QUESTION: Dear Legal Wiz,
Since 2000 a tenant moved into my property back home in Trench Town, Jamaica. After six months she stopped paying rent. Several representatives tried with no success to collect the rent. In fact she told my last rep that she spent a lot of money on the house to fix it up and make it look good. My representative and neighbours confirm that she lives two doors down from the rented property, which she allows her daughter to occupy. She told my representative that a lot of money is owed on both the light and the water bills.
I have full authority and documents showing that I do own the property. It seems she wants to take over my property as she asked me during my last visit, two years ago, if she could pay the taxes, even though she has still not paid the rent.
I need her to pay over sums and either way I need her to leave. How can I recover sums and my property from these squatters? Can your team help me?
I am Eric Harvey
Jamaican in New York, USA
Dear Mr Harvey,
Thanks for your open line of communication.
Your situation is not unique, and in the end it is always better to be late than sorry in catching up with these persons. First of all these persons are not classified as squatters as at no point in time did you ever ask them officially to leave or take steps to evict them. They entered and are on your property with permission, and are just tenants in arrears for now.
You need to recover your sums and property as soon as is possible, but must be wise in doing so, or the laws of Jamaica will operate against you. At this point you need to
1. Work out all sums owed for rent
2. Have your agents get sums owed to both Jamaica Public Service (light) and National Water Commission (water) in the instance where these are billed to you or anyone under your portfoilio, or representing you.
3. You could also petition these entities to remove your name from the bills and replace with the name of the tenant for the periods that they will be there
4. You must pay the bill balances before beginning a lawsuit for the same from the tenant
5. You can and should begin a lawsuit for recovery of possession with the reason being for rent owed. Bear in mind that at the court appearance, if rent sums are paid up before or on that date, the tenant can return and continue as a tenant at your property. It therefore is wise to state another reason from the allowed listing for recovery such as for personal use and/ or major repair, but ensure that this is as can be proven.
6. Once you did not give permission in any form to carry out repairs or improvements you are not liable to them. However bear in mind that they may have legal footing and support through the Courts for repairs if and where they did notifiy you of necessary repairs (only) and you did nothing
For that they would have to send you a written notice to repair and subtract from the rent within proper timing
At this stage, you do not need to hire a lawyer, and can appoint a power-of-attorney to act on your behalf. You therefore can contract a member of our team for these services and to act on your behalf in Court. More details and advise will follow accordingly once you have secured the team member.