The laws governing property in Saint Lucia, while unique in some instances, are not complicated. All aspects of property ownership and buying and selling property including, title searches, sale and purchase agreements, how property is taxed, and the loan process when borrowing from local banks to finance a project.
Because St. Lucia is such a desirable location to start or expand a business, retire, own rental property, or build a vacation home, citizens worldwide continue to locate here. There are specific legal requirements which apply to the acquisition of property and operation of a business by non-nationals. When you are planning to invest in a business, develop real estate, or lease commercial space, you will need a skilled attorney with extensive knowledge of St. Lucia commercial real estate laws who can guide you through the process confidently and efficiently.
Buying Commercial Real Estate in St. Lucia
Commercial ventures are like residential ones but decidedly more complex. Commercial real estate transactions require more robust due diligence. Under St. Lucia law, a qualified legal practitioner acting as a Notary Royal is required to execute any document intending to transfer title to the property.
St. Lucia real estate is usually freehold, although leasehold title can be created through the registration of leases over freehold property. There is also property which by its very nature is leasehold, known as the Kings Chain, and comprises beachfront or other coastal property a distance of 186.5 feet from the high-water mark.
Commercial buyers regardless of nationality must also pay stamp duties and other fees and record a Hypothecary Obligation if the property is securing the mortgage.
On the sale of any property, the seller will incur a sales tax known as vendor's tax. The rate applicable is different for nationals and non-nationals. At Athena Law, our Principal Attorney can attend to all these aspects and more, ensuring that prospective buyers and sellers feel empowered in their transaction process.
Buying Commercial Real Estate as a Foreign National
The Alien Landholding (Licensing) Act was passed into law in March 2020, replacing an older version. This Act makes provisions for and sets out the requirements for non-nationals and or foreign-controlled companies to purchase or lease property in St. Lucia and to enter and reside in the country. The two-step process is managed by the Citizenship by Investment Unit.
The Certificate of Eligibility
Foreign nationals or foreign-controlled entities must apply for a Certificate of Eligibility as the first prong of the process. A certificate can be good for 1 year or 10 years. As long as the certificate has not expired, the holder can use it to apply for an Alien Landholding Licence as often as needed for each property acquired.
Persons applying for a Certificate of Eligibility must provide a police background check from their home country from an agency acceptable to the processing unit, a certified copy of their passport, bank references, and a birth certificate among other documents. Corporate applicants must provide the documents required for an individual applicant for each director/shareholder as well as incorporation documents, and a certificate of good standing from the country the business is registered in.
The Alien Landholding Licence
Once the application for a Certificate of Eligibility is approved, the investor can apply for the Alien Landholding Licence.
A licence is issued for one purchase at a time. When applying, the law requires precise information, including the current owner, where the property is located, the price paid, and how the purchaser plans to use the land. The licence may be subject to various conditions related to the time frame for developing the property, land use and also provides that any license issued must be registered at the land registry office within 90 days.
Athena Law Can Help You Navigate St. Lucia Commercial Real Estate Laws
When your love of island life in a country that welcomes commercial and residential investors from around the world has drawn you to start or expand your business, you will need the help of an experienced and skilled attorney. St. Lucia commercial real estate laws are precise, and the process of buying property in a foreign country can be daunting to those unfamiliar with the island's workings.
At Athena Law, our Principal Attorney can help you craft documents appropriate to purchasing or leasing property and guide you step by step through the application process whether you are a citizen or a foreign national. Let us put our decades of experience to work to make your transaction seamless.