How To Buy Land In Jamaica
Answered by Isreal, Associate Writer
How can interested persons buy land in Jamaica? This is best answered by defining land ownership in Jamaica.
The land is actually owned by the crown (state) and individuals or companies are allowed to buy an interest in the land.
This can take one of two types of interests:
- Tenants –in- Common
- Joint tenancy.
These two freehold interests are transferable at a future date of his/her personal interest to a third party for an agreed sum by way of a contract between owner and purchaser.
Therefore, the buyer needs to investigate the ownership of the land.
Investigating the Ownership
Not all interests in land are registered and therefore have registered titles. Some land interests are unregistered and are vaguely said to be registered with a common –law –title.
Here are few considerations when investigating land.
- Title registration with volume and folio
The registered title should have a volume and folio. The volume means book and folio relates to the page number. Therefore a registered title carries on the top left hand corner of the cover page the volume and folio to which the land is registered.
This information is very important as with the correct volume and folio any one can check with the National Land Agency in Jamaica to verify if the land exists and its legal ownership.
This information is available to the public upon request but the applicant is required to pay a fee, depending on the type of search needed.
- Checking the caveats on the title
It is also important to note that some titles have caveats noted on them. While all caveats should be of interest to the purchaser those that are related to: mortgages, succession to third parties and minor interests such as leases and reservation for public purposes by the state should be of major concern to the buyer.
The prospective buyer should preferably through an attorney –at-law have all liens of whatever nature clarified and cleared from the title before money is transferred from buyer to seller.
If they are on the title and no longer of interest to those persons who registered them, the owner should ensure to have them stamped as cancelled by the Registrar of Titles.
The Common-law Title
Not all lands are registered under the Registration of Titles Act (1973). These lands termed as common-law-title are lands that form a category of land interests that cannot be verified in the same way that a registered land can be checked.
This informal category is more difficult to check the ownership and in itself is a large category in Jamaica. Having said that, anyone purchasing land can verify if the portion of land he/she is interested in is a registered title or common-law-title.
This does not mean that legal transaction cannot be concluded in acquiring that type of land interest. What is needed however is a more in-depth research and care before any commitment to purchase from anyone claiming to be the legitimate owner.
Some unregistered lands have formal documents in terms of history of land ownership. This however requires the past owner and the successor appearing in the presence of a ‘justice of the peace’ or’ notary public’ accompanied by two witnesses (18 years or older) who are present at the time of the sale/ transfer.
These witnesses should know the seller well and can attest to the fact he or she is the legitimate owner of the land that the purchaser is trying to exchange for some type of reward, financially or otherwise. The common- law title in its true form should be prepared by either a justice of the peace or a notary public.
This document should then be submitted to the tax administration for duties assessment. When the document has been checked and duties paid; it should be taken back to the Deputy Registrar at the Registrar General Department.
Therefore all lands that have no registered title and boast the common- law title should pass the check at the Registrar General Department. If this check fails, then no one should proceed with any meaningful transaction.
Professionals within the Jamaican Real Estate Industry
- An Attorney-At-Law oversees the contract transaction in particular: the fees that are payable, liaising with other attorneys and oversee the document being stamped by the Tax Administrative Department to the transfer process.
This attorney-at-law should be one who specializes in real estate transactions.
- A commissioned land surveyor is a land professional that can help the client properly identify the correct boundaries of the subject property.
If there are discrepancies within the boundaries, the surveyor will be able to apprise the purchaser of such discrepancy; thus influencing future decisions on behalf of the prospective buyer.
- Real estate dealers or agents are professionals within the industry that can conduct real estate matters on their own, while the agent has to be attached to a dealer to carryout real estate issues. The dealers are professionals who can act on their own, without supervision.
- Last but not least are the developers who are in the business of constructing commercial and residential buildings and offering lots for sale within a scheme.
Regardless of whoever is trying to buy land or property in Jamaica, it can be facilitated within a well- structured and functioning land transaction system.
The system works well, including facilitating complaints and making redress to those who are aggrieved by their parties in contract.
If any breaches occur by one party acting unfairly to the other party, in terms of the contract; the law/courts are there to address such breaches.
For additional information, contact the Jamaica National Land Agency at the following links.
You may also find the Jamaica National Land Agency list of commissioned land surveyors at http://nla.gov.jm/content/list-practising-surveyors
See also: How to apply for land title in Jamaica
Ministry of Jamaica. 1973. Registration of Titles Act 1973 taken from http://moj.gov.jm/sites/default/files/laws/Registration%20of%20Titles.pdf
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