QUESTION: Dear Legal wiz,
I am a tenant in a building in the downtown Kingston area. The owner who collected rent and his son who followed him died. For over two years now no rent is being collected, and it does not seem anyone will come to claim this building anytime soon. The water has been disconnected because the bill went high and no one seems interested in clearing it off. A war between the tenants is developing. At least two of the tenants are taking charge and doing things that can put the building, and some of the businesses of some tenants at risk. The tenants are moving into extra rooms and bridging the light even in these other captured rooms. I am trying to find someone connected, as they have even placed a lock on the meter centre (box enclosing the meters and breakers) to prevent anyone from acquiring any more legal meter for the empty rooms. Can your team help me?
RESPONSE: Dear Ernle,
All the occupants, although entering the property legally, have become squatters and need to sort their status out as quickly as possible. War between occupants especially under these circumstances are never good, and if electricity is being bridged, it is possible that a fire can result, and cause damage imposing some measure of liability on all occupants even those not directly involved in the bridging.
Therefore it is recommended that you come in and speak to an attorney to assist you to weigh your own options, including safeguarding yourself. Our team can assist with some of the issues experienced, especially where tracking and legwork is needed, for a fee.
For example, to assist with securing legal tenancy, our team can assist you with tracing and connecting with a relative directly, or the Administrator-General Department of Jamaica.
All occupants need to be aware and guided by the fact that the National Water Commission has legal authority to possess and sell any property for which monies are outstanding for water bill.
The Jamaica Public Service Company can take action against anyone who places a lock on the meter centre, as this is the property of that company and should be accessible at any given time. The Act does not authorise anyone else, to assume ownership even temporary, so even if persons have keys the Jamaica Public Service can take action, so all locks must be removed. Please take a look, or even post a copy of the Electric Lighting Act of Jamaica somewhere that is accessible to everyone.
Where the illegal electricity connections are concerned, you have the option to call in the Jamaica Public Service and have them take action. Bear in mind though that they may lock down and even remove all the existing meters on the premises, and force everyone to become regulated. Proper documentation will have to be shown by any occupant to prove their right to occupancy should that happen.
When you come in, we will assist you further for a fee. Until then take care.