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'Squatters rights' versus registered title

Good day sir. Kindly assist me with some legal information concerning my rights. My grandfather died over 15 years ago leaving a house for his children. He had left a Will which is in the possession of an executor.

The property was willed to his six children who are all living abroad. Now, a little over 11 years ago, one of my aunt's ex-boyfriend has moved into the house and is still living there. The children now want him out of the house and he claims that he has obtained squatters rights.

Does he have any rights where this is concerned? All the children have agreed to turn the property over to me but I am not sure how to get this man out of the house as he has refused to leave. What kind of legal action do I need to take? Also, if he has been contributing to the taxes can he be construed as owner?

'Squatters rights'

The first point I should make is that his contribution to the taxes does not by itself make him the owner. However, in light of what is outlined above, it might be best to have the executor instruct an attorney-at-law to take action to have your aunt ex-boyfriend vacate the premises. Written notice should be given to the ex-boyfriend and, thereafter, action should be filed in the Resident Magistrate's Court or the Supreme Court, as the Rules allow, to have him vacate the premises.

What is commonly regarded as 'squatters rights' is not upheld by the courts or the Referee of the Registrar of Titles on the basis that the person occupies the land for 12 years. There are a number of factors that must be carefully examined and a critical one is whether the person over these years was able to assert his rights as owner of the premises.

Certainly, there would be closer examination as to how he was put in possession and what he did over these years. In any event, he has not occupied the premises for the minimum 12-year period, for private land, required under the law in Jamaica. Get the executor to act immediately to give the ex-boyfriend notice to quit before he has completed his 12-year period of occupation. This is critical.

Keith N. Bishop is an attorney-at-law and partner in the firm of Bishop & Fullerton. He may be contacted by email at

September 13, 2007

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