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Land matters - All Woman - Jamaica Observer
All Woman

Land matters

Dear Mrs Macaulay,

My neighbour has some lands which he stated were not purchased in the correct format. He explained that he was paying lease for the land and the owners decided to sell it to him. The way the transaction occurred was that the owner gave him a total and he would pay down monthly and receive a receipt each time until the amount was paid off. Up till this day he does not have a title, just receipts to show. How does he go about getting a title? And can he sell that land to someone else?

This letter is not very clear to me but I shall do my best by reading between the lines in order to give you a sensible reply.

You say your neighbour has some lands, which I understand to mean that he is in possession of some lands. You also say that he has said that the lands were not purchased in the correct format. I am assuming from the rest of the contents of your letter, that the person who did not purchase in the correct format is your neighbour. Then you say that he was (past tense) paying lease, which would mean that he was a tenant. But you go further and say that the owners decided to sell the land to him. You explain how the transaction was done, which was that the owner gave him a total sum (which your neighbour agreed to, it must be assumed) and your neighbour had to and would pay monthly instalments, receiving a receipt upon each instalment payment until the 'agreed sum' was paid off. You then end your summary of the facts by saying that up to the day you wrote your letter that he does not have a title.

Well, let me just say this first, that it is a good idea, especially when dealing with lands, for people to always get legal advice before parting with money on a purported sale and purchase or otherwise of lands. You see, there are many legal provisions which can defeat the unprepared and which unscrupulous persons know of and use to take advantage of those who do not know or understand what the law requires for certain transactions to be binding and they lose their money, when they fail to get legal advice and their own lawyer to protect their interests. Your neighbour really left himself exposed by acting on his own as he did. You have not said what was written on his receipts. The contents of these receipts are very important, in fact vital, to the issue of his purported purchase of the lands he has been occupying. The law requires that dealings regarding lands be in writing or that there be a sufficient memorandum which will make it clear to a reader of it what kind of agreement it was, sale or lease; a description or sufficient reference to identify the land and the sale price and how it is to be paid. The contents of his receipts are truly and vitally important.

But even before this point about the issue of the contents of his receipts, is the question of the legal and beneficial ownership of the lands. Was this person to whom he was paying sums of money really the legal and beneficial owner of the land? There is also the question of when your neighbour stopped paying the rental sums and then the agreed sale price. Also, how long has your neighbour been occupying the land after he paid off the agreed purchase sum? All these questions have to be dealt with and the answers must meet the requirements of the applicable law. The answers to these questions are also legally important.

The answers to these questions would determine by what means your neighbour can obtain a registered title to the lands, whether as a purchaser to whom the vendor has failed to transfer the lands sold, he having paid the entire sale and purchase price; or whether he was a tenant who has not paid any rents for enough years to qualify to obtain a title by way of his adverse possession.

So again, I advise that he gets a lawyer to advise and act for him or he can go to the National Land Agency (Registrar of Titles) and seek their advice. He should photocopy all his receipts and keep the originals safely and take the copies with him to seek advice, so that he can produce the originals when they must be produced and used to prove his claims.

I hope I have clarified the situation for you as best as I can on the facts you gave me in your letter. He could obtain the title, but his receipts must be examined and one must know how long he has been in possession without paying any more money. It's also relevant whether the owner he paid is still alive.

I hope he does go and seek advice and know what application he must make to obtain title for the lands he has occupied for some time and paid monies for.

All the best to him.

Margarette May Macaulay is an attorney-at-law, Supreme Court mediator, notary public, and women's and children's rights advocate. Send questions via e-mail to allwoman@jamaicaobserver.com; or write to All Woman, 40-42 1/2 Beechwood Avenue, Kingston 5. All responses are published. Mrs Macaulay cannot provide personal responses.

The contents of this article are for informational purposes only, and must not be relied upon as an alternative to legal advice from your own attorney.

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