WEBSTER’s office reopened one week after Hurricane Irma (“HI”), with all our teams up and running, and responding in our usual efficient manner to all client enquiries. In addition many of our lawyers have been involved in voluntary activities assisting the Anguilla community to rebuild their homes.
Some important issues in relation to Real Estate transactions and information for property owners in Anguilla are set out below:
Many commercial buildings and private homes in Anguilla were damaged by the storm and the community has been busy rebuilding. Many are viewing this as an opportunity to build bigger and better homes. Beach resorts also suffered damage although a number of the smaller and medium sized ones have already reopened, with the larger resorts due to follow suit from as early as March this year. As in most other countries, property owners who wish to change their properties during the rebuild may need to consult with the planning department and, in some cases, apply for planning permission. This is usually readily granted in Anguilla. Nonetheless, bearing in mind that Anguilla has developed an excellent reputation for safe construction to withstand hurricanes and earthquakes to which the Caribbean as a whole is prone, it should not be assumed that safety standards required are the same or lower than in other places. Those property owners who hold their property subject to an Aliens Landholding Licence may need to check the terms and conditions subject to which they hold the property prior to carrying out any alteration work.
The majority of properties in Anguilla will have the benefit of an insurance policy. Many property owners have no doubt already instigated their claims for loss and damage sustained as a result of HI. It is imperative that property owners properly document the damage and review their policies carefully in order to be aware of time limits, exclusions and any obligations the policy may have placed on the property owner to secure their property themselves during the storm. There may also be a term in the insurance policy allowing the holder to rent alternative property, at the insurer’s expense, whilst the insured property is being returned to a habitable state. In the event that legal assistance is required with any of these matters, our team is available to assist property owners with the necessary expertise to achieve their objectives in a friendly and time efficient manner.
Many view the devastation caused by HI as an opportunity to invest in Anguilla, with commercially attractive prices and a Government keen to attract new investors. In addition, the Government has plans to increase international tourism by expanding Anguilla’s airport and potentially also to build additional docking facilities to accommodate larger yachts and ships. We believe that this is a new era for Anguilla with exciting new development and growth foreseen in the immediate future.
Vacation & Local Rental Pool
It is yet to be determined how the passage of HI will affect vacation villa rentals in Anguilla. An article from the British newspaper, The Sunday Times (link below) entitled “The 18 best holiday ideas for 2018”, listed Anguilla as one of those destinations. This is an encouraging sign that tourists will not be deterred from visiting.
In the event that home owners wish to change the status of their properties either into vacation rental or long term rental they are advised to check their aliens landholding licences, the covenants contained in their sales contracts, whether expressly or impliedly, the terms of their original planning permission and the terms of any other legal agreements affecting their property, to ensure compliance with local laws including the Villa Rental Business Regulation Act.
In addition those who wish to rent homes whilst theirs are being reconstructed will need to review carefully the terms of the lease to ensure it is appropriate for their intended purposes and does not contain any unduly onerous terms. Those living in rental properties during the storm will need to consult the terms of their lease to ascertain who is responsible for repairs to the property.
Regulations to exempt from Customs Duties following HI
On 6th September 2017 the Government of Anguilla issued the Customs (Duty Exemption) (Hurricane Irma Relief) (No. 2) Regulations, 2017 in order to facilitate the repair, reconstruction and refurnishing of the buildings in Anguilla. In effect it reduced customs duties to zero on many items.
The Regulations applied to:
• churches, benevolent societies and community organizations
• private businesses
• private individuals
The period of the exemption was originally from 6th September 2017 to December 2017 and has now been extended to 31st March 2018. It has greatly assisting the people living and doing business in Anguilla.
Normally, items that are imported into Anguilla attract customs duty at a rate of 5 per cent to 20 per cent depending on the nature of the item in question. Exemptions or reductions in the customs duties can sometimes be available upon application on a case by case basis and our team has extensive experience advising on the application process and likelihood of success.
Impact on the work force
All businesses in Anguilla will no doubt have been affected in some way by HI and may require employment law advice in relation to dealing with employees. This may be in relation to flexible working hours, additional hours, ceasing to work for a period of time or potentially, redundancies. The Anguilla Fair Labour Standards Act sets out the rights of the employer and employees in these circumstances and our team is experienced in advising on all aspects of employment law.
In addition foreign workers will need to review their work permits and be aware of the work permit application and renewal procedures.
In the event that you would like more information about the above or general legal advice please contact our firm’s Managing Associate, Sarah Barrington on email@example.com who will be delighted to assist.