Make noise about quieting ACT
Published: May 06, 2013
Much has been written over the years of unscrupulous persons using the quieting process to, as the the Privy Council once said: “steal mass acres of land from the rightful owners”.
Most of these travesties occur in the Family Islands where little attention is paid to these transactions, as elderly persons who either lived on the property or knew the history of the land passed away. The heirs, no longer residents on the island, have limited knowledge of what they are entitled to.
Some say ignorance is bliss, but others that have been swindled out of land would attest that it is infuriating and unjust to have one’s birthright stolen.
For years, this practice was rampant, as some members of the legal fraternity used this Quieting of Titles Act to obtain title to properties they had no moral or legal right to. And when they were caught doing so, defendants did not have the financial means to fight the battle in the courts.
However, some of the more contentious land legal battles were heard at the Privy Council, where justices in some cases reversed decisions made by the lower courts.
One instance was highlighted in a widely reported verdict handed down in December 2012 on a title dispute involving more than 400 acres of land on Cat Island, where one of the participants was the wife of former Deputy Prime Minister Brent Symonette. Another instance involved land south of the Charles Saunders Highway near Nassau Village and Pinewood Gardens. In the latter case, the Supreme Court ruled that a group of “developers” used the Quieting of Titles Act to obtain a title certificate for the land, by means of “fraud”, but only after numerous lots were sold to unsuspecting Bahamians.
The Privy Council is on record stating that the Quieting of Titles Act is being used by dishonest developers and that it is a “miscarriage of justice.” The Act was intended to provide a judicial process for determining land ownership and resolving land disputes.
One way residents can protect themselves is to ensure that properties you own or that have been left to you are properly registered with the Register General’s Department to stop these land thieves from stealing your land or inheritance.
The time has come to amend the present legislation so that it protects unsuspecting purchasers of property from being railroaded at the end of the day. No one wants to purchase a property, build a home on it and then learn that the property is not rightfully theirs.
The time has come for all of these loopholes to be closed and the rightful owners protected from these swindlers.
• William Wong is president of Wong and Associates Realty. He was also a two-term president of The Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and The Bahamas Real Estate Association. Questions or comments can be emailed to William@wongsrealty.com.