Understanding the Law
February 20, 2009
Possessory Title revisited

You would recall the Possessory Title Act No. 38 of 2004. Since its enforcement, many matters concerning the issue of title have commanded the attention of the Civil Court. Very often they are matters concerning families with no paper title, or in some cases a total stranger, who have occupied lands and have remained in continuous and exclusive possession for the period stipulated by the Law.{{more}} The Act maintains that the possession must be adverse. Adverse possession is viewed by the law as “factual possession of an exclusive and undisturbed nature of a piece or parcel of land in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines for a continuous period of 12 years or more, accompanied by the requisite intention to possess the said land as owner thereof.”

Once the adverse possessor was in possession continuously and undisturbed for 12 or more years, possessory title could be obtained even though there is another person with a paper title. Before the new Act which provides Court action, persons who occupied land adversely had been able to claim title through the registration of a Declaration of possessory title. This title is valid once it confirms with the Law, but it is no longer possible to obtain this type of title.

In this article I will bring to your attention two cases that were dealt with here in SVG under the provision of the Possessory Title Act. One of the cases was No. 33 of 2007, Cato v Weekes.

This case started out with an application for possessory title of a parcel of land and as required by the Act the application was advertised in two newspapers. The Respondent in the matter in accordance with Section 7 of the Act entered an appearance and thereafter filed her claim. The Respondent traced the root of title to a relative. But what remained is that she was claiming on behalf of her husband and as late as 1997 she recognized an owner whose son they had approached to buy the land. The Court established that the applicant had occupied the land undisturbed and was never challenged for the period of time that was required by law.

The second case is that of Little v Cole, No. 387 of 2005. The Defendant was in possession of a Declaration of possessory title, No 4168 of 2004 and the Claimant relied on a paper title as Administrator of the Estate. The Claimant instituted a claim against the Defendant for damages to land and a declaration that the Defendant was not the owner of two lots of land A and C given on a draft unregistered survey plan. The judge in his conclusion said that he believed the Defendant had been in occupation of the entire portion of land A, B and C for a very long time and had satisfactorily disposed the Claimant with the paper title a long time before she obtained Letters of Administration.

Ada Johnson is a solicitor and barrister-at-law.
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