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Housing in Belize
 
 
 

General

Real estate in Belize remains competitively priced and the very first retirement communities are in the stages of planning and construction already. If you prefer to seek independent housing the most popular areas are on the Cayes, around Belize City, and now Northern Belize is also growing in popularity with expatriates.

The cost of living day to day is very cheap, water, electric, telephone, etc, are reasonably priced and if you buy local goods and produce you will find your Belizean dollars go far further than you would even expect. If you purchase imported brand named goods however you will pay more.

Buying a Property

There are no restrictions on foreign ownership of property. The first step to purchasing property in Belize is to hire an agent and a lawyer. It is very important to have legal representation because there is no regulation on the real estate industry in Belize. Agents are not required to have any certification or licence. Moreover, real estate agents in Belize are not required by law to disclose valuable information about the property.

Be aware of “Deed Restrictions”. These are intrinsic to the property title, which means, while there are no restrictions mandated by law, there are restrictions that go with the property owner’s rights and obligations. These restrictions outline how the property can be used. The lawyer can be helpful in making sure the “Deed Restrictions” of a title are legal. Also, it is important to ascertain the property’s zoning. This specifies how high the dwelling/building must be, how many rooms it can contain, etc.

Once a property has been chosen, negotiate. Upon reaching an agreement, a 10% deposit must be paid, which takes the property off the market. It is the duty of the lawyer to ensure that a title for the property actually exists since there are unregistered properties in Belize.

The lawyer is responsible for performing due diligence. It is typical for the buyer and seller to have separate lawyers.

If the property is clear of any charges, proceed with the transaction. The seller will submit his title documents to his lawyer who will draft a new title in your name. Upon receipt of the new title, the lawyer will transfer the outstanding balance, which he will have already asked the buyer to pay to his escrow account, to the seller. He will then submit Transfer of Land forms to the Department of Lands and Surveys in Belmopan, where stamp duty of 15% will be payable (Belizean nationals pay only 5% for stamp duty). The new Land Certificate, in your name, should arrive within three weeks.

Renting a Property

Initial rents can be freely negotiated in Belize. However, the Rent Restriction Act limits the amount of rent increase to 10% annually or to a prescribed level mandated by the Rent Assessment Board of each judicial district.

Payment of the first and the last months’ rent is required from the tenant prior to occupation.

The duration of the tenancy must be specified in the rental agreement. Long-term lease agreements last for a minimum of six months. The agreement is normally written, but if it exceeds three years, it should be by deed.

With regards to settling disputes, a tenant is given seven days to pay the rent due. If he is unable to do so, the landlord can file charges against him and serve a notice to quit. Non-payment of rent, and subletting without the landlord’s knowledge, or as specified in the rental agreement, are legal grounds for eviction.

The law, through a court order, also allows landlords to take the properties of tenants to compensate for damages and unpaid rent. Landlords are also allowed to forcibly enter the property to reclaim it from tenants and claim compensation.