Laws of Eve | My New Year's wish list
As I have done for many years, I am listing below a shortlist of things I wish that the powers that be will address this year.
The Rent Restriction Act. This act was passed in 1944 and was last amended in 1983 - 25 years ago! During that time, although many issues concerning the workings of the act have been settled, there are many, many problem areas that remain debatable and (frankly) discourage property owners from becoming landlords.
Questions such as whether it is lawful to charge for security deposits or to denominate rent in a foreign currency, and improving the ease with which landlords can recover arrears of rent and the possession of their premises are critical areas to be addressed. In my view, it is also important to remove matters for the recovery of arrears of rental and recovery of possession from the parish courts to a tribunal in order to reduce the number of cases in the courts.
The Maintenance Act. There is one very important issue that is still outstanding - the amendment of the act to enable the courts to hear first-time applications for child maintenance even after a child has reached 18 years of age. Currently, no child who is already 18 years of age can be a first-time applicant for maintenance, although the act makes provision for a chid to be maintained up to age 23.
I am aware that steps are being taken to address this issue, so I hope that the problem will soon be resolved.
The Civil Procedure Rules. When these rules came into effect in 2001, they made provision for claims filed in the Supreme Court to remain valid for service for six months after the date of filing. That period was later extended to 12 months and, last year, it was again reduced to six months. Attorneys who practise civil litigation can attest to the fact that Fixed Date Claim Forms are not always returned in a timely manner so that they can be served, and challenges are often encountered in trying to locate and serve defendants. In many cases, the life of a claim form has to be extended and approval has to be sought from the court for alternative methods of service to be employed.
Careful consideration should be given to the question of whether it was better to allow the claim forms to remain valid for 12 months; because the six-month regime is likely to lead to numerous applications for extension of the validity of claim forms.
Abolish the need for notary certificates. When affidavits are sworn before notaries public in countries such as the USA, there is an additional need for a certificate to be provided to confirm that the notary public's commission had not expired at the time the affidavit was sworn. This certificate has to be provided by the County Clerk or the Secretary of Sate (depending on the state in which the affidavit was sworn), and it can take in excess of two weeks for the certificate to be obtained.
In many instances, affidavits to be filed at court are needed at short notice, so the two-week delay to get the required certificate can hamper the progress of a matter. While it is appreciated that it is important to authenticate the notary's commission, the National Land Agency abolished the need for the certificate and it is worthwhile to explore whether there are alternatives to continuing to require it in the courts.
Review the family law regime. Anyone who interfaces with the courts in relation to family law matters will tell you that the state agencies responsible for conducting enquiries and preparing reports are overburdened, litigants are frustrated by delays and most cannot afford the legal fees and costs for obtaining counselling and other reports that may be required to properly pursue their claims through the courts. One recurring question in my mind is whether litigants in some types of family law claims should receive legal aid.
This list is by no means exhaustive, but this is where I would like some of the attention to be focused.
- Sherry Ann McGregor is a partner, mediator and arbitrator at Nunes Scholefield DeLeon & Co - 6A Holborn Road, Kingston 10, St Andrew. Please send questions and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.