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Thirteen-year land dispute leaves property owner frustrated

Joann Moss has been waiting to occupy her land for 13 years now. She has all the proper documents – proper title and a lien from CIBC FirstCaribbean International Bank – but people are on her land, and the office of the provost marshal (the commissioner of police) has yet to remove the occupiers from her property.

Moss has endured two court cases. The first she lost because the court upheld “squatters’ rights”. But on appeal, she was successful in proving that she had clear title to the land on Grant Street off of Bernard Road, which she has been making monthly payments on for years.

The occupiers of her land, relatives of the former owners, were found during the appeal to be tenants and not squatters, according to the court judgement.

The court then ordered a writ of possession so that Moss could obtain vacant possession of her property. The writ, issued April 8 of this year, informed the provost marshal that the court “entered judgement for the plaintiff (Moss) and granted possession of all that piece, parcel or lot of land.”

The writ continued: “Therefore we command you that you enter the said land without delay and cause Joann Marie Moss to have possession of the said land.”

A source in the Office of the Attorney General, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly on such matters, told Guardian Business that if a court makes an order to the office of the provost marshal, the order should be carried out immediately.

“But these things often take some time,” the source said.

December has come and Moss still does not have

vacant possession of the property she purchased, despite having made a downpayment to have a bailiff carry out the eviction. Moss said she went with a police officer to the property recently, but the officer failed to carry out the eviction.

Guardian Business sent a series of emails to Commissioner of Police Ellison Greenslade for comment and attempted to reach him by phone, but no response was received up to press time yesterday.

“If they don’t do it where am I supposed to turn as a citizen?” Moss said.

Effective title to property and the blurred lines of squatter’s right have historically been a problem for land purchasers in The Bahamas. But, Moss said she and the bank, by way of lien, have full rights to the property on which stands three structures. One of those structures she said is metered, meaning Bahamas Power and Light (BPL) would have had to have proper documentation to connect the structure. But Moss has the documentation for the land, and never contracted BPL to install anything on her property.

Moss had BPL disconnect the structure after presenting her ownership papers. The occupiers were then successful in having it reconnected.

The assistant general manager of customer service at BPL wrote to Moss: “In these circumstances where court rulings are involved, while we wish to assist customers with their requests, the corporation needs to act with clarity.”

In Moss’s case the court ruling is clear. She has clear title to her land. And those with clear title have the right to connect and disconnect utilities to their property as they see fit.

In January, a dispute over land ended with bulldozers tearing down occupied homes off of Prince Charles Drive. Even after that story was told, there were still questions over the ownership of the land.

After two court cases, Moss still cannot get the occupiers removed and clear her property and is baffled by why she cannot get assistance from the commissioner.

She lamented, “Why can’t I get vacant possession of my property I pay for every month?”


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