Mandeville Weekly News

SQUATTING MY WAY TO OWNERSHIP

Posted by SR (riley) on Mar 23 2017 at 1:14 AM
Mandeville Weekly News >>

Carla (not actual name) purchased a piece of land in 1977 and migrated to England in 1982.  Upon returning home some 25 years later she found Peter (not actual name) living on her property.  Carla told Peter that the property belonged to her and demanded that he immediately vacate the said property.  Peter became boisterous and told Carla that the property was his and as such he was not leaving.  He told Carla that he has lived there for 18 years, cared for and maintained the property by cutting the grass and vegetation, cultivated the land by planting orange trees, breadfruit trees, lychee among other things and fencing the property.  He also told Carla that he has been paying the property taxes for all those years and that he built a dwelling house and a supermarket on the property. 

Carla has found herself in quite a quandary.  She is the registered owner for the property, but has been denied access to same by Peter.  What can she now do? Jamaica Land Law allows for Peter (a squatter) to acquire a registered title for the property.  This is called adverse possession.  The principle of adverse possession is one under which a person in possession of land owned by another person may acquire valid title to it, as long as certain requirements are met. In order for one to establish adverse possession certain requirements must be fulfilled.

1. The person (squatter) taking control of the property must be in possession of it for a sufficient period of time, as defined by the Limitation of Actions Act, which is in excess of 12 years in the case of privately owned property and 60 years in the case of land held by the government in order to dispossess the registered owner.

2.  The right to the property can be established by acts that are in contrary to the use of the registered owner and be akin to that of an owner.  So if one cares, maintains and  fences the property, farms it, pays taxes or sets up residence on the property then those acts can be seen as akin to acts of ownership.

3. The act of acquisition must be without force, secrecy and permission.  Permission means that the acquisition should not be with the expressed permission of the rightful owner, whether written or verbal, or by the owner’s agent.In the instant case, Peter has lived on the property for 18 years and would have therefore satisfied the period of time defined by the Limitation of Actions Act which is 12 years thus satisfying requirement: 1. Peter also indicated that he has cared for and maintained the property by grooming the property and cutting the vegetation.  He has cultivated the property and fenced it.  He also added a dwelling house and a supermarket to the back of the premises.  Peter having done all of the above also satisfied requirement;

2.  Peter was not given permission to live on the property and he did not gain entrance by force and neither was his actions done in secrecy. Therefore, would have satisfied requirement; 3. He also paid the property taxes which further contributed to his claim of being the owner.In order to acquire title by adverse possession ALL the requirements above must be met. The satisfaction of one of the requirements such as the payment of property taxes cannot establish adverse possession.  Too often persons are misled to believe that once they are paying taxes on the property then such property automatically belongs to them.  It is advised that you seek legal advice before considering making an application for a title through adverse possession.
 One of the most disesteemed ranks in Jamaica is that of “squatter”.  However, many landowners are not familiar with the law of adverse possession that can allow for the disesteemed squatter to be declared esteemed land owner of the very land he/she squats on.  For the Carla’s and the Peter’s in Jamaica, be cognizant of which side of the fence you are standing or squatting. 

Contributed by Ms. Melisa L. Watson, an Attorney-at-Law, an Associate in the firm of Nelson-Brown Guy & Francis, who Specializes in Family Law, Corporate Law, Immigration Law, Civil Litigation, Conveyancing, Probate and Estate Planning. Member: Jamaican Bar Association, Offices: Suite 12 Central Plaza Mandeville, Manchester, 962-4089; 22D Old Hope Road, Kingston 5 906-5556.
Website: http://www.nelsonbrownguyfrancislaw.com 
Email: http://www.info@nelsonbrownguyfrancislaw.com

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