Sat | Jan 20, 2018

A matter of land | Who has rights to this property?

Published:Sunday | April 9, 2017 | 12:00 AM
Craig Francis

Good day, readers. Today, I will respond to another question from a reader.


Greetings Mr Francis,

I've read your articles as they relate to land in The Sunday Gleaner and need your advice.

My mother has been living on a piece of land for the past 20-plus years and pays her land taxes every year. It has now come to us that they want to get us off the land. Other persons are living on the land but my mother is the only one paying the tax. What I would like for you to help me understand is:

1) What rights does my mother have?

2) What steps should she take in order for her to be on the right side?

I anticipate your response. Thank you.

- Dan E.

Good day Dan E.

Thank you for your continued reading of A Matter of Land.

You have asked what rights your mother has on the property that she has lived and paid taxes for more than 20 years.

If the land is Crown land (owned by the government) then she has no right to the property as she has to enjoy a 60-year unbroken occupation of the property to be qualified to have occupational rights where she can apply to have a title issued to her by adverse possession.


Adverse possessor


However, if the property is not government-owned and your mother has been occupying the property, paying taxes, and maintaining it, she has established 'rights' in the property as an adverse possessor.

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. If, as I said, this is a privately owned property, your mother has met all the tenets of adverse possession and she has rights to occupation of the property.

She now has established tenancy that is supported by the doctrine of the adverse possession and is supported by law.


Principle of adverse possession


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. For privately owned land, this is 12 years.

So Dan E, now that you know that your mom has 'rights' or interest in the property supported by law, you can now approach your attorney to make a title application for your mother for the property by means of adverse possession.

However, before you go to the attorney you will need to have to property surveyed by your commissioned land surveyor so he can prepare a 'PreCheck' plan for you for approval from the National Land Agency.

When he presents you with the plan, you take that to your attorney, who will complete the remaining steps in acquiring a title for your mother.

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