Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Land Titles: What is a Caveat?
A Caveat is a form of injunction provided for under the Registration of Titles Act. When a Caveat is lodged it prevents the registration of any dealing. A dealing is a document which records change to information held in the register, such as a transfer of land or mortgage. The Caveator (person lodging the Caveat) normally claims a proprietary interest or estate in land that is yet to be protected by registration of a dealing. When a Caveat is noted against a Title it means that the caveat has to be removed or written consent to the registration of a dealing obtained from the Caveator before the registration can take place. For more    detailed information on Caveats please refer to our information sheets on Caveats against Dealings.

Land Titles: What is a Power of Attorney?
A power of attorney is a legal document by which an individual or company appoints/empowers another person or company to represent them or act in their place in respect of transferring land or other dealings. Once the power of attorney is granted it must be stamped and deposited at the Office of Titles if it is intended to be used for executing documents to be submitted for registration.

Land Titles: Who can be appointed under Power of Attorney?
Anyone who is of sound mind and who has attained the age of majority.

Land Titles: What is Probate?
A probate is a document granted through the Supreme Court or the Resident Magistrate’s Court certifying that a will is valid and authorizing the executor(s) to administer the estate of the deceased person.

Land Titles: What is the difference between Joint Tenancy and Tenants-in-Common?

Where two or more persons hold an estate or interest in land they are required to state the tenancy in which they hold the estate or interest, that is, either as joint tenants or tenants-in-common.

Joint Tenants 

Joint tenants have a right of survivorship. This means that if A and B own land as joint tenants and if either A or B dies then the interest of the deceased joint tenant automatically passes to the survivor. In effect the joint tenant does not have an interest in the land that he or she can leave in a will unless he or she is the sole surviving joint tenant. Once a joint tenant dies then the death is noted by an Application to Note Death. Please refer to our leaflet on death of registered owner for more details.

To create a Joint Tenancy the following rules must be satisfied:
  • All the joint tenants must acquire their interest in the property at the same time and from the same transaction.
  • The interest must be identical in nature and each tenant enjoys an equal right to the whole or any part of the property but not an exclusive right to possess any part.
A tenant in common does not possess a right of survivorship. When a tenant in common dies then his interest in the land passes under the terms of his will or if he dies leaving no will, his interest is distributed under the   Intestate Estates and Property Charges Act. Once a tenant-in-common dies, the passing of his estate to the personal representative is registered by way of a Transmission Application. Refer to our information sheet on the death of a registered owner for further details.
The tenant-in-common has an undivided share and interest in the property. He has an equal right to the possession of whole of the property but not a right to possess any part exclusively. A tenant-in-common may deal with his share of the property as he or she sees fit.  A tenant-in-common may also hold unequal shares in property and therefore if no share is stated then the presumption is equal shares, that are 50/50.

Land Titles: Can any mortgage institution make entries on my title without my knowledge?

Land Titles: What is the process required to get a Title replaced?
If you have lost your Title then a new Certificate can be obtained by making an application to the Titles Office to have the title replaced. This is done by way of a Lost Title application in the form of a Statutory Declaration. The application must be made by all the registered owners, fully describing the circumstances of the loss and giving details as to where the duplicate title was normally kept, by whom, when and where it was last seen, among other things. Where the duplicate Title is lost by theft or fire then additional proof may be required such as a Police or Fire Report. Once the application is approved then you will be directed to advertise in a newspaper the loss of the Title and the intention of the Registrar to cancel the Title and issue a new one. The applicant will then forward the relevant sheet of the newspaper along with the    appropriate fees and the new Title will be issued. (Please refer to our information sheet on lost titles for further details).

Land Titles: How can I obtain a registered title for the land I own?
Please refer to our information sheet on How to Obtain a Registered Title.

Land Titles: Why does it take so long to get a Registered Title for land which was previously unregistered?
The government of Jamaica guarantees the title to land, therefore documents relating to the transaction are investigated for compliance with the Registration of Titles Act, regulations thereunder and other related Statutes.
The examination and investigation of Title that takes place, helps to support this guarantee. Further where land is registered by Plan, the Survey Diagram is referred to the Director of Surveys for comparison and to advise whether or not it is acceptable. It is also required that notice of the application to be given to the public in the form of an advertisement in a newspaper circulating in the neighbourhood of the land. This is necessary as it provides notice to the world that you are applying for a title to a particular piece of land.
Anyone who has an objection to the title being issued has seven (7) weeks after the appearance of the first advertisement to object by lodging a caveat with the Registrar of Titles and proceeding to court. Once court action has commenced it suspends registration.

Land Valuation: What is Property Tax?
Property Tax, sometimes called Land Tax, is the tax levied on a person in possession of land, such as the owner, occupier or mortgagor. The tax is based on the unimproved value of the land.

Land Valuation: What is meant by the term “unimproved value”?
Unimproved value” sometimes called “land value” or “site value” is the price you would expect to receive if you were only selling the land without improvements, such as buildings or crops. In other words, unimproved value is the value of the “vacant” land.

Land Valuation: How could I find out what value is placed on my property?
The Land Valuation Division issues Notices of Valuation to all landowners advising of the value placed on the property.

Land Valuation: What is the difference between a Notice of Valuation and an Assessment Notice and how often should I get them?
  • A Notice of Valuation states the unimproved value of the property. This is sent to the landowner/person in possession only when properties are re-valued.
  • An Assessment Notice states the amount of Property Tax to be paid and this is sent annually to the landowner/person in possession.
  • Whenever a re-valuation takes place, landowners will receive both Notices.

Land Valuation: Who does the valuations?
Valuations are carried out by professionally trained valuers in the Land Valuation Division of the National Land Agency.

Land Valuation: How was the value of my land arrived at?
The price paid for properties sold in your area or a similar area is used to arrive at the value of your land.

Land Valuation: No one visited my property to value it and yet I was sent a Notice of Valuation. How is this possible?
There are approximately 650,000 parcels of land in Jamaica. It is not possible for valuers to make a detailed inspection of all properties. Most properties are valued using “mass appraisal techniques” which do not necessitate inspection of each site. However, there is a process for dealing with special cases.

Land Valuation: There are no roads leading to my land. It is very rocky and steep. No one wants to buy it. Why was it given such a very high value?
Special advantages of your land also have to be taken into account, for example, proximity to resort or urban areas.

Land Valuation: My parcel of land was given a much higher valuation than that of my neighbour although both are about the same size. Why is this so?
The difference in valuations could be due to some physical defect in your neighbour’s land such as a gully course running through it.

Land Valuation: I have not yet received my Valuation or Assessment Notice. How am I expected to pay my tax when I don’t know what it is?
You may contact your Collector of Taxes or the NLA Customer Service offices for this information.

Land Valuation: I disagree with the value you have placed on my land. I need to have it changed. What can I do about it and to whom do I apply?
You may object on the prescribed form to the Commissioner of Land Valuations within 60 days of the date of issue of the Notice of Valuation. This form is available from the NLA Customer Service offices or Collectorates island wide.

Land Valuation: The value given to my land seems reasonable but the tax is too high, how can I object?
The Land Valuation Act provides for objection to value only and not to tax. However, if you are experiencing hardship in paying the tax, you may apply to the Ministry of Finance for Special Discretionary Relief.

Land Valuation: My tax this year has increased significantly over last year’s tax. I will not be able to pay it all at once. Can I make arrangements with the Collector?
Yes, you can make arrangements with your Collector of Taxes.

Land Valuation: If the Valuation is correct but I cannot pay the taxes, what can I do?
You may apply to the Ministry of Finance for Special Discretionary Relief.

Land Valuation: I am a school teacher. I live on a one-acre lot next door to a famous hotel in Negril. You have given my land a value similar to that of the hotel. Why am I expected to pay the same amount of tax?
Although your property is being used as a private dwelling house, your land is similar in value to that of the hotel. The valuation took into account the potential use of your land for resort development and not its existing use for a private dwelling house. You may apply on the prescribed form to the Land Taxation Relief Board for Statutory Relief. Forms are available from the Collector of Taxes or the NLA Customer Service offices.

Land Valuation: I am a farmer. I have been told that agricultural land is taxed at a reduced rate, is this so?
Yes. A relief of 50% of the tax is granted in cases where the land is used exclusively or principally for Agricultural purposes. Application (Derating) forms are available at the Collectorate nearest you.

Land Valuation: I am eighty-two years old and have no other source of income but my pension. It is difficult for me to pay the new tax on my property. Can I be considered for relief?
Yes. The Ministry of Finance grants Special Discretionary Relief in genuine cases of hardship where elderly persons/pensioners find it burdensome to pay the Property Tax. Application forms are available at all Collectorates.

Land Valuation: My application for Special Discretionary Relief was returned. It was not processed. Why?
It is likely that you may not have answered all the questions on the application. The application cannot be processed if important information is omitted. Please answer all questions. Information given is held in confidence.

Land Valuation: I am a pensioner and a widow, but my application for Special Discretionary Relief was not approved. Why?
Yes. Being a pensioner or a widow or both does not automatically qualify you for Special Discretionary Relief. Approval is based on proof of your inability to pay.
Information given on applications is checked for validity. False information will result in your application not being considered.

Land Valuation: My mother keeps getting Valuation and Assessment Notices for land which she sold some ten years ago. She keeps throwing them away. How can I get them to stop sending her these Notices?
She should advise the NLA Customer Service offices of the change in ownership of the property. The forms relating to transfer of ownership should be completed and returned to the NLA Customer Service offices.

Land Valuation: Since I changed my address some five years ago, I have not received my Valuation or Assessment Notice. Am I still liable for the tax?
Yes. You need to advise the Land Valuation Division and the Collector of Taxes (in the area where the land is situated) of your new address.

Land Valuation: Where can I get Property Tax Relief forms or Objection forms and to whom do I send them?
These forms may be obtained from the Collectors of Taxes islandwide and the NLA Customer Service offices, and should be returned to these offices.

Land Valuation: You say that the valuation is based on “open market value”, that is, the price for which land is currently being sold. I am not selling my house or land. Why is the valuation so high?
Although the land may not be up for sale, the law requires the Commissioner of Land Valuations to assume that the land is vacant and for sale.

Land Valuation: Is it because I have a big modern house on my land that you have taxed me so high? Am I being penalized for having worked so hard to build a nice house?
The size of your house does not determine your tax. It is the value of your land only that is taken into account in calculating your tax.

Land Valuation: What is meant by the term “Mass Appraisal Techniques”?
This is a system whereby parcels of land within a particular locality are grouped and valued based on similarity in a number of features such as size, location, use, topography and access.