JIS News

Persons in western Jamaica can now access all the essential services of the National Land Agency (NLA), at the new regional Land Titles and Survey and Mapping Office located at 3 Federal Avenue, near the Sangster International Airport in Montego Bay.
The regional office, which was established as a pilot project in May, 2006 has extended most of its services such as registration of transfers, registration of mortgages, discharging mortgages, and accepting applications to register land. All of these were previously done only at the Central Office in Kingston.
Acting Senior Deputy Registrar of the Titles Division at the NLA, Joan Walker tells JIS News that that the Regional Office was established to decentralize the services of the NLA.
“We currently had only one branch of the land titles division and one branch of the survey and mapping division and these were located in Kingston. The other parishes, such as Manchester and St. James only had a land valuation division, so therefore, the aim of the pilot project was really to assess the feasibility of setting up a permanent Land Titles and Survey and Mapping Office in Montego Bay,” she informs.
Miss Walker notes that the customers were so impressed with the services that were offered through the pilot project that the NLA decided to incorporate the services into its normal operations. “The feedback from the project was so overwhelming, that we have decided to continue, so we have now integrated the regional office into our normal workflow,” she says. “The Regional Office really serves to fulfill our mandate to become a more pro-active and client-focused organization. We want to bring the services to our customers, to prevent them from travelling all the way from Montego Bay to Kingston, or from as far as St. Ann to access our services,” she adds.
Outlining the operations of the Regional Office, the Acting Senior Deputy Registrar says that, “the clients would take in their documents to our offices where we would pre-check them before they are lodged. Once the documents are registrable, they would then be assessed and the client would pay the required registration fees at the Regional Office”.
“These documents are not processed in the Montego Bay Office, as once they have been accepted, they are then transported by air to our Central Office in Kingston, where they are processed. As soon as the documents have been completed they are transported by air to Montego Bay, where they will be collected by our customers,” she explains.
Miss Walker points out that the entire process would normally be completed within 10 working days. “Ten days for straight transfers, straight mortgages and for documents that are not what we consider new title matters, that is, documents that do not require us to prepare a new certificate of title,” she notes.
Documents involving the preparation of a new certificate of title will take a maximum of 30 days. The office also does some basic searches and issues certified copies of documents.
“We do not accept Caveat against registration or Caveat against the registration of any change in proprietorship of any dealings, Search certificates or Stay of Registration in the regional office. The reason we do not accept these documents is that these documents have a very short turn around time, and because of the nature of operations at the Montego Bay office, we would not be able to deliver these services to our customers within the short turn around time,” she explains.
Miss Walker says that the Regional Office is providing efficient and effective service to the customers. “We have been able to maintain the same turn around time as our Kingston Office. So we are really running on par with the Kingston office,” she adds.
Persons utilizing the services of the NLA in the western region can now benefit from the legal advice of the agency’s attorneys-at-law. “There is a system set up where we have attorneys who visit the Montego Bay office twice per month. These attorneys are from a pool of attorneys who are at the Titles Division in Kingston,” Miss Walker notes.
“They give advice to attorneys and other persons who might be visiting the office to use our services. Even though attorneys can call us on the telephone in our Central Office, from feedback that we have received, we find that lawyers in Montego Bay prefer to see a face, so that they can match a face with a name, when they are getting advice,” she tells JIS News.
Miss Walker informs that between May 29 and June 23 of this year, more than 148 documents were lodged, including a mixture of new title matters and regular straight transfer matters. Of this amount, more than 50 per cent were completed within 3 to 6 days.
In addition, in July more than 111 documents were lodged, and in August 104 documents were also lodged. “For these two months, our records show that most of the straight matters were completed within 5 to 10 days. This means that they were signed, sealed and ready to be delivered to our customers,” she says.
The month of September was an extremely productive month for the Regional Office, as some 166 documents were processed.
“The Regional Office is really doing well. We have over 20 regular customers that utilise our services. These customers are from St. James, Trelawny, St. Ann, St. Elizabeth and Westmoreland. We have about 5 surveyors that use the services consistently and they are very satisfied,” Miss Walker tells JIS News.
One customer in the western region who is satisfied with the services at the Regional Office is Attorney-at-law, Fredrick Hamaty, Senior Partner at M. N. Hamaty and Company in Westmoreland.
“The Regional Office brings to the second city the dynamics of having a branch of the National Land Agency. It makes it easier for us to transact our land dealings, such as transfers, discharge of mortgages and other such businesses at the local level and not having to send the documents to Kingston, which can be very tedious at times,” he says.
Mr. Hamaty is especially satisfied with the pre-checking of documents, before they are transported to Kingston. “When we lodge the documents, we have the facility of having them corrected and initialled in Montego Bay before they are sent to Kingston, and this cuts down the time. Normally if a mistake is found, the document has to be returned to Westmoreland or to the part of the country where the lawyer practises, and then you would have to initial those changes and send them back to Kingston. It can be a long process. So, this nationalization of the NLA has cut the turn around time in the completion of land registration considerably,” he adds.
He points out that the NLA’s turn around time of three to 10 working days has been of tremendous benefit to him and his clients. “Before we had the Regional Office, turn around time was like a nosebleed, it was very difficult, but now we are getting back our documents in maximum time 10 days. I really hope that eventually there will be a full-blown agency in the second city,” he says.