Sat | Mar 24, 2018

A matter of land | The 'doctrine of adverse possession'

Published:Sunday | February 12, 2017 | 12:00 AM
Craig Francis
Ian Allen/Photographer A plot of land in Manchester.

Good day, readers. Last week I promised to talk more about adverse possession for you to better understand what it is, and how to avoid losing your property through that method.

The principle of adverse possession is one under which a person in possession of land owned by another person may acquire valid title to it, as long as certain requirements are met.

This assumes that the person taking control of the property has been in possession of it for a sufficient period of time, as defined by the Limitations of Actions Act.

In Jamaica, this time is 12 years in the case of privately owned property and 60 years in the case of land held by the government.


The tenets of adverse possession


'Nec vi, nec clam, nec precario' is a Latin legal term meaning 'without force, without secrecy, without permission'.

It is the key principle by which rights may be built up over time, principally in the property being 'adversely' possessed.

The occupation of the property by the 'adverse possessor' (squatter) must be done to meet the stricture of the law and for the time specified by the Limitation of Actions Act.

So the tenure must be open and notorious, meaning the squatter's tenure must be visible and not a secret.

It means the squatter cannot leave early mornings and return late nights where no one sees them if they are to meet the criteria. Their occupation cannot be by force, where it is through threats or acts of violence or intimidation, and it cannot be with the expressed permission of the rightful owner, whether written verbal, or by the owner's agent.


Establishing rights to the property


The right to the property can be established in various ways, such as cutting of the vegetation from the lot and maintaining it, by fencing the property or a part of it, by farming the property and, of course, by setting up residence on the property.

There is also the paying of the land taxes for the property as a means of helping to establish possession of the property.

So to all property owners, ensure that you don't allow this to happen to you. visit your properties, fence them, and in the event you find someone squatting there, ensure that you give then notice to vacate in writing or at least give them a lease so that your permission would have been granted for them to be there.

Secure your property and prevent yourself from losing it by adverse possession.

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 or Precision Surveying Services