Following the New Year, the SLRB has implemented Legislative Decree No.13 of 2013 promulgating the Land Registration Law (New Law) replacing Legislative Decree No. 15 of 1979 (Old Law). The New Law was ratified in June 2013 as a result of the ever growing real estate market in Bahrain. Whilst the majority of the provisions of the Old Law have not materially changed, the New Law provides for greater clarity and a refreshed structure.
We have set out below some of the key changes which we believe will affect the transactions we will be assisting with in 2014 and onwards.
1. Registration Fees
The Old Law provided for a tiered registration fee structure as follows:
The New Law replaces the above structure by setting a flat registration fee of 2% on all property sales regardless of the purchase price. This significantly reduces the registration fees for transactions which fall above BHD 120,000. For example, if the purchase price of a property is BHD 1 million, the registration fee under the Old Law would amount to BHD 30,000, whilst the registration fee under the New Law would amount to BHD 20,000.
2. Early Registration Discount
The New Law seeks to further promote early registration of property transactions by increasing the discount on registration fees by 5% to a total of 15% for applications that are submitted for registration at the SLRB within 2 months from the date the prescribed forms of transfer are signed and executed before a Notary Public. As such, if a transaction is registered with the SLRB within 2 months, the purchaser will pay a registration fee of 1.7% (2% x 15%). By way of example, if the purchase price of a property is BHD 1 million, a purchaser is liable to pay a registration fee of BHD 20,000 (i.e. 2% of BHD 1 million). If the purchaser registers the property within 2 months, then the purchaser will only pay BHD 17,000 (i.e. 1.7% of BHD 1 million).
3. Title Deed Copies
Any party with a proven right in a property is now permitted to obtain a copy of the title deed from the SLRB (Article 39 New Law). Previously, only one title deed was issued per property (Article 38 Old Law). Whilst the New Law also confirms that relevant stakeholders are able to apply to receive a certificate detailing their interests in the property, the New Law appears to have abandoned applications for copies of the title plans or plot size area from the SLRB (Article 52 New Law).
4. Corner Plots
The New Law provides further clarity in relation to the sale and purchase of corner plots under 200sqm. As per the Old Law, these plots may only be sold to adjacent land owners or absorbed as government public property (ie. for landscaping etc). However, the New Law establishes that no separate title deed will be issued for these corner plots. Rather, the corner plots will be merged into the existing title deed of the adjacent plot of land. This will ensure that such plots are not independently disposed of at a later stage.
5. Exemption on SLRB Fees
The New Law incorporates the provisions of Prime Ministerial Edict No. (59) of 2006 with respect to exempting certain transactions from the payment of Land Registration Fees. Article 59 of the New Law sets out the circumstances in which an exemption from the SLRB registration charge will apply. These include the following:
- Where title to a property is transferred to the Government of Bahrain;
- Where title to a property is transferred to any Government of the Arab, Islamic, or foreign states for the purposes of using the said property as a headquarter for their political or consular activities in Bahrain;
- Where title to a property is transferred, whether by a donation or conveyance, to charities or endowment institutions;
- Where the purchase of a residential property by an individual is subject to a mortgage from Eskan Bank and the value of the property does not exceed the mortgaged amount;
- Where the title of a property is transferred to banks, foreign retail banks and financial institutions which have obtained a license for Islamic lending in Bahrain and are authorised to own property by the Central Bank of Bahrain;
- Where title to a property is transferred from one company to another, given that the shareholders in one company are the same shareholders in the other company; and
- Where title to a property is transferred from a person to a company which is wholly owned by that person or to a company which is wholly owned by that person's relatives up to the fourth degree.
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.