Claiming Land by Statutory Declaration

Sir Lawrence A Joseph

By Dr Lawrence A. Joseph

There are many instances where people are in possession of land for a number of years and do not have proper titles to the land. In some instances a parent with children may have directed that certain portions of land be given to certain of their children without executing the relevant documentations for so doing. In other instances a will may have been made but the legal processes for getting the will probated by the Registrar of the Supreme Court may not have been followed.

If however, a person without good title to land then goes to a bank or a credit union in order to obtain a loan with the intention of using his or her property as security, it would then be discovered that this cannot be done as there is no good title in the property.

It sometimes happens that even if a will was made by the original owner of property, so many things may have occurred over a number of years that it would be most difficult or sometimes impossible to have that will probated. In such a situation a person’s only answer to the problem is to have a person or two swear before a magistrate that they know the land and they know that the person claiming was in possession of same for a period of over twelve years without paying rent to anybody.

The executed document would then be registered in the Deeds and Land Registry of Grenada. Despite its registration the document would merely provide possessory title to the purported owner. Generally it does not provide good title for the purposes of using the property as security. What this registration does is that it puts everyone on notice that the person claiming is in possession and that no one without better title should trespass. The document may be used therefore as a shield and not a sword. Section 4 of the Limitation Act debars a person from making a claim for land which has been in undisputed possession of another person for at least twelve years.

The person claiming possessory title must be in actual possession and not merely claiming as a result of just making an entry on the property. It is to be noted however that in accordance with Section 3 of the Limitation Act possessory title to Crown Lands cannot be legal unless it is for a period of over sixty years.

It is heartening to note that following certain proposals which were made by the Grenada Bar Association, the government seems to be giving serious consideration to passing a piece of legislation in parliament in order to make possessory titles more structured and more meaningful. This has already been done in St Vincent and the Grenadines.

It is anticipated that a person wanting to obtain possessory title to land after twelve years of adverse possession, would have to make an application to the Court giving all the relevant details. The Court would then make a determination on the validity of the application. If the application is approved, then a Certificate of Title would be issued by the Registrar of the Supreme Court. In this way, financial institutions are expected to recognise these titles and would therefore give consideration to having the relevant properties used as security for loans.

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