BVI News

Remove it from law! Acquisition of land by ‘prescription’ legal robbery

Opposition legislator Julian Fraser has said he hopes to have legislation allowing the ‘acquisition of land by prescription’ removed from the territory’s law books.

Acquisition by prescription, in this context, enables squatters who have enjoyed uninterrupted possession of a property for an extended period of several years to obtain a good title for the said property.

Speaking in the House of Assembly recently, Fraser described the policy as “biggest form of highway robbery that is legal”.

“I said it here several times and I would like to see it happen, my friend the AG (Attorney General) knows about it and we are supposed to be working on a Bill one day to get rid of this acquisition of land by prescription,” the Opposition legislator said.

Flawed procedure

Fraser said the procedure to acquire land by prescription in the BVI is skewed in the favour of the party interested in acquiring the land.

Outlining a scenario as an example, he said: “Here’s a guy. He’s probably sitting somewhere in Abilene, Texas with 40 acres of land in the Virgin Islands, and someone decides that they want a portion of it and they go to the Land Registry and file for an ownership by prescription.”

“The Registrar of Land would send out a notice, which before he leaves his office bounce back because he ain’t have no address for you (land owner), or he puts something in the Beacon or the Island Sun, somewhere back on page 36 in small print, and the only person who would see it is the man who is looking for your land by prescription because he’s looking for it.”

No response to notices results in the loss of property

The senior Opposition legislator further said that following the issuing of the notices, the person in pursuit of the land would inquire to the Registrar of Land as to whether a response was received from the owner. 

Once no response has been received, according to Fraser, the land is made available for purchase to the interested party.

“He’s going to make sure he tells the Land Registrar, it happened two times, the two times are up. Did you get a response? Of course not, he’s not going to get a response because the poor guy in Texas, where is he going to see the Beacon or the Island Sun? Next thing you know is your land is gone,” Fraser added.

Fraser is, therefore, calling on the government to ensure that persons in possession of land in the BVI are protected from the advent of similar instances.

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11 Comments

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  1. Jill says:

    Fraser you are correct that it is legal robery. Hmmmm

    Like 18
    Dislike 1
  2. LG says:

    Of course a law like that should be struck. it is legal theft and immoral. Has no place in modern society

    Like 14
    Dislike 1
  3. He Did It! says:

    Andy M*die

  4. hip hip says:

    fraser for premier

    Like 2
    Dislike 2
  5. CGB says:

    There goes half the peeps in Cane Garden Bay. Most are squatters.

  6. Ausar says:

    Thank you, Honourable Frazer for such a ruling!

    Sooo many BVIslanders living in the US Virgin Islands, have lost their inheritance in such a manner!

    To hear their stories brings tears!

    These BVIslanders can never return to the BVI!

    Please continue, Honourable Frazer, to look for these types of loopholes in land ownership, and ROOT THEM OUT!

  7. Just my 2 cents says:

    There are serious concerns regarding this method of land acquistion (together with other ‘legal’ methods as well and other laws which robs many, especially children of their birthright, laws which are very bias and discriminatory and those that disenfranchises others). Indeed, its a great observation, yet one which must be justly remedied.

    I cannot comprehend how someone can have uninterupted possession for several years without ‘interuptions’ from the legitimate land owner unless there is some entitlement or state/government obligation (dating back to slavery and the colonisation era).

    Another question is who was maintaining the property, paying property taxes etc for all these years of uninterupted possession? The local advertisements process to initiate the application is flawed, however its very unfortunate that the Land Registry may finds it difficult to locate the legal owners. Have they defaulted on their tax payment for years? Have their addresses and other contact details lodged or used when the property was purchased or transferred and making payments etc disappeared from file? Are our Land Register not periodically updated? Are the ‘legal’ owners interested in the properties or are they even the rightful owners?

    Indeed, its a law that need revision and some form of amendment like so many others including the Constitution!

  8. V284.340I says:

    I am in total agreement of this rule to be ousted or reformed, the latter being more favorable. However, I take it that the property owners may have also defaulted on the annual property taxes which would make this ruling more favorable to the cause on the basis of accumlative non-payment of fees and penalties.

    Additionally, it would be prudent for the government agency to also make publication of similar notice in a place of last known address of the property owner.

    In the end the onus is on the property owner to ensure its taxes and records are kept current and or have a trusted family member/friend (POA) or legal representative kept in loop of their position/status should there be any situation that may render not being able to attend to their affairs; which in the end may cause loss of property.

  9. My 2 cents says:

    Well apparently this is UK law. So being a British Overseas Dependant Territory, means we inherited a form of it. I don’t like it, but from seeing some of the cases with squatters filing to acquire rights to that land, it’s clear the owners abroad do not know about it or was notified about it. Not sure why, but it shows you have to ensure you are up to date with your land taxes etc and keep Land Registry notified of any change of address. If you have, then it makes it easy to fight it.

  10. reform 1 reform all says:

    For one thing someone can’t just decide they want a piece of land and apply to Land Registry to get ownership of it and two it’s definitely more than a few years of uninterrupted possession. If I am not mistaken it is 10 years of uninterrupted possession. What probably needs to be amended is that the Registrar of Lands not only advertise the notices in the local newspapers but also serves the notice on the legal owner personally, whether that is by post or email. As someone said earlier, the legal owner should have been paying annual property taxes so valid contact details should be available to the Registrar by contacting the Inland Revenue Department. If a legal owner defaults on property taxes for 10 years and someone has been living on their property for 10 years and have applied and received no opposition to the registration, I believe that this is partly the legal owner’s fault. It’s not going to cost anyone much to pay someone to keep an eye on their land if all they have to do is drive by the property and probably take a walk through to make sure no one is using it without permission.

    Now, what Fraser should be advocating for is a reform to the law that allows government to classify people’s bank accounts as domant and take possession of the money without notifying the account holder. It is just as bad or even worse for someone who lives in say Texas, to have an account in the BVI and the government only advertising the fact that they have classified the account as dormant in the local gazette. And they do this in much less than 10 years of non-use. Some people could be treating their accounts as CDs and willfully not using the money for whatever reason.
    If Fraser wants to lobby for reform he should try starting with that one first. Although I think he will not as it’s one thing when government takes possession of people’s money and use it without notifying them first. Talk about pot calling kettle black!

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