The doctrine of adverse possession allows a person who is in possession of land to obtain good title if the paper owner fails to assert his own superior title within the limitation period set out in the Limitation of Actions Act (“LAA”). The LAA prohibits the paper owner from recovering possession of land after the expiration of 12 years from the date on which the right to bring such a claim first arose.
The decision of the Court of Appeal in the case Recreational Holdings (Jamaica) Limited (“RHJL”) v Carl Lazarus and the Registrar of Titles provides reviewed the law as it relates to adverse possession.
In this case RHJL became the registered proprietor of land known as Windsor Lodge in 2011. This land was purchased by RHJL from Mr Clinton McGann who received a registered title for the property in 1978. Carl Lazarus was the owner of a smaller parcel of land which was adjacent to Windsor Lodge. A registered title for this smaller parcel of land was issued to Mr Lazarus in 1987.An area of land known as the “disputed property” was included in the registered title of both RHJL’s and Mr Lazarus’ land. There was therefore a case of dual registration.
In 2011, RHJL commenced a claim in the Supreme Court seeking the following orders: (1) that they are the registered proprietor of the disputed property; (2) for recovery of possession of the disputed property; and (3) that the Registrar cancel the certificate of title registered in the name of Mr Lazarus and issue a new certificate of title to him excluding the disputed property.
Mr Lazarus also commenced a claim in which he sought a declaration that he had been in open and undisturbed possession of the disputed property in excess of 12 years and that RHJL’s title to such land had been extinguished pursuant to the LAA. The trial judge ruled in favour of Mr Lazarus and held that RHJL’s title to the disputed property had been extinguished by the time RHJL had purchased Windsor Lodge in 2011.