Bar Association welcomes High Court ruling against City Hall

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STATEMENT BY THE BAR ASSOCIATION OF GUYANA ON THE RULING OF THE HONOURABLE JUSTICE GINO PETER PERSAUD IN THE MATTER OF THE BAR ASSOCIATION OF GUYANA v THE TOWN CLERK OF GEORGETOWN – ACTION NO. 2019-HC-DEM-CIV-FDA-1975 

From time to time, in fulfilment of its mandate to uphold the Rule of Law, The Bar Association of Guyana participates in litigation before the Courts.

In High Court Proceedings No. 2019-HC-DEM-CIV-FDA-1975, the Bar Association challenged the decision of the Mayor & Councillors for the City of Georgetown though its officer, The Town Clerk, (M&CC) to charge the fee of 0.5% of the current market value of a subject property, together with the submission of certain documents for the issuance of a Certificate of Compliance.

The Certificate of Compliance is required for the passing of voluntary conveyances pursuant to S. 16A of the Deeds Registry Act, Cap. 5:01.

Yesterday, the Honourable Justice Gino Peter Persaud in the above mentioned action granted judgment in favour of the Bar Association. The Honourable Judge made the following Judicial Review Orders –

  1. It is hereby ORDERED and DECLARED that the decision of the Respondent published to the general public by way of Notice on 20 June, 2019 was unlawful and ultra vires the Municipal and District Councils Act, Cap. 28:01 and Section 16A of the Deeds Registry, Act, Chapter 5:01 and is consequently null and void.
  2. An Order of Certiorari be and is hereby granted quashing the decision of the Respondent that with effect from July 1, 2019 persons applying for a Certificate of Compliance under Section 16A of the Deeds Registry Act, Chapter 5:01 must submit the certified copies and originals of the following documents, to wit: (i) 2019 General Rates Receipt (ii) Current Market Valuation (iii) Valid Identification Card (iv) Letter of Administration and Death Certificate (if owner(s) are deceased) (v) Agreement of Sale (vi) Deed of Gift and the Affidavit of Donor and Donee (if the property is to be transferred as Gift/Trust) and pay the fee of 0.5% of the current market valuation of the property. 
  3. An Order of Prohibition be and is hereby granted prohibiting the Respondent from enforcing and/or acting upon the aforesaid decision and/or demanding the 19 aforesaid fee or documents in order to issue a Certificate of Compliance under Section 16A of the Deeds Registry, Act, Chapter 5:01.

The Court further granted costs in favour of the Bar Association in the sum of $150,000.00 (one hundred and fifty thousand dollars).

This decision follows in a similar vein, the recent decision of the Honourable Justice Navindra Singh, in the later filed proceedings, Gerald Bhoodram et al v Town Clerk of Georgetown – Action No. 2021-HC-DEM-CIV-FDA-943, in which the Court also quashed the decision of the M&CC to impose the aforesaid fee of 0.5% and ordered the return of the fee so charged after the 8th July, 2015.

The said Action by the Bar Association goes further as it also quashes the decision of the M&CC to demand the submission of certain onerous and superfluous documents (listed at 2. above) for the issuance of the requisite compliance for the passing of a conveyance (Transport and or Certificate of Title).

A Certificate of Compliance is required by S. 16A of the Deeds Registry Act, Cap. 5:01 to certify that the payment of rates and taxes for a subject property is up to date and not in arrears.

The requirement for the Certificate was aimed at ensuring tax compliance and not in itself intended to be a revenue earner as the M&CC appeared to be so doing.

The Court is pellucid. The Mayor & Councillors for the City of Georgetown, and by extension any such body with the responsibility for the issuance of such Certificates, CANNOT charge a fee for so doing. Neither can they demand the aforesaid documents to so do.

The Bar Association welcomes the decision of His Honour as it grants much relief to the property owners within the city of Georgetown who have had to suffer staggering costs and an unnecessarily complicated process resulting in hardship and financial loss.

Dated 9th February, 2022.

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