“Deslinde” Procedure Necessary for Real Estate Transactions after April 4, 2009

The new Property Registry Law (Law #108-05) that has been in effect since April 4, 2007, and its enabling regulations, have drastically changed Dominican real estate law. One essential element of this modernization has been the requirement of a “deslinde” for all real estate transactions: purchases, sales, mortgages, condominium formation, etc.

A “deslinde” (“segregation” in English) is the legal procedure by which a portion of land within a parcel is segregated from all the other portions within the same parcel. In other words, the deslinde procedure converts a provisional title that guarantees the property right of ownership for a portion of land within a bigger parcel into a definite title that guarantees the ownership of an individual parcel. The result of the procedure is that the segregated portion will become its own parcel with its individual cadastral designation, guaranteed by a definite title. The majority of jurisdictions around the world only recognize and register segregated portions of land and do not allow any transactions of portions of land that are not segregated. The purpose of the new Property Registry Law is to reach exactly the same level of sophistication and security as these modern jurisdictions have had for a long time: no recorded property rights without a deslinde.

The deslinde requirement introduces such a profound change to the Dominican land registry system that the law establishes a transitional period – from April 4, 2007 until April 4, 2009– during which real estate transactions of properties without a “deslinde” are still possible, although severely restricted. Beginning April 4, 2009, however, real estate transactions without a deslinde will be prohibited. This means that from that date forward, the Registrar of Titles will not record any real estate transaction of a property without a “deslinde”.

Although this itself is a small revolution –in the past most property transactions took place without a deslinde– the modernization of the Dominican Property Registry Law goes much further. The procedure itself has been significantly modified. Under the new law, the surveyor has to use G.P.S. coordinates to segregate the property. In addition, it is now mandatory that the deslinde go through a judicial phase at the First Instance Land Court, requiring assistance by an attorney, as opposed to the old system, when the vast majority of the deslindes were handled administratively without contradiction, giving rise to widespread fraud. The current procedure is divided into three phases:

1. The “survey phase”. A certified surveyor measures the property using G.P.S. coordinates, after having given notice to all the owners of the neighboring properties. Once finished, the survey is submitted to the Regional Survey Office (a dependency of the Superior Land Court) for review. If approved, the Office provides the new parcel with a new cadastral designation and allows the procedure to continue to the second phase.

2. The “judicial phase”. The deslinde goes to the First Instance Land Court where neighbors or any interested third party may object to the deslinde. Parties must be represented by attorneys in this phase. After debate, the Judge rules on the deslinde petition. This ruling is subject to appeals. If the deslinde is approved, the Judge authorizes the Registrar of Title to cancel the old provisional title and to issue the new definite title with the new cadastral designation.

3. The “registration phase”. The Judge’s ruling is executed by the Registrar of Titles cancelling the old provisional title and issuing the new definite title.

As mentioned, beginning April 4, 2009, real estate transaction of non-“deslinded” properties will be prohibited. Our recommendation, therefore, is for you to check if you own any property without a deslinde, and if you do, or are not sure if you do or not, please contact us at Guzmán Ariza in order to assist you in this matter.