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Court grants Certificate of Title over disputed property

In the April, 2012 decision of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the Bahamas, Sir Michael L. Barnett in the Quieting Petition of Leyvon Miller and Joycelyn Miller, the Supreme Court applied the law on competing titles and determined that a Petitioner performing acts on open spaces and that were not continuous were insufficient to amount to exclusive possession.

The Petitioners applied to the Court to have their title to property in Englerston investigated so that a Certificate of Title may be granted to them on the basis that they have been in exclusive and uninterrupted occupation of the Lot for a period of 12 years immediately preceding the commencement of the action on the 8th August, 2008, that is, continuously from August, 1996.

Although the Petitioners claimed to have been in possession from the 1950’s the Supreme Court held that all evidence of possession prior to 1971 was immaterial as a Certificate of Title was issued in 1971 which made any claim based on that possession unsustainable. The Court also held that any claim based on possession prior to 1976 was also unsustainable as the Adverse Claimants built on the property which would have interrupted any exclusive occupation by the Petitioners.

The Court approved the law by Lord Diplock in Ocean Estates td v Pinder [1969] 2 A.C. 19 and the decision of the House of Lords in JA PYE (Oxford) Ltd v Graham [2002] 3 WLR 221 in that there has to be actual possession and the necessary intention to possess.

The Court held that the totality of the evidence presented before the Court was inadequate to amount to intention and the necessary animus possidendi: the movable wooden structures situate on the road side of the property; acts done at the back of the property since 1988 in an open space; and acts of farming done inside a concrete structure which was nothing more than staple crops. The Learned Chief Justice reaffirmed the principle of law that acts of possession must have evidential value to substantiate the grant of a Certificate of Title.

The Certificate of Title was granted to the Adverse Claimants, who were represented by Raynard Rigby and Candice Ferguson.

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