Lawmakers from both the government and opposition have called for a review of local laws to make it more difficult for persons to acquire land by prescription.
Acquisition by prescription, in this context, enables squatters who have enjoyed uninterrupted possession of a property for 20 years to obtain a good title for the said property.
However, an application must be made to the Land Registry, said Registrar of Land Kelvin Dawson, who cited Section 135 of the Registered Land Act of 1970.
He explained that the application must be advertised in two consecutive issues of a local newspaper and the Virgin Islands Gazette, and registered owners of the land would receive notice if an address is available for them.
After hearing that explanation during the recent sitting of the Standing Finance Committee, member of the parliamentary opposition Julian Fraser raised concern.
He stated that the registered owners of the property – especially those living overseas – are likely to lose their property by merely missing notices published in newspapers and the Gazette.
According to Fraser, a number of persons no longer read those publications regularly.
Junior Minister of Tourism Archibald Christian, in the meantime, said notices should not be limited to a newspaper and Gazette, adding that consideration should be given also to radio and the online news media.
Christian further stated that the concerns were ‘timely’ and he would support amendments to the existing legislation to ensure that the interest of Virgin islanders – especially those living abroad – is protected.
Another government legislator, Delores Christopher, also expressed support for legislative amendments, adding that Fraser’s concerns are valid.
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