Bahrain property owners denied title deeds
More than 100 homeowners at a top development in Bahrain are being denied the title deeds to their properties because the company behind the development defaulted on a loan from a bank, a report said.
Titles to 141 properties are currently being withheld by the National Bank of Bahrain (NBB) after the land they were built on was offered up in 2011 as additional security for a loan taken by Riffa Views in 2007, added the report in our sister newspaper, the Gulf Daily News (GDN).
Riffa Views defaulted on the loan last summer and the NBB is refusing to hand over the title deeds to home buyers until the debt is cleared.
The property development is encouraging the bank to hand over the deeds, claiming that property owners are now being dragged unfairly into the loan dispute.
However, NBB claims Riffa Views should have told buyers that title deeds for the villas they purchased had been mortgaged.
"NBB has no contractual relationship with the buyers of the houses located in the Riffa Views development," the bank said in a statement to the GDN.
"The houses are mortgaged to NBB by Riffa Views against a loan extended by NBB to Riffa Views. Since the houses are held as security for the loan, the mortgage over the houses cannot be released until Riffa Views meets its obligations under the loan agreement.
"If Riffa Views did not make it clear to buyers that the title deeds of the villas that they purchased were mortgaged to NBB, then the buyers need to take up the issue with Riffa Views.
“Riffa Views management has been repeatedly informed in writing that they need to advise the buyers of the correct position and that NBB reserves its rights against Riffa Views for any reputational and consequential damages."
Riffa Views managing director Yasser Abdulrahman Al Raee admitted that the development had defaulted on a BD47 million ($123.1 million) loan repayment last May.
"The bank has refused to hand over the title deeds until this amount is settled," he said.
"The buyers have bought these properties from their life savings, paid the purchase price in full and completed obligations in the sale agreements, but still do not have the title deeds."
Al Raee wrote to NBB last September, urging the bank to hand over title deeds to property owners who had bought and paid for their homes.
In the letter, which has been seen by the GDN, he claims most of the sale agreements for properties affected were concluded before NBB acquired the title deeds.
"It is grossly unfair for NBB to now prevent these buyers from obtaining their title deeds because of security arrangements put in place years later," says the letter, which was circulated among affected homeowners this month.
The letter claims the value of unsold title deeds was higher than the amount still owed by Riffa Views and that NBB holds other securities - meaning the title deeds to purchased properties could be handed over without any risk.
"We believe therefore that NBB continues to have more than adequate security and will not be prejudiced by releasing title deeds for fully paid villas," Al Raee stated in the letter.
"Please note that a significant number of these buyers have threatened legal action, both against Riffa Views and NBB.
"We believe that NBB should now consider what grounds it has for defending a multiple number of claims and on what grounds it believes it can ever realise security over villas that have been fully paid for by end-user buyers."
Bayden Tierney, who is among Riffa Views homeowners waiting to receive title deeds, said buyers who had fulfilled their obligations had been unfairly caught in the middle.
"We as buyers fulfilled all the contractual terms and unfortunately are not in a position to have the title deeds of our property," he said.
"From a buyer's perspective, we fulfilled all the obligations and still have not received the ownership title deeds, which do not allow us to sell our property. As a buyer we are patient because we understand the difficulties faced by Riffa Views, but NBB should alleviate the problem."
The GDN reported last year that Bahrain's construction sector was facing more than 3,500 job losses because major international and local contractors were struggling to recover large sums of money still owed to them by Riffa Views. Four leading contractors, who had been working on the project since 2006, claimed they were owed in excess of BD20 million.
They were reportedly told no funds were available and the main financing bank, Arcapita Bank, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the US in March after it failed to restructure a $1.1 billion debt due for repayment on March 28 last year.