Did You Ever Wonder Why Bermuda is so nice?
The Govt of Bermuda has an established property maintenance code and an abandoned building ordinance. Bermudas property maintenance code requires that the exterior of all real property be painted as required to their standards and time frame (they also tell you what color you will paint your property). Under their abandoned building ordinance they (the Govt) can do all necessary repairs and maintenance or knock it down at the owners expense. You are not allowed to use your property for outside storage and your landscape must be maintained. Each Household is allowed one car, they will ticket and fine you for a dirty hub cap. When it is time to get a new car you must have proof that you removed the car from the island or sold it to someone via a new car registration. You can't drive an island beater. You are required to not only to keep your property clean you must maintain the street in front and or back of you property. Their immigration policy is tough. *-)
I lived in Bermuda for 4 years. Overall it was a nice place to live. Lizard is correct, there is a lot of government control over a major portion of your lives there. With so much control comes the opportunity for corruption. For example, the minister in charge of telecommunications invested in a local Internet Service Provider, and turned around and placed a ban on issuing any more licenses for any additional ISP's. Because of this, the government controls the Internet access on the island. At the time, I was paying nearly $400 for a 500 Kbps DSL line (the fastest available at the time - which was about 4 years ago). But on the other hand, the government also had a program of litter/garbage control. Teams were assigned portions of the island, and they would patrol that portion regularly picking up all sorts of trash and sweeping up and collecting palm leaves, etc. Because of that, it was a very clean island.
I became very good friends with my landlord while I was on island. He told me all about the pains of home ownership there. Lizard's assessment is pretty much spot on. In addition, if you want to make renovations to your property, you file for a building permit (nothing unusual there). Your building permit request is then posted on your property and all of your neighbors have a right to review your permit. If they disagree with it, they can protest it and it can be denied.
As for vehicles on the island, your are correct. Each address is allowed only 1 vehicle. If you have an apartment for rent on your property, and can get a separate tax assessment for the apartment, then you are allowed another vehicle for that part of the property. It makes a nice incentive to rent a place that allows you to own a vehicle. That is what I did. There are some landlords who rent apartments without allowing the tenant to make use of the tax assessment number. These are the guys who make extra money "leasing out" their tax assessment number, or make use of two vehicles in the family. The roads on the island are so curvy and the lanes are so tight, compounded with the lack of any appreciable parking in Hamilton (the major city on the island) that driving a vehicle is sometimes more of a hassle than it is worth. I kept a motorcycle for making city runs. Oh yeah, it was a motorcycle by name only. The motorcycle engine size (at the time) was limited to 150 cc. I've heard that they may have increased that to 200 or 250, but couldn't verify it. There are no island beaters on the island. Each vehicle is required to undergo an annual inspection, which is nothing unusual. As for the physical appearance, any blemishes larger than a quarter, needs to be repaired, prior to the inspection, or the vehicle fails the inspection. The paint job is to be uniform (subjective to the person doing the inspection, of course).
The immigration laws there are VERY STRICT. To the point of being a bit over protective. Getting a work permit there is a very tedious process. And once one is granted, it is for a maximum of 6 years, with the only exception is a 3 year extension for key employees. If during the course of your employment, a local Bermudian is able to do your job, and wants it, your work permit is pulled and you are off island. With such tight immigration laws, it seems like every local is an immigration officer. I can't recall how many times ex-pat friends of mine would be in a disagreement with a local about something, and the Bermudian's response would be that they would have the ex-pats work permit pulled...They also are quite protective of their property. As an ex-pat, I could only qualify to purchase property that was in the top 5% of the market, thereby reserving the remaining 95% strictly for Bermudians. At the time, I think the top 5% of the market started at around $3.5M or so...needless to say, I rented while I was there :-). After I left they passed a law that stated if a Bermudian owned a piece of property, they could only sell to another Bermudian. That law has since been challenged and I believe struck down, or maybe changed.
It is expensive to live there. There are times when ex-pats are charged one rate for something, while a local is given a cheaper rate. I found this out when I went to go get a soft top for my Feroza. They wanted to charge me nearly $3,000 to have it landed on the island. I informed one of my co-workers about the price. They went down a few days later and they were quoted a price of $1600 for the same top. My rent was about $3500 a month, but this was for a 2 BR 1BA with a sea view. My neighbors were paying $4500 for a 3 BR 1.5 BA with the same view.
Overall it was an interesting experience. Would I ever to back to Bermuda again? Probably not. That is why I am looking at STX now.
Sounds like a horrible place to live!
But there are some things that would be good to do here, especially in regards to dangerously abandoned property that should be condemned if not fixed up by the owner. The government could fix it up and bill the owner with a lien placed against the property that if not paid in a timely manner would lead to forfeiture of the property. It is a disgrace the state that some people, many who even have money, leave their property in such a horrible state. The law here that also lets people pay less taxes for NOT finishing their property should be changed. That law encourages people to NOT make their property look nice!
Of course a lot of the blight in town is in buildings owned BY the government. Sigh.
Thanks for that great description of life on Bermuda!
There are housing communities in the States that have similar restrictions, and it's all done to keep the properties from losing their value. After all, you're not just buying that house - you're buying into a neighborhood, and if your neighbor's yard looks like Fred Sanford's, very few people will want to buy your home no matter how beautiful. Some of them even have restrictions on the vehicles you can have in sight.
It takes money to maintain properties and reinforce all those regulations. If the money ever stops pouring into Bermuda, they'll have to loosen up, I think.
The laws are very strict - but I like their immigration policy. Unlike the USVI, where America - and NOT the local VI people - brings in whoever they want to live on the island (not just continentals, but down islanders, Haitians, Dominicans, etc.), the Bermudians bring in who THEY want on the island. Bermuda for the Bermudians - I like the sound of that, good for them. The VI could learn a lesson from them in that regard...
I'm happy to share my experience living in Bermuda. I made some fantastic friendships with people from all over the world. The ex-pat community there is rich with different cultures. That part, those memories, I wouldn't trade for anything.
It is funny, I'm not too sure if you have the same experience in the USVI, but I would have houseguests who would exclaim what a paradise Bermuda was, and how lucky I was to live there.. And I would have to nearly bite my tongue off to not tell them about some of the hardships and challenges island living has to offer. From reading the topics on this board, pretty much everyone can attest to, it is not always parardise living on an island. But in the end, your experience is what you make of it. And from my houseguests perspective, it was a little slice of paradise. And who was I to take that impression away from them? So I'd usually nod, and tell them, yeah it doesn't suck 🙂
It may not be the most ideal place to live, but Bermuda is a great place to visit. If anyone ever has any intention to visit there, feel free to PM me sometime and I'll be more than happy to suggest places to stay, things to do, places to eat, etc.
I have been to Bermuda numerous times -- by sailboat -- they are accommodating to the Nth degree for transient vessels and have a true marine friendly attitude -- do not however plan on stay ing there and living aboard -- it is probably impossible - the immigration laws are ruthless -- the island is as clean as Switzerland or Disneyworld though and a lovely place to visit. It was never a plantation society and has a different cultural backround than a West Indian island.
The government owning property all over the island is not the answer, IMO. After confiscation, who manages these properties, who rehabs and prepares for resale? Who maintains while waiting for a sale that may never come. Some of these properties may be downtown or in good areas, but lets face it, many are in areas that are not marketable.
One idea for actual abandoned buildings is to remove the building and deed the lot to the adjoining property owners, split it down the middle. This has been tried successfully in several places in the states.
Another possibility is land banking. The government would take to property and hold it while trying a acquire other, surrounding property. Then a larger parcel can be sold and developed. For this to be feasible, there has to be marketing and interested buyers.
But I still don't think taking property from people who don't have the means to maintain it is a realistic answer.
I agree Linda that I have a general distaste for a government land grab. DC did this and it worked out ok (condemned a lot of burnt out buildings from the riots in 69, took them over and resold them to developers). I didn't like it there but it worked. But STX is a different beast. But I do wish there were some penalties for people who don't maintain their property. At the very least the govt. shouldn't reward such behavior with the silly tax law that says if your house isn't finish you pay less property taxes.
After living in the former Soviet Union for seven years, I'm ready for less government control.
Did you forget about "In Rem proceedings", "Eminate Domain Proceedings", "Tax Lien Certificate sales", "Mechanic liens", "Foreclosure sales". There are more legal liens that can used to start a foreclosure sale or a confiscation sale.These are all available in the USVI it's just they are not enforced. Under Eminate Domain (for the better and good for the public) which has always been used for the benefit of the public. However George Bush When Governor of Texas used Eminate domain to build a Baseball Stadium for Private investors.:S
Lizard, you have a good point. There are circumstances when government involvement is appropriate, but this should generally be when the state has “a compelling interest.” This is the basis for denying the religious practice of sacrificing a virgin at the rising of every full moon (or denying a First Nation’s right to the use of peyote in their religious ceremonies).
In rem and eminent domain fall in this category. But whether the government succeeds can be tested in the courts. I would hope that USVI courts would be fair places to hear these cases. (George Bush’s abuse of eminent domain in the stadium should have been rejected by the courts.)
Tax lien certificate sales are a bit different, in that, as a rule, people support a system of taxes to pay for government services; when a person owes taxes, the government is in a position to take action to collect the owed amounts. These, too, can be tested in the courts.
Mechanic liens and foreclosure sales are a different matter. They tend to be claims by one private party against another. The role of government in these cases is generally to establish a means for resolving disputes among private parties (Although a government agency may be involved as one of the parties, this is relatively uncommon.)
As an educator in the former Soviet Union, I must contend with a completely different kind of government control. I can hardly imagine the USVI Territorial Government telling me whether or not I can open a private university, how many students I can admit (and which students by name), what I can teach, who can teach, how many books I must have (and which books), how many computers I must have, and that I must have four square meters per student. All of these are part of the licensing bureau’s requirements. There are many other such requirements.
Or maybe I’m mistaken. Does anyone know if the USVI imposes such demands on a private business?
Edward in New Hampshire
1954, Berman V, Parker, The Supreme Court ruled that Cities can apply Eminent Domain to raze crime-ridden or decrepit areas for private purposes, making the way for what became known as Urban Renewal. This ruling slowly morphed into what local municipalities now consider a right to condemn private property in order to turn it over to other private ownership for development. The right to enforce Eminent Domain has been tested in the courts time and time again. The "compelling Interest theory" holds no weight at present according to the various court rulings ( over 10,000 cases alone from 1998 to 2001), so your virgins are in trouble again.
As far as you starting a College/University in the Virgin Islands. IMHO is the DLCA and the Accrediting Agencies might be a maze to contend with.
Good point. Good public policy theory is only good if it survives the test of reality.
I was on the Parks Commission for my small Minnesota city. The City Council passed an ordinance taxing real property transactions, in cash or land, in order to fund city parks and trails. One resident objected to the ordinance on the grounds of an "unconstitutional taking" in violation of the Fifth Amendment. He lost the case.
Does the USVI exercise its eminent domain powers often? I know there are some parts of the island (STX) that might be candidates for condemnation.
Edward in New Hampshire