Legal Wrangling : Squatter took away my land

September 02, 2016
Workmen from the Portmore Municipal Council demolish houses in Port Henderson in the vicinity of the old Forum Hotel on November 17, 2005. Under Jamaican law, a squatter who has been living undisturbed on a property for more than 12 years he can apply for a title for the property.

A man who bought an acre of land in Manchester some years ago was shocked when he returned to the island this year and was informed that he was no longer the owner.

He said he went to the man who was squatting on the land and told him that he was the owner, but the man laughed at him.

"I explained to the squatter that I bought the land 20 years ago to build a house and had returned to the island to start building my house as I was retiring next year," he said.

"The man said as far as he knew, I was not the owner of the land. The man built a three-bedroom wooden house on my land and I told him he had to demolish the house. He said I should go ahead and knock down his house and destroy his crops.

"The next week I went back to the property, the squatter ordered me off the land. He even threatened to throw water on me if I returned to disturb him. I showed him a copy of my title and even showed him my passport that it was not a joke, I really am the owner of the land.

"He said he believed me and I should not worry because he was going to surprise me. I honestly believed him when he said he was going to surprise me that he meant that he was going to move off the land.

"One of my relatives told me later that day that the man was telling his friends that I would have to go back to England and leave him with the land. According to my relative, the man was telling people that the title I have is not good and he would love for me to take him to court.

"Last month, I went, with a friend, to my property and served the squatter with an eviction notice. He said I should wait a few seconds as he had something to show me. It was a surprise and shock to me when he came out with a title which stated he was the owner of my property. He gave me a copy of the title and began laughing at me and saying that he has rights as a squatter.

 

FRAUD

 

"I told him I was going to have him locked up for fraud and he said I should go ahead. I went to see a lawyer about the matter and was told that it was a genuine title. The lawyer questioned me about the situation and I had to admit that since buying the property in 2000, I had never returned to Jamaica.

"A relative told me in 2002 that the man was occupying the land, but I just said to myself that when I retired and was ready to build my house, he would have to get off the land. I am really shocked to know that I can just lose my land to a squatter," he said.

You have admitted that you took no action not even to get an agent to serve him with a notice to quit when you were notified that he was occupying your land. The Registration of Titles Act gives a squatter the right to obtain a title by adverse possession. It means that once a person has been living undisturbed on a property for more than 12 years, he can apply for a title for the property.

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