Wed | Aug 16, 2017

Legal Scoop | Surfing the Gazettes - Loan applications or an interesting way of obtaining title to unregistered land?

Published:Sunday | August 28, 2016 | 8:00 AM
Shena Stubbs-Gibson

So I have now received my latest instalment of the gazettes - a few months behind as usual. I have been pledging to myself for months now to have a chat with the Printing Office about the late receipt of my gazettes.

My father worked at Jamaica Printing Services in the good old days when it used to be called the Government Printing Office, and although it was privatised over two decades ago, for me, it is still 'Printing Office' or 'Government Printing Office'.

I remember the days when I, a mere slip of a girl - box pleats, white crochet belt, peter pan collar, cornrows, and all - would slip past the front desk and bob-weave through the giant printing machines looking for my dad.

I never knew my dad to work anywhere else, and I knew the printers, the binders, the bosses, and they all knew me, the little skinny bespectacled Alpha girl - "Stubbs' daughter".

They were kind to me, and on the one or two or three occasions that I turned up unannounced (having redirected my lunch money), I knew who I was allowed to ask for bus fare if my dad was not there, and they, in turn, knew to look out for me. Thank you, men of Printing Office: Reds, Macky, Mr Brown, etc.

Well, needless to say, I digressed. I need to give Printing Office a call to find out if it is at all possible for me to get the gazettes earlier.

With the feedback to my last column on what was being published in the gazettes, having been very positive, and having now received another instalment of the gazettes, I will again share with readers some of the matters which appeared in the gazettes over the last few months.

Given the vast amount of information appearing in the gazettes, though, and the space constraints of this column, the topic will be revisited over several columns.

 

March 24 Gazette

 

As I have noticed in the past, some gazettes are filled with loan applications to a company called Geoland Title Limited.

Most of us have a friend or family member with land - usually in the country - for which they have no registered title, despite years of trying.

As an attorney-at-law, I am quite aware that it can be an enormous toothache trying to get title for unregistered land. One can encounter roadblock after roadblock, year after year, because no will was left by the original landowner, or a will was left but probate was not completed and now the executor of that will is also deceased and the assets of the estate still undistributed.

Geoland Titles, it appears, not unlike the government-sponsored programme, LAMP, attempts to assist persons in the above-mentioned situations. I looked up the company, and its website describes the company's main focus as obtaining title under the Registration of Titles Act.

However, interestingly, the notices appearing in the gazettes are for loan applications, not titles. I was curious as to why a company whose primary professed focus was obtaining registered titles for its customers should be so heavily involved in issuing loans.

I, therefore, looked up the provision under which the notices were being gazetted (the Facilities for Titles Act, Section 5). Under the provision in question, an approved 'agency' can issue a loan and accept unregistered land by way of security and subsequently move on to obtain a registered title for the land in question and have its mortgage noted on the new registered title.

Had the property owners applying to Geoland for loans using their unregistered land for security opted instead to apply for title to their lands via the usual route, under the Registration of Titles Act, more often than not, they would not have succeeded in obtaining the titles because of the strict requirements of that Act.

 

EASIER ROUTE

 

However, thanks to the Facilities for Titles Act and places such as Geoland, it appears the beneficial owner of unregistered land (or even registered land) can now obtain a loan for something as small as school fees, and in so doing, find a much easier way to obtain a title to their land.

Dinner and a movie, loan and a title, life could not be better. And, if one does have to pay some monies for the service in the process, methinks that's a fair trade-off - provided the monies being paid for the service is not too exorbitant! I must tell all my family members and friends struggling to get titles to their unregistered lands for years to give Geoland Title a call.

On the other hand, because the Facilities for Titles Act potentially provides a lower bar to obtaining title to land, it is important that landowners regularly check these gazettes to see if - unknown to them - their lands are being pledged, so that they can register the necessary protest.

Of course, it would help if the Printing Office mailed out the gazetted notices earlier. This particular gazette was published in March and the date for noting objections was April 12. However, I only received my copy of the gazette last week.

I guess the alternative would be for me and others to pop down to the Printing Office and purchase each week's publication, but my! How onerous that would be!

Lands pledged this trip around were from the areas:

- Greenland, Lucea, Hanover

- Myersville, St Elizabeth

- Dunder Hill, Junction, St Elizabeth

- Davis Town, Chalky Hill, St Ann

- Clover Hill, St Ann

- Bryant Hill, Crooked River, Clarendon

- Sheffield, Westmoreland

- Ludlow, Crofts Hill, Clarendon

- Bonham Spring, Lodge, St Ann

- Top Hill, Junction, St Elizabeth

- Lime Hall, St Ann

- Freemans Hall, Albert Town, St Elizabeth

- Exchange, White River, St Ann

- Lodge, St Ann

- Hopewell, Hanover

If you have lands in any of the areas listed above, especially if your ownership is the subject of dispute, grab a copy of the gazette in question and make certain your land was not pledged.

We will continue to surf the gazettes in other instalments of this column.

- Shena Stubbs is an attorney-at-law. Send feedback to shena.stubbs@gleanerjm.com or reach her on Twitter: @shenastubbs