Privy Council criticizes the Quieting Act 1959 in the Bahamas

February 13, 2013

bulletin header imageIn December 2012, the highest court in the Bahamian judicial system, the Privy Council, criticized the Quieting Act of 1959 and expressed concerns that the Act can be used to steal land and emphasized that it was “no accident” that they have heard numerous title disputes from The Bahamas.

By way of background, many families in The Bahamas have lived or occupied a parcel of land all of their lives without having documentary title to the land and everyone in the settlement is aware of such occupation. In many instances, these families have occupied or have been in possession of the parcel since their great grand parents, grand parents and hence the terminology “generation land”. However these persons do not have legal title to such parcels and should they wish to sell the parcel or try to obtain a mortgage from a local bank they are unable to produce a document that equates to what is good and marketable documentary title.

The Quieting Act of 1959 was enacted to allow persons to quiet title by way of a law suit brought in a Court having jurisdiction over land disputes in order to establish a party’s title to real property against anyone and everyone and thus “quiets” any challenges or claims to the title.

Thus, the Act enables an occupier of land with no documentary title to the land to make an application to the Court for a Certificate of Title to that land.

Indeed, the Act has been described as an “Instrument of Fraud” and has also been described as being a vehicle that is abused by “land thieves”.

No doubt the Privy Council’s concerns are on point. There have been numerous cases in the Bahamas where unscrupulous attorneys and developers have used the Quieting Act to literally “steal” land from the real owners. This cannot be right.

Perhaps it is time to consider abolishing the Quieting Act of 1959.

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