Private land owners in Barbados have been warned to secure their properties from trespassers and squatters, as a recent audit shows an alarming 70 per cent jump in cases of squatting on Government lands.
This was part of the advice from Terra Caribbean in its 2020 edition of The Red Book in which it examined the growing issue of adverse possession, where squatters claim legal title to land they live on for a period without paying rent and have not been asked by the owner to leave.
In fact, the regional real estate company said statistics indicated that squatting was becoming a major headache not only for Government, but private land owners as well.
“Adverse possession is a common law rule facilitating an occupier of land (one who does not have legal title), to obtain legal ownership of the land, if he can prove exclusive, continuous and uninterrupted possession for a specific period, specifically that they have maintained/cultivated the land as if they truly owned it. Under Barbados law . . . the period is ten years,” the realtors explained.
Terra pointed out that if no action was taken during that time, the owner could lose the right to claim the property back from the occupier.
When the company presented statistics on squatting on Crown lands, Terra said that despite efforts by Government to limit such activity on its properties, some squatter communities continued to mushroom.
Citing an audit conducted in 2013 by the Barbados Audit Office (BAO) of illegal occupation of state lands during the period April 2003 and March 2013, a growing problem was uncovered. The areas audited included Belmont, Licorish Village, My Lord’s Hill, Howell’s Cross Road, Emmerton and The Ivy, all in St. Michael. The other hot spots were Six Men’s Tenantry in St Peter and Bath Tenantry in St John.
While Rock Hall, St Philip was not included in that audit, it was identified as a burgeoning squatter concern that also threatened Barbados’ global civil aviation status.
While the total land space occupied by squatters in these communities is not specified, it is believed to be several acres and with hundreds of structured exits on the lands.
“Fast forward to 2018 and the BAO’s follow-up report covering the same areas but for the period April 1, 2015 to March 31 2018. Between the first and second audits there appears to have been an increase of 70 per cent in these areas,” it was noted in the Red Book.
The realtors, who have offices in Trinidad, Grenada and St Lucia, said while the majority of squatter houses were timber, many had more permanent structures and benefited from connection to all the major utility services including water, telephone, electricity and even natural gas.
And in its caution to landowners, the realtors said: “If you own land and don’t wish to risk losing the title to all or part to someone else, ensure you regularly inspect it, and if possible, implement measures to reduce trespassing and squatting.”
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