When acquiring real estate property (in case of a private property ownership or a long-term land lease) with the intention to build, renovate and/or extend a building project thereon, the local construction rules must be observed. The Building and Housing Ordinance of St. Maarten (Bouw- en woonruimteverordening) is the main legislation in this field. The Building and Housing Ordinance stipulates rules governing construction and design related aspects which are necessary in terms of safety and public health.
Pursuant to the Building and Housing Ordinance, no construction works may be carried out in St. Maarten without a building permit of the government of St. Maarten. Every application for a building permit in St. Maarten must be submitted in writing. The application must state the names of the applicant, his profession and his place of residence. In order to obtain a building permit the following documents are generally required:
a copy of proof of ownership of the real estate property or the long-term lease;
- drawings of the building, which should include, among others:
the dimension and height, thickness and structure of the walls;
the calculations and details on structure, strength and stability;
the accessibility for light and ventilation;
the name of architect and/or builder;
- planning permits;
- subdivision plan;
- foundation plan;
- site plans;
- structural drawings;
- electrical plans;
- plumbing plans; and
- floor plans.
There are restrictions to building constructions in St. Maarten, such as height limitations. These restrictions are based on the Building and Housing Ordinance and on (internal) guidelines of the former Island Council of St. Maarten (see Constitutional changes). As these (internal) guidelines have in the past not been clear, they have been the subject of legal proceedings.
The government is entitled to ask for additional information in connection with an application for a building permit. The applicant is obliged to provide the government with all requested information. The government must decide whether or not to grant a building permit, as soon as possible but no later than a month after an application has been filed. A building permit may be refused by the government if the building plans do not comply with the applicable requirements. The reasons for a refusal of a building permit must be expressly stated and explained in the decision of the government on the permit application. An applicant who disagrees with the government’s decision to refuse the permit or if the permit is revoked, can file an appeal with the government. If the decision of the government is not satisfactory or takes too long, the appellant will be entitled to file an action before the competent Court in St. Maarten.
Please note that it is also important to consult with the local fire department of St. Maarten regarding fire prevention requirements when applying for a building permit. For building permits regarding factories, hotels and condo/apartments additional legal requirements are applicable.
Please note further that project developers of (gated) communities generally incorporate their own building regulations and rules applicable in the (gated) community in the deed of transfer when selling a real estate property, so that all the houses present within the (gated) community are all (from a construction- and architectural perspective) of a good and similar quality. Such building regulations and rules are incorporated in all deeds of transfer by way of third-party clauses and by way of perpetual clauses. They usually stipulate among others that an owner must obtain prior written approval of the developer of his building plans (next to the building permit from the government) and other building requirements. If an owner does not comply with such building regulations and rules, the project developer and/or other owners can enforce the observance thereof.