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KINGSTON — Thousands of persons who wish to establish proof of land ownership can now achieve this right without the attendant exorbitant fees, with relative ease and in conformity with the law, through 'Certificates of Compliance' facilitated by the Land Access for National Development (LAND) Project.

LAND, which was recently launched at the Juan de Bolas Primary School in Point Hill, St. Catherine, is designed to provide the solution to the "age-old problem of untitled land, inherited or purchased without proper documentation."

So declared Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Hon. Robert Montague, prior to the project launch, while explaining that soon, some 50,000 ‘Certificates of Compliance’ will be in the hands of thousands of Jamaicans, “many of whom, while being able to settle on and work the land, could never with confidence prove that it is theirs by law nor utilise it to access money for development."

Project LAND, which is complementary to the Land Administration and Management Project (LAMP), involves the issuing of some 50,000 certificates of compliance over a period of three years.

According to the Agriculture Minister, the programme is designed “to bring land owners incrementally up to a standard of ownership, so that they can obtain a Certificate of Compliance which is acceptable proof of title to the land."

Mr. Montague emphasises that although the programme will be rolled out islandwide, it will begin on a phased basis. "This is too important for us not to get it right," he says.  

The five trial parishes have been chosen for different reasons. St Catherine, the first parish involved in LAND, already has 18,500 qualified applicants pursuing titles. St Elizabeth, Manchester and Clarendon have been extensively surveyed and within coming weeks the programme will be rolled out in St Mary.

It is estimated that over 400,000 parcels of land in Jamaica are unregistered, but  that number could be substantially more, “due to the fact that many parcels have been informally subdivided and have not been captured on the property tax roll,” according to information provided by the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries. 

The LAND Project will primarily complement LAMP by providing potential clients with a certificate of compliance that will be used to prove ‘root of title’ under the Land Tenure Clarification and Cadastral Mapping Act and as such assist in the smoother processing of the applications to register land.

Explaining the process, Acting Project Manager, Lisa Campbell, explains that “experience under the LAMP project has shown that there are significant numbers of landowners who are unable to provide any documentary evidence of their ownership of the land… inherited family lands, lands purchased by receipts only, lands with only seven years ownership by landowner, and so their land cannot be issued Certificate of Titles under the Registration of Titles Act, immediately.”

She tells JIS News that to address this problem, ‘Operation LAND’ is being implemented to issue Certificates of Compliance to these landowners under the Facilities for Titles Act.

Ms. Campbell says that initially, the project will be funded from grants from the Parish Councils in the parishes of St. Catherine, St Mary, St Elizabeth, Clarendon and Manchester, with support from the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, the Ministry of Housing, Environment and Water, the Department of Local Government and the People’s Co-operative Banks. The funds will be operated as a revolving loan programme.

One of the criteria for accessing financial assistance to obtain Certificates of Compliance, persons must become a member of the P-C bank. This membership will enable the individual to access a loan from the bank.

Other conditions include: a limit of land parcel size of 3 acres (or below a certain value as determined by  P-C bank policy); maximum loan value of $500,000 to be determined by P-C bank policy on the Certificate, with additional amounts available on continuing with LAMP to obtain a Certificate of Title.

The cost of providing each Certificate of Compliance will be: normal processing fee of $30,000, plus miscellaneous cost, averaging $5,000, inclusive of contribution to compensation fund; express processing requiring an additional $15,000; and the survey which requires an additional amount based on surveyors’ costs, up to a maximum of $30,000.

These costs are set by P-C bank policy and are provided whole or in part as a loan at P-C bank determined interest rates, dependent on loan funds to the client by the bank.

Ms. Campbell says the project is being rolled out within the framework of the existing legislation. One significant change has been made by way of Ministerial Order, in which the Minister has declared that the cost of land surveying, adjudication and registration will now become ‘approved purposes’. This provision will allow land owners to access loans under the Facilities for Titles Act. 

The problem of untitled parcels of land is very prevalent in Jamaica. This is due to the fact that many persons continue to informally subdivide land. Additionally, many persons cannot satisfy the requirements for titling under the Registration of Titles Act.

Proof of ownership and root of title has been a major issue. Most persons occupy family lands for years, but have nothing in writing to substantiate ownership. Further, many persons are simply not aware of the importance or the benefits that can accrue from having a registered title.

The Acting Project Manager says that while security of tenure is the principal benefit, “the certificate of title is guaranteed by the state and is proof to the world at large that you own the property."

“Land carries value and may be used as collateral or security for loans. A certificate of title is the preferred collateral for most financial institutions. A certificate of title also allows for better estate planning and generally to better plan for the best use of your property,” she tells JIS News.

 

By Allan Brooks, JIS Senior Reporter