By José Manuel Pallí, Esq.
A succession of laws and regulations containing provisions affecting the recording system were adopted in order to set aside the “old” Registro de la Propiedad. They included provisions in the Agrarian Reform Laws, Urban Reform Laws and Housing Laws, which created new registries that would replace the existing one, segregating the recording of titles to urban lots from from that of rural land, for example. However, most of these new recording schemes were never even implemented. The overseers of this revolutionary (in name only) recording system were diverse. They ranged from the Agrarian Ministry to the Housing Ministry to the municipalities, but the registro’s natural and sensible connection to the legal system under the supervision of the Ministry of Justice called for under pre-revolutionary law was eliminated. The result: For almost 30 years there was no land title recording activity in Cuba.
But in the early 1990s, as the world dramatically changed and Cuba was left without the Soviet life support system, the consequent realization that an opening of Cuban society was, eventually, inevitable, gave way to a reassessment of a well-conceived and operated land title recording system. Cuban lawyers were well aware that their 1880 Mortgage Law (Ley Hipotecaria) remained part of their laws. It had never been formally abrogated or rescinded, though technically, it appeared to be superseded by some of the provisions I refer to above. They in turn, in my understanding, resorted to it as a blueprint for the reform, if not necessarily a re-birth, of their recording system.
This reform process began in 1998, with the sanction of Decreto Ley 185/98, which modified Cuba’s Housing Law, just as the recent “Cubans can now sell their houses” Decreto Ley 288/11did. And, subtly — even unassumingly — Decreto 185, in my opinion, opened the door for the old “Spanish model” Registro de la Propiedad to be brought back to life. The Spanish seal was made even more evident by the fact that most of the very bright and capable lawyers that were to be put in charge of the Cuban land title recording system were being trained in Spain, by Spanish registrars. The Colegio de Registradores de Valencia was assigned this task through an agreement between the Spanish and Cuban governments (Spain’s government was then presided by don José María Aznar). This was a teaching process that, surprisingly, seems to have waned over the past almost eight years of Socialist government in Spain. But the brand-new Spanish government is led by don Mariano Rajoy, a politician who is also a Registrador de la Propiedad by trade, and despite the fact that, amid the chaotic events that frame his inauguration, Cuba may not be for him the Number One priority we Cubans believe it should be, Rajoy’s advent may turn out to be excellent news for the reform of the recording system in Cuba.
This 1998 law also gave back to the Ministry of Justice the supervision over the recording system. It marks the starting point of a careful, stage-by-stage re-evaluation of Cuba’s recording needs, and an even more cautious implementation of what seems to be akin to the Spanish system of old, as I could see for myself when I was allowed to visit the recording office at La Lisa back in January 2003, one of the registros then serving Havana (I felt as if I was at any small town recording office in Spain). If you want to explore the topic any further — or if you are having trouble with insomnia — you may browse (or drowse) through these two pieces I wrote years back, when Cuba’s reform of its registros was in its early stages:
The same day Decreto Ley 288/11 was published in the Gaceta Oficial de Cuba, and in the very same issue of the Gaceta, you will find Resolución No. 324/11, issued by Cuba’s National Housing Institute (Instituto Nacional de la Vivienda or INAVI), which adopts a procedure for bringing real property titles up to date (Procedimiento para la Actualización de los Titulos de Propiedad y su Inscripción en los Registros de la Propiedad), under the light of the changes brought by Decreto Ley 288.
This resolution from the INAVI — and the way it apparently interacts with other recording rules and regulations in force in Cuba, mainly Resolución 114/2007 of the Ministry of Justice, which establishes the rules and procedures for the organization and operation of Cuba’s land title recording system (Normas y Procedimientos para la Organización y Funcionamiento del Registro de la Propiedad) — will be the subject of my next column here on Cuba Standard. I may even venture into crystal ball territory and try to discern more clearly what the recording needs Cuba pursues really are, what it is that is really driving this reform of its recording system, and how effective the reform has been thus far. I may not even have to borrow one of those tools of Miami based–meaning without setting foot in Cuba — cubanology. I am told a couple of them are already available in local pawn shops.
José Manuel Pallí is a Cuban-born member of the Florida Bar, originally trained as a lawyer in Argentina, and president of Miami-based World Wide Title. He can be reached at email@example.com.