Friday 24 January, 2020

Why you should register your unregistered land in 2020

Experts in Jamaica’s real estate industry estimate that approximately 40 per cent of Jamaica’s land is unregistered. The value stands at a whopping $200 billion.

This shocking statistic was the topic of much discussion at last year’s Realtor’s Association of Jamaica Symposium. What is even more astonishing is the fact that many Jamaican’s are landowners and cannot benefit from the ownership of real estate because they have failed to take the necessary steps to obtain a Registered Certificate of Title.

This could be the key to unlocking wealth for many who may use their assets as collateral to borrow, build on their property; further their education and/ or those of their children; start a business; invest in other asset classes such as stocks and other securities or take a vacation or do whatever their heart desires.

The fact is that equity in real estate is easily unlocked through local commercial institutions when the owner of real estate can provide assurance of his or her position as the “real” owner through the provision of a Certificate of Title.

Many Jamaicans are rich in real estate but struggle financially as financial institutions deem the uncertainty of their ownership as dead capital and unrecognizable. Some of you may be occupying the property and not even know that it is deemed unregistered land.

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Do you own unregistered land?

Technically speaking unregistered land is real estate that falls outside of the purview of the Registration of Titles Act. To put it simply, if you do not have a Title for your property and you own it you have unregistered land. Property is not automatically registered because your family has occupied it for decades and you have paid your property taxes.

To obtain your Title you must make the relevant application with supporting documents.

In this article, I will be discussing in further detail why persons should consider registering their properties and the process which registration entails.

What is a Certificate of Registered Title (otherwise referred to as Certificate of Tile or Title)?

A Title is a government-issued document which identifies the legal owners of the property. A Title also provides information on the property’s location and any interest in the land by other parties such as mortgages and caveats as well as restrictions.

Benefits of registration

  • The Government of Jamaica guarantees the Title to land. This guarantee gives third parties certainty when they are entering into transactions with owners of registered land and if the Title contains any error compensation can be sought.
  • The title accurately reflects the current facts that are material to a person’s ownership.
  • The Title Register is the sole source of information regarding ownership and anyone who searches for the Title does not have to concern themselves with the information contained elsewhere.
  • There is the ease of doing business. Your property can be sold or leased more easily and at a value more in line with its true valuation. Banks would also be willing to lend against your Title.

If you own land that is not registered you can take steps to have it registered.

The Registration Process

This process includes the following:

  1. Completing a signed application
  2. Providing the history of the land for a specified period of time
  3. Providing proof of possession
  4. Providing proof of ownership
  5. Providing up to date payment of property taxes and the improved value of the land
  6. Submitting declarations from persons who have known the land for a specified period of time
  7. Completing and submitting a survey pre-checked diagram if the land is being registered by plan or a description of the land to enable identification
  8. Paying registration fees, stamp duty and transfer tax

There may be other documents required based on your circumstances which may make the application much more complex and so you should contact an attorney to provide you with assistance.

After your application is submitted the relevant government department will review your application, check to ensure that the land is not yet registered and decide whether your survey plan is acceptable.

Your application will then be considered by the Referee of Titles.

Provided that your application is approved you will be directed to publish a Notice for a period decided by the Referee of Titles.

If there is no caveat lodged against the application and no court action commenced your Registered Certificate of Title will be issued a few weeks after the proof of advertisement is submitted along with payment of final fees.

This may seem like a tedious process and it in many cases is, however it is my view that the economic benefits of obtaining a Title outweigh the tedious nature of the application process and the acquisition of a Title can unlock opportunities for many Jamaicans.

Carissa Mears

*This article does not constitute legal advice and is intended for informational purposes only.

For comments or questions, you may contact the author, Carissa Mears, attorney-at-law at carissa.mears@gmail.com and follow her at propertybuyersguide on instagram. Carissa Mears is an attorney-at-law. She has served as an Adjunct Lecturer in law at the University of the West Indies Mona, The University of the Commonwealth Caribbean and The Caribbean Maritime University. She is the Vice-Chairman of the Board of Governors of the St Catherine Primary School. She is passionate about making legal issues understandable to the general public.

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