Advice & Help

On becoming a tenant in Jamaica

Written by Anthea McGibbon

Traveling to Jamaica can be difficult, especially when you are unaware of your rights. Difficulties at times present themselves only after you’ve decided to stay on in the country for extended periods, of say more than two weeks. Even more challenging is the onslaught of high prices, where you do not beforehand equip yourself with knowledge. This goes for residence of any kind.

Rest assured though you can have fun, legally as you explore Jamaica’s culture through living like a Jamaican – something that tours do not offer.

An easy way of understanding Jamaicans, is by visiting one of our courthouses for a day. Whatever the case especially in the Resident Magistrates Court, humour is a definite side order as even Jamaicans themselves get educated through their own court experiences.

The three most popular courthouses are in Kingston. Both the Resident Magistrate’s Court (court at first instant and for small claims) and the Supreme Court (highest court) are located in downtown Kingston, while the Criminal Court is in the Half-Way-Tree area.

If allowed, you may want to indulge in spending a day with a police officer, especially a traffic cop. Definitely amusing as Jamaicans exercise their “intellect”, while some officers try to earn an extra dollar on the streets through an illegal hustle. But there are good cops and it would be in your best interest to know the difference. More importantly, know your rights so that you can avoid a hustle or illegal hassle.

Either way it would suit you to know your rights – your shield against crafty Jamaicans.

AS a start visit the website of the Ministry of Justice and explore the laws of Jamaica. Be aware though that, as unique as our culture is, so too is the application of the laws.

You may find that a number of the existing laws are not being practiced or upheld as written. Even more exciting is the slant to a few of them. One such example is the relationships between landlords and tenant, mostly due to the fact that there are far more tenants than landlords. Landlords have a field day, while some delinquent tenants give them reason to. There is some serious price gouging going on, and allowed only where persons do not educate themselves on their rights, regardless of the length or nature of your stay.

My advice on this is that you get involved with the Rent Assessment Board from DAY One of your planning on living/staying in Jamaica, however temporary.

A case in Court may take years to resolve, so prevent the headache by first empowering yourself through contact with the Rent Board. Currently they have two offices. Their New Kingston office number is 501-2905.

Bear in mind that although laws are being amended it would suit you to make good preparations whether independently or with the help of a lawyer should you have a case in court.

A legal experience with lawyers is an entirely different story, but research is a MUST before securing one ESPECIALLY in Jamaica.

The Bar Association of Jamaica is a good point of contact, but they wont advise you on which lawyer to choose.

Three good lawyers are Alexander Williams (civil), Colonel Linton Gordon (criminal) and Paul Beswick. Dwane Forbes, although not an attorney-at-law works very well as a paralegal, and can assist with legal paperwork. Owning over 12 years experience as a paralegal, he currently manages the office of Lightbourne and Hamilton. All are excellent also in any cases involving large sums of money.

Judges especially at the Resident Magistrate level can be quite emotional and thus persuasive in securing consent for a number of cases thus reducing the need for trial. However a sound knowledge of the law yields great rewards, as you may find that initial consent is not the best way especially when responding to a claim by scheming Jamaicans.

You may find that more than your ability to argue, is the need to rely on your own good sense of judgment and logic.

KNOW YOUR RIGHTS especially when you are in Jamaica!

All the best till my next article!

This article although exposing another side to the culture of Jamaica, provides information on your legal rights, while staying in Jamaica especially as a tenant, however temporary. The Ministry of Justice’s website at http://www.moj.gov.jm, makes good reference, where you can learn about the laws of Jamaica at http://www.moj.gov.jm/law

About the Author:
Over 13 years as a journalist, Anthea  is a trained paralegal, and artist. She combines her skills including teaching, spanish, photography, editing, and experiences to feature arts, creativity to offer consultations, and other services. She owns antheamcgibbon.com, media website on arts, creativity, culture, and her paintings are available online and at Gallart.com. Contact her at 876-530-5744 or 305-648-6963 or [email protected], [email protected].

About the author

Anthea McGibbon

Anthea McGibbon, Editor and senior journalist, features arts, culture and people of Jamaica. Contact her at [email protected] or [email protected]