Tue | Aug 22, 2017

A matter of land | Keeping what's yours - Steps to avoid losing your property through 'adverse possession'

Published:Sunday | January 29, 2017 | 1:00 AM
Craig Francis
A vacant lot which neighbours said needed urgent cleaning as it was an eyesore.
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As we continue to stroll into 2017, I want to wish all the readers of this column all the best for the New Year. I hope that you will realise all your dreams, especially those that are property related. We are here to help you with advice to achieve these dreams.

Following the recent article on what to do to ensure that you do not lose your property in the New Year, many persons have emailed me, concerned about the possibility of losing their land to squatters via the route of adverse possession.

This week, I will deal with one of the many questions sent to me by readers relating to this.

Dear Craig,

Thank you for your newspaper articles.

Do I take it that the land surveying question does not apply to the title in anyway, or is there also an expiration date for a title in Jamaica?

Kind regards,

L.D.

Thank you for your question L.D. It is a good one, and other persons have e-mailed me asking the same thing.

The answer is no. Titles in Jamaica do not have an expiry date. Once you have a title that is issued by the National Land Agency's Titles Office, you have a document that will, more than likely, outlive you.

As to the person who sought to find out about persons claiming their properties by adverse possession, I will give you the suggestions to ensure that this doesn't happen, or at least make it harder for the squatter to make an ownership claim.

First, try to have your property surveyed then fenced along the correct boundaries.

a) Try to give someone permission to occupy the property.

b) Lease the property to someone. The cost of the lease is inconsequential. Just ensure that there is a lease agreement between you and the lessee.

c) Visit your property at least once every three years. At worst, you should not let seven years elapse and you not visit your property, especially vacant property.

In the event you visit your property and someone is occupying it without your permission, give them permission in writing or even lease it to them for $1. This will establish that you gave permission for them to be on your property and would make it difficult for them to make an application to own your property by adverse possession.

So those persons who reside overseas and have property in Jamaica, especially in the rural areas, and that property is unoccupied, you need to take note of all I have written to ensure that when you come back to Jamaica and visit, some other owner is not there barring you from entering as they have a registered title in their name as owners of what used to be 'your' property.

Next week, I will discuss what is adverse possession and the criteria to qualify to get a title by such means.

Until next time, traverse well.

- Craig Francis is a commissioned land surveyor and managing director of Precision Surveying Services Ltd. He can be contacted for questions or queries at craig_r_francis@yahoo.com or at Precision Surveying Services.