Notaries work St. Maarten stalled due to non-functioning Kadaster

PHILIPSBURG--The important function of the Land and Mortgage Registry (referred to as the Kadaster in Dutch) is stalled due to vital personnel, who are legally empowered to sign off on all titles and deeds, not being in place.
This situation has severely hampered the work of the country’s civil notaries, the processing of building permits, and finances due to government’s coffers. The country is robbed of very much needed land transfer taxes and other fees until the situation at the Kadaster is solved by government.
If this serious bottleneck is not solved by July 15, the notaries plan to take legal measures against the Kadaster and all related stakeholders “as this no longer is acceptable for and by the public of St. Maarten,” said the notaries in a public statement.
Government is said to be working on the problem affecting the government foundation for almost a month now. Kadaster falls between two ministries – the Finance Ministry and the Public Housing, Spatial Planning, Environment and Infrastructure VROMI.
The Acting Head has been off on sick leave for some weeks now leaving the vital government organ without anyone empowered to sign off on deeds and titles. A temporary appointment by government to remedy this situation is said to be forthcoming.
That news, however, does not put the minds of notaries at ease. Several had sounded the alarm about the state of the Kadaster for over a month now to no avail. The situation, they said, is now unacceptable and untenable. “St. Maarten, post-Hurriance Irma, needs for all stakeholders being government and the private sector to actively contribute and work on the economy.”
“Public and the notaries are being jeopardized as the notaries cannot follow up” on any land or mortgage related cases. “Notaries are being accused of failing to proceed or not carrying out their work with all legal consequences and liabilities by the private sector of which the ministries are not aware and the public is being misinformed,” said the notaries.
Clemens Roos, who was head of the Kadaster Managing board, was legally dismissed by the Court of First Instance as per August 1, 2015. Three years hence and the Kadaster is not functioning as there was no new appointment for a new managing board member, the notaries pointed out.
Furthermore, the supervisory board, of which members are not legally known since there has not been an update of registration of the supervisory board members, have not taken any measures to solve the problems and issues at the Kadaster.
In October 2016, then VROMI Minister Angel Meyers had announced the appointment of the new Supervisory Board members - Louis Crastell Gumbs as chairman, Victoria Dubourcq, Nzinga Lake and Charlesworth Sydney as members.
The then-fifth member, Vincent Boetius, was to be replaced later that month when his term expired. However, he is still listed as a member of the supervisory board on St. Maarten Chamber of Commerce and Industry Registration Excerpt printed out today, July 11, at 9:40am. None of the other board members as announced by Meyers are listed in the excerpt.
Boetius is listed on the excerpt along with Marcia Peterson-Richardson as board member and Erva Marlene Jones-Richardson as member of the supervisory board.
Until recently, the Kadaster supervisory board (along with the ministries involved) appointed the now on medical leave acting head Peterson-Richardson (also a board member) to carry out the function (next to her other work-related activities).
Subsequently the notaries had indicated to government and the Kadaster the serious situation plaguing the government foundation.
“To top it all, a local very hardworking employee on who the notaries could always rely on (but did not have the authorizations to sign and/or approve the registrations of deeds and documents) left the Kadaster after having worked there for 19 years,” said the notaries. “Now, the public and notaries are left with a mortgage conservator and Kadaster with no signing authority for over three weeks.”
The Mortgage Conservator and Land Registry is the administrator and the guardian of the public registries of all immovable properties on St. Maarten. The Mortgage Conservator has to see to it to register all title and rights (including encumbrances such as liens and mortgages) of any type of ownership of immovable property.
Changes in the ownership of an immovable property are being carried out on St. Maarten by a civil law notary via an authentic/notarial deed or by a ruling of the Court.
A civil law notary is legally obliged to submit the deeds or declarations for inscription within the public registries at mortgage conservator (Kadaster) and has to see to it that the title to the immovable property that has been transferred is free and clear of any encumbrances. This final title should be evident from a final title search which is issued by the Mortgage Conservator and subsequently upon receipt of such title search the civil law notary will proceed and pay out parties (for example the seller).
That final title search is, however, subject to the approval and issuance by the authorized signatory on behalf of the Mortgage Conservator who is not present for the last three weeks.
The Kadaster’s responsibilities also consists of topology activities, mortgage registration, assisting the public and government with the plotting of lots, producing certificate of admeasurements, title search, abstracts, sale of properties, keeping records of bank mortgages, attachments and registering of notary deeds, among other activities.
The Daily Herald

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