Tue | Dec 6, 2016

Government senator demands overhaul of land transfer laws

Published:Sunday | November 23, 2014 | 12:00 AM
Carmelita Riley (left) and Gilda Smikle show off their house titles they received during an handover ceremony in Seaview Gardens (Phase Two) in February.-File

Government Senator Sophia Frazer-Binns has lauded the Portia Simpson Miller-led Cabinet for taking steps to overhaul the system of landownership, even as she argued that more needs to be done.

Frazer-Binns, who has consistently advanced the view that the current system needs changing, told the Senate that the existing laws relating to landownership are anti-poor and much more needs to done to enable ownership.

"Of the approximately 18,000 landowners expressing interest in obtaining titles for their lands, under the public-private partnership in 2010, only 3,400 titles could be delivered, largely as a result of issues related to root of title and affordability," said the government senator.

In opening the State of the Nation debate last Friday, Frazer-Binns noted that a submission has been presented to the Cabinet, which seeks - among other things - to clarify that all types of applications to register or re-register land may be made under the Special Provisions Act.

"This is very important in that it will allow persons in possession of generation land for the prescribed period of time of 12 years to be able to register the land without requiring administration of old estates. The idea is that anyone will be able to register his property in these situations without the necessity of having to first formally administer the estate.

"Under the proposed amendments, landowners will be able to use the years of ownership of their predecessors in title in order to establish the 12-year prescribed period of ownership to register the land. This will allow persons who come into possession of land to benefit from the years of possession by the previous owners, provided that they were in open, peaceful and undisturbed possession of the land for the period of ownership," added Frazer-Binns.

Earlier this year, Robert Pickersgill, minister with responsibility for lands, said drafting instructions have been issued for amendments to the Registration of Titles Cadastral Mapping and Tenure Clarification (Special Provisions) Act.

OBSTACLE TO REGISTRATION DRIVE

According to Pickersgill, the outdated legislation is an obstacle to the Government's drive to register lands across the island and to put more titles in the hands of Jamaicans.

On Friday, Frazer-Binns called for a holistic and complete overhaul of the various legislation which govern the disposal and use of land.

"I call for a review of the laws relating to subdivisions and the requirement of the house spot. Our legislation must be modern, must be in touch with reality, and accelerate the process of landownership and registration," she said.

Frazer-Binns argued that Jamaica is an oral society and a significant number of transactions done on the island are not reduced to writing.

"Our reality is that often land transactions are done by way of the exchange of money and a handshake. Recognising this reality, there is plan to legislate that oral disposition of land, along with the part performance of putting the purchaser or donor in possession, is to be deemed to pass title, notwithstanding that there is no documentary evidence of the disposition," the senator said.

"This provision will assist these owners who have no documentary proof but have been in possession to obtain registered title," she added.

daraine.luton@gleanerjm.com