest in lands until registered under the Ordinance.

PLEASE TAKE NOTE: Since 2014 it is mandatory that every Deed which is sent to the Registrar General to be Registered, has to be accompanied by a recent Valuation Report not older than 6 months. The Valuation has to be done by a Valuer or Valuation Company which is a Member of-, or RICS Registered (Royal Institute for Chartered Surveyors). This is usually organized by, and at the expense of the Purchaser.

Once the instrument has been registered the purchaser's Attorney will usually prepare a Return of Ownership Form which the Purchaser must take to the Warden's Office or the District Revenue Office for the particular area in which the land is situated to have their records updated. The property will thereafter be assessed for Lands and Buildings Taxes in the name of the Purchaser.


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GENERAL INFO

Just like most countries Trinidad has a public health service and private nursing homes which are modern and well equipped.
There are numerous schools which are public or private and as in most Countries primary, secondary and tertiary education. Also most religions will be represented whether in private or public schools. It is up to you to decide which is best for your children.
There is an International school in Port of Spain and a University - the University of the West Indies (UWI) - which is located at St. Augustine. There you will find students from all over the world.
Shopping can be an exciting experience in one of the many malls. Besides malls there are also a lot of smaller shops around, practically on every corner.
The typical household income for a middle class family is about TT$5,000. (US$830.) to TT$10,000. (US$1,660.) per month and middle to high income will be between TT$15,000.00. (US$2,500.00) and TT$20,000.00. (US$3,320.00.) per month.
As a point of interest, mention must be made about the lack of a Social Welfare benefit system for the unemployed.
Further it is important for you to know that in Trinidad and Tobago we drive on the LEFT side of the Road.
If you wish to drive yourself and your visit is not exceeding 90 days, all you need is a valid drivers permit from your country together with your passport. Just make sure that you have both on you while driving.

UTILITIES:

  • Electricity supplied by T&TEC and the system frequency is 60 Hertz. The residential tariff is available for all non-commercial use. The typical residential supply is 115/230 Volt, single phase, 3 wire. Commercial and the various industrial tariffs are selected according to plant electrical demand. Other Standard connections available are:
    • 115/230 Volt, 3 phase, 4 wire
    • 230/400 Volt, 3 phase
    • 12000V, 33000V, 66000V or 132000V 3 phase for heavy industry, are generally available by request.
    Power outages can occur, but usually do not last very long.

    Residential electricity rates:
    First 400 kWh = 27 TT cents per kW.
    Next 600 kWh = 31 TT cents per kW.
    Over 1,000 kWh = 35.02 TT cents per kW.
    Customer charge TT$6.00.

    Commercial electricity rates:
    Unit Charge = 39.14 TT cents per kWh.
    Customer charge TT$25.00.

  • Water supplied by WASA (Water And Sewerage Authority) and is safe and potable.
  • Cooking gas can be bought in 20 and 100 Lbs. cylinders. A 20 Lbs. cylinder will last on an average about 1 month with a family of 4. Initially an empty cylinder is purchased for about TT$100. or US$16.65. Empty cylinders can be exchanged for full ones at a cost of TT$25. or US$4. (for a 20 Lbs.),
    usually from a truck which passes once or twice a week.
  • Telephone & Mobile phone services supplied by TSTT (Telecommunications Services of Trinidad and Tobago) and in general very reliable.
  • Cable TV in urban and Direct TV in rural areas available.
  • Banks are accessible throughout the Nation. Exchange rates:
    One (1) U.S. Dollar (cash) = 6.00 TT (Trinidad & Tobago) Dollars
    1 EURO (cash) = 8.50 TT Dollars.
    All major international credit cards are accepted.

FOOD:

A wide variety of foods is available in most supermarkets. However, if you wish to dine out, you have a choice of fast food restaurants - like KFC, Royal Castle, Pizza Boys etc... or local take outs for example: doubles, roti, souse and pelau. For finer dining there are a variety of steak houses and lobster restaurants available.

TAXES:

In Trinidad and Tobago we have a P.A.Y.E. (Pay As You Earn) system. If you need more detailed information I think it is best if you contact the Board of Inland Revenue or a tax accountant/consultant here in Trinidad, as Taxes and Accounting is not really our line of business.

V.A.T. (Value Added Tax) is presently 15%. However, the price tags in the majority of the stores already include V.A.T.

LAND & BUILDING TAXES:

Annual Land Taxes:
TT$10. (US$1.60) per acre or any part thereof.

Annual Taxes for Residential and Commercial Properties:
For Residential and Commercial Properties the Annual Taxes can roughly be based on the Annual Taxable Value (ATV) of the property which can be taken at 1% of the annual rental income expected to be earned on the property LESS 10% for the average time when a property may not be rented or for when the Landlord does not collect rent.
Please note that the basis used is the expected annual rent and not the current market resale value, and will vary from district to district.
For example, if your property is valued at TT$800,000. and can be rented for TT$2,000. a month, your ATV will be:
((TT$2,000 x 12) - 10%) x 1% or in simple figures: (TT$24,000. - TT$2,400) = TT$21,600. x 1% = TT$216. (US$36.) which will be the annual Tax to be paid.

As from March 31st 2010 Property Tax bills will be sent by mail and can be paid up to September 15th without incurring a penalty.
All property Taxes can be paid at any District Revenue Office (no matter where the property is located), all TTPOST payment outlets, through the ATM and through Tele-Banking and OnLine banking at all branches of First Citizens Bank and Republic Bank.
It must be said however, that even with the increase of the property Taxes, the Land- and Land & Building Taxes are still amongst the lowest in the Caribbean.

CRIME AND MY PERSONAL OPINION

Lately I have been getting many questions on the crime rate in Trinidad & Tobago, and the following is my personal opinion.
Unfortunately crime is everywhere, if I would tell you that there is no crime in a particular area, than I would not be honest. However looking at the statistics (and Newspaper reports) the majority of serious crimes take place in North and Central Trinidad. In other words the more South you go the lower the crime rate, and this is of course easy to explain as the population density is much higher in Central and North.
Crime in Tobago is like in South Trinidad, quite low, but I must say that there are many unreported cases in Tobago because of the tourism industry which is almost non existing in South and the so called "Deep" South.
Deep South Trinidad is concerning landscape and beaches very comparable with the Lowlands in Tobago, only without the tourists. Most people do not even know (not even the local population) that the South Western Peninsula has at low tide the longest, widest stretches of beach of Trinidad and Tobago. There are a lot of Rain Forrest areas in the South, but so is almost the entire Northern Range and North West of Tobago. So if you are asking me, South Trinidad is a great place, and many of my past customers agree with me. I myself am originally from Holland, and live already since 1991 in Point Fortin, the most Southern Borough, where you basically can get anything you want or need. I absolutely love it here. Of course, as I mentioned at the beginning of this paragraph, that is my personal opinion, and I am sure that many people who live in Central and North Trinidad do not agree with me. I noticed that for most Trinidadians who live North and Central, and even the ones in San Fernando, Trinidad "ends" just South of San Fernando. Anything more South is referred to as "The Bush", which by the way is not true, but I do not mind that general misconception, because that is what keeps the crime rate here low. After all, as far as criminals are concerned, there is nothing to steal in "the Bush" .... Smile.

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Questions?
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R. Drappier
c/o Siparia Real Estate Agency

#2 Country Trace Junction,
Fanny Village, Point Fortin 700722,
Trinidad, West-Indies.
Phone: (1 868) 750 7127

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