Controversy in the making — Possessory title to land

The Keith Mitchell-led government in St. George’s is taking a controversial piece of legislation to Parliament called the Possessory title bill.

The legislation is aimed at giving persons authority to claim a piece of land that they do not hold a deed for but has been occupying for 12 years and more.
Speaking to reporters at the weekly post-Cabinet Press Briefing held at the Ministerial Complex, Minister of Legal Affairs, Elvin Nimrod said the bill was tabled in Parliament before but was withdrawn to facilitate more consultation.

He said the problem of people occupying land in which they have no ownership, has become a problem in the country leading to violence and confusion in some cases.

Nimrod pointed out that based on the law, once a person has been on the land for twelve years or more, it can be seen as belonging to them.

He said the possessory title bill will provide help to persons who find themselves in this position.

The island’s deputy Prime Minister explained Possessory title in the following manner.

He said: “Possessory title has to do with a person that has legal title to land and so that person for 12 years under our law did not take possession physically of that land or did not exercise any effort to show that he or she has interest of ownership in the land and so of course the policy decision in terms of trying to clear this up is that it is not in the best interest of any country to have idle lands sitting there without any activities – it clogs your economy, it clogs your alienation of property and it causes a problem.

“So right now, let’s say Mr. A has two acres of land right here in Tanteen, he has the legal title to it, he has the deed in his hand but for 12 years he neglected to do anything on the land to give the Impression that he is the owner and Mr. B. comes and Mr. B says, yes this is a nice piece of land and I think I want to squat on that land. He begins squatting, he sits there and he does everything to give the impression that it’s his land and no one (is) challenging him,” Nimrod explained.

According to Minister Nimrod, if the possession continues for 12 years, it cannot be broken.

“…If the person who occupy the land decides he’s going for a couple of years when they comes back that continuous title requirement is broken – it has to be for (a) continuous process of 12 years,

“Our society is plagued with that situation where, a lot of people on land is not their land. A lot of people believe they own the land because they have the deed and we feel that it’s time for us to settle this…”.

The Deputy Prime Minister noted that although there is a legal procedure which bars the legal owner from claiming title after 12 years of occupation by another, the legislation does not give a procedure where the person that is illegally occupying could get legal title.

“Even if you go on a land and it is not yours, you stay there for 12 years uninterrupted and exclusive, exclusive means that no one else comes in on the land and disrupt your possession, after the 12 years of continuous unbroken possession, that legal owner is barred by the statute of limitation to bring an action to remove that person but even if that is so there is no procedure under our law for that person to apply,” Nimrod said.

He added that person however can claim the land through adverse title in which an affidavit is sworn to and signed by someone confirming that he or she has indeed been occupying the land undisturbed for 12 years or more.

This adverse title deed, Minister Nimrod said would not be legitimate enough for a financial institution to grant that person a loan.

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