Veteran cop cries foul in St Ann property fiasco
An offer from an overseas developer spurred Steadman Bailey to go in and pay his property tax arrears spanning the last eight years. But a visit to the tax office in Old Harbour, St Catherine, on February 9 left the veteran cop in stunned disbelief...
An offer from an overseas developer spurred Steadman Bailey to go in and pay his property tax arrears spanning the last eight years.
But a visit to the tax office in Old Harbour, St Catherine, on February 9 left the veteran cop in stunned disbelief.
He and his elderly mother are no longer the registered owners of the half-acre property they bought in Cardiff Hall, St Ann, in 2003.
“I gave the agent my information, including the folio and volume numbers for the land, and the agent advised me that there was no result,” Bailey said, recounting his interaction with a tax office employee.
“I was in disbelief.”
The National Land Agency (NLA) confirmed that Bailey’s title was cancelled and that another one was issued to the new ‘owners’ in August 2021, following an application for what is commonly known as adverse possession.
Nicole Hayles, manager for marketing and public relations at the NLA, explained that Bailey’s title was cancelled through the provisions laid out in sections 85 through 87 of the Registration of Titles Act (RTA).
These provisions, operating with Section 3 of the Limitation of Actions Act (LAA), stipulate how a title may be cancelled, Hayles told The Sunday Gleaner.
“Under Section 3 of the LAA, a landowner’s interest may be extinguished where a third party has exercised continuous and undisturbed possession of his property for twelve years or more to the exclusion of everyone, including the landowner,” she explained.
“As such, the land registered at [volume and folio numbers redacted] was not transferred to the current owners. The certificate of title was cancelled because the Referee of Titles, after reviewing the application [by the new owners] made under sections 85 to 87 of the RTA, determined that the applicants had extinguished the interest of the registered landowners,” Hayles added.
Bailey was befuddled by this explanation.
“There is no structure built on the land, nothing at all for the past 20 years that would tell me that a third party occupied the land. I am certain because recently I went there to confirm for myself,” he said.
And to compound things, the Titles Office has acknowledged that the application and supporting documents submitted by the new owners of Bailey’s property cannot be located, the senior cop claimed.
“They have nothing on record to show why anyone would adversely possess my property.”
INVESTIGATION UNDER WAY
The NLA is aware of the claim and has already commenced an investigation, according to its marketing and public relations manager.
“The agency is in direct communication with the attorney for the previous registered owners in this regard,” Hayles said.
An application made under the adverse possession regime must include a declaration by the prospective landowner that sets out a number of things, says Odane Marston, an attorney who handles real estate cases.
As an example, Marston said the declaration should disclose the circumstances in which the would-be landowner came to know about the property; attempts made to locate the registered owner and list the acts of ownership he/she performed over the period stated in the application.
The application must also include a certificate from tax authorities showing that all the property taxes have been paid.
The attorney said that after getting conditional approval from the Referee of Titles, the application must be published twice in one of the national newspapers.
Bailey’s property was advertised in The Gleaner on July 8, 2021 and listed Eric Cain, an electrician who also resides in Cardiff Hall, as the applicant.
The senior cop believes the entire process was tainted and has already made a report to the police Fraud Squad.
“I 185 per cent believe that a fraud has been committed,” Bailey said.
The fiasco unfolded while Bailey was considering an offer from an overseas-based developer to jointly construct a guest house on the property that was projected to earn “large sums of US dollars weekly”.
“This was part of my retirement plan,” he said.