Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi

The Government has pledged to end long-standing issues involved in getting clear land titles in this country, particularly in Tobago.

This is according to the Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs Faris Al-Rawi.

Speaking at a virtual town hall meeting organised by the Tobago West Constituency and area representative Shamfa Cudjoe on Tuesday, Al-Rawi said the Property Real Estate Business Software launched on October 26, 2020, by his ministry, is the first stage of the electronic process to start the regularisation process.

“Once you come under the Registration to Title of Land Act, you get something called an absolute title, meaning it is something which the State can guarantee as having an absolute purpose, so no need to do a title search,” the Attorney General said.

Giving a brief history of land titles in Tobago, he said there was no formal land registration, so people held their documents with Queen and Spanish stamps in their personal possession.

He said Hurricane Flora destroyed most of the documents.

Al-Rawi said the last land title legislation in 2000 sought to address the title issue but left a “major flaw” as registration of land titles was voluntary.

The attorney general said the Government took steps to rectify the situation and passed the Registration to Title of Land (Amendment) Act 2018.

He said the new act would assist in giving absolute titles to property owners. The titles’ project would fall under the Ministry of Agriculture and the entire process would be free to property owners as the Government secured a US$25 million Inter-American Development Bank loan in 2018 for the project, he said.

The AG also said the process begins with adjudication.

“The declaration is made that an area is going to be brought under the registration of title to land act. There is public dissemination of notice. There is a period for it and then all lands in a particular area, say Bacolet, Tobago or Charlotteville, Tobago, you will have a declaration that is going to be an order”.

He said once the order is given, land surveyors visit the area, and people are required to hand in their historical documents. If there is no issue associated with the property, the title automatically goes into the land registry.

Al-Rawi said in cases where there are no deeds, a survey will be done and compared against the existing geographic survey.

If there are problems with the property, it goes to the land tribunal for resolution.

If the tribunal cannot resolve it, the matter heads to court.

The attorney general noted that the two existing systems for property registration- deeds and Real Property Ordinance will continue until all lands get absolute titles.