Understanding the Law
August 14, 2009
Possessory Title revisited

You may recall the Possessory Title Act No.38 of 2004 which was enacted in 2004 but came into force in 2005. Since then many matters concerning the issue of title have been commanding the attention of the Court. Very often they are matters concerning families or in some cases total strangers who have occupied lands and have remained in continuous and exclusive possession for a period of twelve or more years.{{more}} The Act insists 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 of land.” Possessory title could be claimed even though there might be another person with a paper title. Before the new Act requiring Court action, persons who occupied property adversely had been able to claim title through the registration of a Declaration of possessory title. This title is valid once it conforms with the law.

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 is 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.
E-mail address is: exploringthelaw@yahoo.com