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Stabroek News

LAWS OF EVE - Squatter's rights: Readers respond
published: Monday | May 7, 2007


McGregor

The debate regarding squatter's rights is continuing. On the one hand, owners of property have openly condemned the laws which allow squatters to obtain title to land. On the other hand, a significant portion of the population is happy that there are laws which afford them an opportunity to regularise their long-standing, open occupation of lands on which they have established their homes.

Below is one reader's view:

Unlawful, unfair and unjust act

I began reading your article, and became angry as I believe that such an act is unlawful, unfair and unjust. There should be a law against squatting and the Government should not make the capturing of other people's property so easy. It takes 60 years to acquire government land, but only 12 years to acquire citizens' land. The disparity should not be so wide. Government is making it very difficult for anyone to obtain property they own, then it should be the same for private citizens. Government is not greater than its people; government is the people.

My family's property is being farmed by many squatters and other pieces of our land have beencaptured - and we are even told some may have been sold. The administrator general's department has had the property in probate for more than 40 years. During this time, my grandmother was so afraid she did not go back there, as the squatters stated they would kill her. Rastas were also growing ganja on the property. Today, the largest piece is being farmed by many different people; so what are we to do? They can claim the property, because the ownership is still in limbo. We pay taxes but squatters still occupy it.

Is the Government aware of the owners' dilemma? How difficult it is to get squatters off your land? What the Government should be considering is how squatters can temporarily lease land that is unused rather than placing themselves on the land and use 'bad man' tactics in some instances to own it. If they can keep the owners away for 12 years, then they can claim the property. Twelve years is too short. I know because it took me five years to get a tenant out of my home.

Some Jamaican lawyers are so high-priced; without a hefty bank account, citizens are disadvantaged. There is no people's court where ordinary citizens can take their case without a lawyer. The trustworthiness of the lawyers is questionable because some unscrupulous ones have been known to capture your land, selling it then using their legal skills to tie up the legal process so that by the time it is addressed, either you are dead or the lawyer dies of old age.

Laws for all

Jamaica needs to make laws that are for all. Squatting should not be permitted and people without homes should have a residence provided by the Government until they are able to do better. It is the government's responsibility to provide housing for the people with the input of private developers.

By enforcing such a lenient 'rule of law' - 'capture without work or beneficiary rights' Government is indirectly supporting barbaric tactics and any indiscriminate method used by squatters to obtain property.


Sherry-Ann McGregoris a partner and mediator with the firm Nunes, Scholefield, DeLeon & Co. Send feedback and questions to lawsofeve@yahoo.com or Lifestyle@gleanerjm.com.

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