Thursday, July 31, 2008

Real Estate in Jamaica - The Witness to Signatures

One of the annoying little issues that parties in the real estate transaction should be aware of is that of proper attestation of documents abroad. I have had to return documents to clients, sometimes repeatedly (hence the annoyance), because they do not comply with the law in terms of attestation, or having their signatures properly witnessed. Signatories must realize that failing to comply with the legal requirement will result in a rejection of the document at the National Land Agency and hence delay in completion of the process, not to mention the cost of returning the document for proper execution.

Section 152 of the Registration of Titles Act governs this issue. For the purpose of this post I will set out the proper persons who can witness documents signed abroad:

Great Britain or Northern Island:
1. The Mayor or Deputy Mayor
2. Chief Magistrate or Deputy Magistrate Chief Magistrate
3. Notary Public
Any other Commonwealth country:
1. The Governor
2. Commander-in-chief
3. Judge of any court
4. Mayor or Chief Magistrate
5. Notary Public
A foreign country or state
1. The Jamaican or British Consular Officer
2. Notary Public.
The latter often creates a problem, as there is a proviso under the Act that there must be annexed to instruments witnessed by a Notary Public in a Foreign State or Country a certificate from the appropriate officer within that country or state that the Notary Public is duly commissioned and practicing in such State or Country and that full faith or credit can be given to his acts. What this means is that if you sign an instrument in Florida and your signature is witnessed by a notary public you must take another step of obtaining an original certificate (see sample below) from the authority that appointed the notary public, that simply verifies that at the time he witnessed your signature he was a duly commissioned notary public in that state.

For some reason clients fail to obtain this certificate, often referred to as an apostille, they tell you that the notary public says his stamp showing the date of his commission is fine, or that he does not know where to get the certificate or that he provided a copy of this certificate of appointment as a notary. These excuses will not be entertained by the National Land Agency and your document will be rejected.
If however you have a problem getting the certificate (Floridians have to send to Tallahassee) then try to find the nearest Jamaican or British consulate and request that the consular officer act as witness.