Land Purchasers Urged: Don't Use Vendor's Attorney

By NEIL HARTNELL Tribune Business Editor ARAWAK Homes executives yesterday warned Bahamians not to use the same attorney as the seller when purchasing real estate, given the potential for 'conflicts of interest' to arise. Speaking after the developer won a Court of Appeal ruling further confirming its title to land in the Sir Lynden Pindling Estates area, which has been the subject of legal battles dating back 27 years, Tavares LaRoda, an assistant in-house legal counsel at Arawak Homes, said it was sometimes a sign 'things were not quite as they should be' when vendors encouraged buyers to use their attorney to complete the same transaction. "Be very, very careful about the attorney you select in the purchase of real estate," Mr LaRoda told Tribune Business. "A rule of thumb is don't use the same attorney as being used by the vendor. "Don't do it, unless in the most rare circumstances where you have a degree of confidence that's exceptional." Pointing out that the attorney was "conflicted", especially if a dispute between vendor and purchaser arose, Mr LaRoda added: "If there's some craftiness going on, one of the things vendors do is encourage you to use his attorney, as that attorney is likely to be part of the conspiracy. That, though, would be very difficult to prove." Others, though, have gone further and urged the Government, and Parliament, to pass legislation that would bar Bahamian attorneys from representing both sides in the same transaction. Chris Fleming, a homeowner and one of the leading figures battling the developers at the $52 million Oceania Heights project in Exuma, recently told Tribune Business that the Bahamas needed to pass a law banning attorneys from representing both sides in a deal. "There are enough lawyers in the Bahamas, over 1,000," Mr Fleming said. "A single lawyer cannot handle both sides of a transaction. That's a conflict of interest. That's ripe for conflict. That needs to be changed." Mr Fleming and a group of Oceania Heights homeowners have accused attorney Anthony Thompson of representing both sides in their real estate transactions without disclosing to them that he had a beneficial ownership interest in the development. This has been denied, though, by Mr Thompson. Meanwhile, Arawak Homes' Mr LaRoda expressed hope that the outcome of the developer's Court of Appeal case would give the private sector and individuals "confidence" that the judicial system worked as a means of dispute resolution. "It takes a lot of time, and is very, very expensive to pursue," he said. "However, if you believe in the strength of your case, by and large the system works. "If you are prepared to stay the course, the system works, but it takes a big risk and a big gamble, and takes a lot of money, resources and time."


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