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Myers: Land system ‘awfully messy’

Guardian Business Reporter

Published: Aug 06, 2014

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An official of the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers Confederation (BCCEC) has called for an overhaul of the country’s “awfully messy” land registry system, following the resolution of a recent land ownership dispute, which ruled that hundreds of residents in Sir Lynden Pindling Estates are living on land owned by Arawak Homes.

BCCEC Chairman Robert Myers stated that significant improvements are required to prevent future disputes, despite the progress already made in streamlining the registry system through electronic recording.

“We’ve cleaned up a little bit when...a lot of that went electronic. Title is now at least recorded electronically, but there’s still tons of land not in the system and it’s still a mess.

“One of the things that helped clear that up is title insurance. So it took some of the risk out, but it still didn’t clean up the system, it just allows people to mitigate the risk, but there’s a lot more that needs to be done with regards to the process. It’s still awfully messy,” said Myers.

The Privy Council last week upheld a Court of Appeal judgment, affirming that Arawak Homes rightfully owns some 1,700 lots in the Sir Lynden Pindling Estates area. Arawak Homes President Franon Wilson said that residents had 12 months to regularize their titles with Arawak Homes or face legal action.

Myers additionally encouraged the Bahamas Bar Association to take a more active role in preventing similar disputes by encouraging the alteration of the current system, which requires all title searches to be conducted through a lawyer.

“It’s not a great process. We need to keep moving. The lawyers should be more active. The bar association should step it up and help participate in cleaning up a lot of these laws. (The bar association) is horribly quiet... It won’t serve lawyers well if the economy falls apart. At some point they need to be a little less self-serving and more nationalistic,” stated Myers.

Arawak Homes officials also stressed that the land registration system requires changes to avoid further exploitation and hoped that the Sir Lynden Pindling Estates ruling would decrease the likelihood of similar protracted legal disputes in the future.

Arawak Homes General Counsel Tavares Laroda argued that the current system had led to “tremendous injustices” in the past, while Wilson said that Arawak Homes had been involved in such disputes in the area since 1985.

“You really have to address the law to address the people who are intentionally creating a problem,” said Wilson.

Franklyn Wilson, chairman of both Arawak Homes and Eleuthera Properties Ltd., addressed the need for legislative reform earlier this year, stating that the Quieting of Titles Act continues to trigger abuse following a separate land ruling in Eleuthera.

Eleuthera Properties was awarded roughly 2,000 acres of land in southern Eleuthera following a lengthy legal battle with a group of nearly 500 claimants, said to be the descendants of slaves on the island and therefore entitled to sections of the property known as the Chapelle Tract.

“It’s abusive. It contributes to fraud and it’s a hindrance to development,” said Franklyn Wilson.



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