Cayman Islands: The Real Estate Law Review 5th Ed.; Cayman Islands


The Cayman Islands has adopted the Torrens Title system of land registration.2 This system was introduced to obviate the need for a chain of title and the necessity of tracing the vendor's title through a series of documents (to the extent that there is no need to investigate prior dealings affecting property). The fundamental principle of this system of land registration is title by registration (whereby interests in land pass upon registration and not upon execution of any dealing, resulting in the indefeasibility of a registered interest) rather than registration of title.

The main legislation in relation to the registration of interests of land in the Cayman Islands is the Registered Land Law (2004 Revision) (RLL). Pursuant to the RLL, the title (also known as the register) for each parcel of land in the Cayman Islands is created by a system of land registration (registration), which is maintained by the Registrar of Lands (Registrar).

Additionally, the register for each parcel of land in the Cayman Islands sets out the proper description and location of the land, the ownership of the land and the identity of any parties claiming an interest in the land by way of security or otherwise. Unregistered or 'overriding' interests (being statutory exceptions to indefeasibility of title) in land are created pursuant to Section 28 of the RLL.

Overriding interests are defined by Section 28 of the RLL as follows:

  1. rights of way, rights of water and any easement or profit subsisting at the time of the first registration under the Law;
  2. natural rights of light, air, water and support;
  3. rights of compulsory acquisition, resumption, entry, search, user or limitation of user conferred by any other law;
  4. leases or agreements of leases for a term not exceeding two years, and periodic tenancies (in certain exceptions);
  5. any unpaid monies that, without reference to registration under the Law, are expressly declared by any law to be charged upon the land;
  6. rights acquired or in the process of being acquired by virtue of any law relating to the limitation of actions or by prescription;
  7. the rights of a person in actual occupation of land or in receipt of rents and profits, save where enquiries made of such a person and the rights are not disclosed; and
  8. electric supply lines, telephone and telegraphic lines or poles, pipelines, aqueducts, canals, weirs and dams erected, constructed or laid in pursuance or by virtue of any power conferred by any law.

No disposition of land (whether by way of transfer, charge or otherwise) is effective unless registered in accordance with the terms of the RLL. Priority of competing interests is determined by the order in which instruments are actually registered.

The government guarantees the correctness of each register. Part X of the RLL provides for the indemnification by the government with moneys provided by the Legislative Assembly (Parliament) in respect of errors or omissions that cannot be rectified by the Registrar or the courts.

Generally, there are no restrictions for individuals or companies purchasing one residential property for personal use and up to two further residential properties for rent. However, if that number is exceeded, this will be deemed as carrying on trade and business in the Cayman Islands, and suitable business licensing will be required.3

Ownership of commercial real estate by either an individual or a company will also be deemed as carrying on a trade and business in the Cayman Islands, and suitable business licensing will be required.4

If a purchaser wishes to acquire a property in the name of a company, it will need to be purchased in the name of either a Cayman Islands ordinary company (ordinary company), a Cayman Islands branch (foreign company) or a Cayman Islands exempted limited liability company (exempted company) (although an exempted company is an unpopular choice for reasons set out in Section IV, infra).5


2015 was a strong year in terms of real estate activity in the Cayman Islands and 2016 looks like it is going to be strong too.

There was an abundance of activity in the hotel tourism sector, including:

  1. the sale of the Sunshine Suites Resort to a US fund;
  2. the sale of the Grand Cayman Marriott Beach Resort;
  3. the sale of the Westin Grand Cayman Seven Mile Beach Resort & Spa to a US fund;
  4. the sale of the Treasure Island Resort to a Canadian-based consortium;
  5. the ongoing construction of the Kimpton Hotel on Seven Mile Beach; and
  6. the proposed construction of a Conrad Resort at Beach Bay, Grand Cayman.

Additionally, the Dart Group and the Cayman Islands government came to an agreement regarding the acquisition of various sections of West Bay Road on Seven Mile Beach, which will be strategic for the next phases of its Camana Bay Development.

On the infrastructure front, the Owen Roberts International Airport is in the process of being expanded dramatically and the government is in the process of discussing the development of a cruise port in George Town to accommodate the Genesis class of cruise ships.


As mentioned in Section I, supra, individuals or companies may purchase up to one residential property for personal use and two further residential properties for rent without the need for trade and business licensing.

As also previously mentioned, the ownership of commercial real estate by either an individual or company will be deemed as carrying on trade and business in the Cayman Islands, and suitable business licensing will be required.

The primary legislation dealing with business licensing in the Cayman Islands is the Trade and Business Licensing Law (2007 Revision) (TBL Law) and the Local Companies Control Law (2007 Revision) (LCC Law).

Besides the exemptions set out above, an individual or a corporation engaging in almost any business locally is required to be licensed under the TBL Law (TBL licence). The provisions of this Law are mainly administrative. Depending on the nature of the business, certain other approvals may need to be secured in connection with the grant of the TBL licence (e.g., approvals from the Department of Environmental Health or from the Central Planning Authority of the Cayman Islands).

The application procedure for the TBL licence consists of completing the prescribed application form, and providing corporate information and certain other due diligence documents relating to the applicant to the TBL Board together with a cover letter outlining details of the business to be conducted. Currently, a processing fee of US$92 must be paid along with the licence fee as set out in the schedule to the particular law attributed to the business in question (licensing fees currently range between US$183 and US$487,808).

The applicant is able to designate a trading name for the business, which may be different from the name of the applicant. Such a name is subject to the approval of the TBL Board.

The TBL licence is renewable annually, and the renewal application form must be submitted 28 days prior to the expiry of the current licence together with the process and renewal fees (which are identical to the fees submitted on the initial application).

For an application to be entertained pursuant to the TBL Law, the applicant, if an individual, must possess Caymanian status or hold a work permit; if a corporation, the applicant must either be beneficially owned or controlled up to at least 60 per cent by persons of Caymanian status, or hold a licence under the LCC Law (LCC licence).

Where an LCC licence is required, the application should be made in conjunction with the TBL licence, as the TBL Board is also responsible for approving the LCC licence.

An LCC licence will not be required where the company falls into one of the following exempted categories (although a TBL licence will normally need to be held in these cases, unless an exemption exists pursuant to law):

  1. the company has 60 per cent Caymanian shareholders, who maintain 60 per cent of the economic and voting control of the company (the TBL Board must be satisfied that effective control is not, either directly or indirectly, or by reason of any arrangement, artifice or device, invested in, or permitted to pass to, persons who are not Caymanians (e.g., by way of shareholders' agreements, special share classes provided for in constitutional documents)). The TBL Board applies this rule (the 60/40 rule) strictly;
  2. the applicant has successfully applied to the Governor in Cabinet of the Cayman Islands subject to Section 4(3) of the LCC Law that exceptional circumstances exist (having regard to the public interest) to exempt the applicant from the provisions of the LCC Law (which may be done subject to such terms and conditions as the Governor in Cabinet may deem fit); or
  3. the applicant falls within one of the exceptions to the meaning of carrying on business as set out in Section 2(2) of the LCC Law, including the following:
  • the applicant is carrying on, from a principal place of business in the Cayman Islands, business exterior to the Cayman Islands;
  • the applicant is doing business in the Cayman Islands with any person, firm or corporation in furtherance only of the business of that company carried on exterior to the Cayman Islands;
  • the applicant is buying or selling or otherwise dealing shares, bonds, debenture stock, obligations, mortgages or other securities issued or created by any exempted company, foreign partnership or a resident corporation incorporated abroad;
  • the applicant is transacting banking business in the Cayman Islands with and through a licensed bank;
  • the applicant is effecting or concluding contracts in the Cayman Islands and exercising in the Cayman Islands all other powers, so far as may be necessary, for the carrying on of the business of the company exterior to the Cayman Islands;
  • the business of an exempted company is with another exempted company, a foreign partnership or a resident corporation incorporated abroad;
  • the business is carried on by a mutual fund as defined by the Mutual Funds Law (2013 Revision) in the course of holding common management of an investment, or the acquisition or disposal of an investment;
  • the activity is the administration of mutual funds by a person licensed as a mutual fund administrator under the Mutual Funds Law (2013 Revision); or
  • the applicant's business is otherwise exempt from requiring an LCC licence.

Companies that are unable to avail themselves of one of the exceptions set out above will require an LCC licence, which, once obtained, will exempt them from complying with the 60/40 rule. An LCC licence enables a company to have more than 40 per cent foreign ownership and control where approved by the TBL Board.

The award of an LCC licence is discretionary, and the following factors, inter alia, will be taken into account by the TBL Board when considering an application:

  1. the economic situation of the Cayman Islands and the due protection of persons already engaged in business in the Cayman Islands;
  2. the nature and previous conduct of the company and any persons having an interest in that company, whether as directors, shareholders or otherwise;
  3. the advantage or disadvantage that may result from the company carrying on business in the Cayman Islands;
  4. the desirability of retaining in the control of Caymanians the economic resources of the Cayman Islands;
  5. the efforts made by the company to obtain Caymanian participation;6
  6. the number of additional people from outside the Cayman Islands who would be required to reside in the Cayman Islands were the application to be granted;
  7. whether the company, its directors, and employees have and are likely to continue to have the necessary professional, technical and other knowledge to carry on the business proposed by the company;
  8. the finances of the company and the economic feasibility of its plans;
  9. whether the true ownership and control of the company have been satisfactorily established; and
  10. the environmental and social consequences that would result from the carrying on of the business proposed by the company.

Foreign investment, if considered beneficial to the Cayman Islands economy, is generally encouraged.

The initial and annual licence fee for an LCC licence is currently US$3,049, plus an initial and annual application and processing fee of US$244. The LCC licence is issued for a duration of no longer than 12 years, and in January of each year, the company will be required to file a return of shareholdings with the TBL Board as at 31 December of the previous year.

An existing foreign corporation wishing to purchase or lease (or otherwise hold an interest in) real estate in the Cayman Islands must be registered at the Cayman Islands Companies Registry as a foreign company; such a registration will then enable the corporation to apply for a TBL licence and an LCC licence (if required). Additionally, overseas investors may wish to incorporate an ordinary company and, once incorporated, the ordinary company will be able to own and lease Cayman Islands real estate and apply for a TBL licence and an LCC licence (if required).


A popular structure for holding real estate is through an ordinary company.

Subject to licensing requirements, this type of company will be able to own and lease Cayman Islands property, hire Cayman Islands-based employees, transact business, both with the public of the Cayman Islands and internationally, and apply for a TBL licence and an LCC licence (subject to the criteria mentioned in Section III, supra).

While the fees for establishing an ordinary company are more attractive than for other types of companies, there are additional annual and other requirements that must be met to maintain an ordinary company (e.g., holding an annual general meeting (which may be done by proxy) and filing an annual declaration outlining details of shareholdings with the Registrar of Companies). The annual return must detail, inter alia, the names and addresses of shareholders and the number of shares held by them, the amount of the capital of the company and the number of shares into which it is divided, and various details about calls made on shares. An ordinary company is not able to apply for a tax exemption certificate (TEC). An ordinary company is one whose primary purpose is to carry out business in the Cayman Islands, and is therefore the main vehicle that is recommended where the business will entail direct dealings with the public of the Cayman Islands.

Another popular structure for holding real estate is through a foreign company. The foreign company model is particularly useful if a foreign company wants to operate a physical presence in the Cayman Islands directly without setting up a separate legal entity, and it may do so by registering under Part 9 of the Companies Law (2013 Revision).

Subject to satisfying licensing requirements, the foreign company will be able to own and lease Cayman Islands property, hire Cayman Islands-based employees, transact business both with the Cayman Islands public and internationally, and apply for a TBL licence and an LCC licence (subject to the various criteria for these; see Section III, supra). When selecting the structure, certain activities of the main company (even where these are not conducted from within the Cayman Islands) could cause the foreign company to be subject to additional licensing requirements under Cayman Islands law. Examples of businesses where additional licensing may be imposed include banks, trust companies, insurance companies, management companies, mutual funds, mutual fund administrators or entities carrying on securities investment business.

The least popular form of investment vehicle is the Cayman Islands exempted company. This type of company will, in limited circumstances, be able to own or lease Cayman Islands property, hire Cayman Islands-based employees, and transact business internationally (but generally not with the public of the Cayman Islands).

The objects of an exempted company must be carried out mainly outside the Cayman Islands, and it is not permitted to trade in the Cayman Islands with any person, firm or corporation accepting furtherance of the business of the exempted company carried on outside the Cayman Islands. This does not prevent the exempted company from effecting contracts in the Cayman Islands and exercising in the Cayman islands all of its powers necessary for the carrying on of its business outside the Cayman Islands.

As a result, an exempted company structure usually suits a company that wants to own or lease an office to transact business externally from the Cayman Islands. Additionally, an exempted company may apply for a TEC.

To continue reading this article, please click here


* George Loutas is an associate at Maples and Calder.

2 Originally conceived by Sir Robert Torrens in South Australia.

3 Sections III and IV of the RLL.

4 Ibid.

5 Section III of the RLL.

6 The TBL Board requires this condition to be fulfilled by means of public advertising. Such a requirement may be waived under various circumstances, and guidelines are provided by the TBL Board on the timing and content of such advertisements.

Previously published by Law Business Research

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Events from this Firm
28 Apr 2016, Webinar, George Town, Cayman Islands

A topical discussion on recent updates covering some of the more frequently asked questions around FATCA and CRS.

29 Jun 2016, Webinar, George Town, Cayman Islands

This webcast focuses on the impact FATCA and CRS are having on structured finance vehicles set up in the BVI, Cayman Islands and Ireland and covers in detail the impending reporting and notification deadlines in each of these jurisdictions.

11 Aug 2016, Webinar, George Town, Cayman Islands

Our panel of experts will reflect on the impact of LLCs in the month since the first available registration date and discuss why the LLC was introduced and how it can be used to help our clients.

Some comments from our readers…
“The articles are extremely timely and highly applicable”
“I often find critical information not available elsewhere”
“As in-house counsel, Mondaq’s service is of great value”

Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.