FRUIT TREES LEAD TO FREE LAND: Retired RBDF officer granted land after planting fruit trees on it for 20 years

FRUIT TREES LEAD TO FREE LAND: Retired RBDF officer granted land after planting fruit trees on it for 20 years

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — A man who maintained and planted fruit trees and vegetables on a property adjacent to his Coral Harbour home for more than 20 years has been granted ownership of that land via a Supreme Court ruling.

Stafford Bain, a former Royal Bahamas Defence Force (RBDF) officer, filed a petition under the Quieting Titles Act (QTA) in the Supreme Court in July 2017, claiming the land had been abandoned by the true owner and was left overgrown next to his triplex where he resided; and that he cleared the land for many years, incurring expenses.

He sought out the owners without success in 1987, and in 1992 established occupation of the land, expending funds to stop its use as a neighborhood garbage dump as he had paying tenants in his triplex.

He planted coconut trees, palms, sweet potatoes, bananas and sea grapes, among other produce, according to court documents.

According to his affidavit in support of the petition, Bain said in 2000, he dry-docked his fishing vessel on the land, which prompted Shimoda Company to claim it. But as they never proved ownership, he continued to occupy the land.

In 2001, he hired a company to erect a fence around the land.

He also dredged the canal at the rear of the lot, poured a bulkhead and erected a dock.

A marina was constructed in or around 2015 or 2016.

Shimoda Company filed an action against him, but the matter was dismissed.

Shimoda said it took title of the land in 1993 from Charlene and Maudeline Pinder, but the court noted that Bain had cleaned the land for six years before the company bought it and neither Pinder occupied the land at any time.

Upon appeal, the matter was struck out.

Bain prepared a survey plan of the property in 2003.

Under cross-examination, he accepted that he was not given permission to enter the property to conduct a survey plan.

In support of Bain’s case, Sandy Dean-Kincaid, a resident of Coral Harbour of 32 years, testified that Bain had solely maintained and used the property, located on the west side of his apartment complex, in excess of 20 years without interruption.

“During the time I have known Stafford Bain as a neighbor, I believe he never located the people responsible for the property and kept [it] under his occupation and possession unmolested by all,” Dean-Kincaid swore.

“I verily know and believe that the said land has always been in the free and uninterrupted possession and enjoyment of the said Stafford Bain solely, or receipt of the rents and profits of such property have always been enjoyed by him alone over the last 20 years.”

Others swore to the same, including Stephen Whylly, proprietor of JS Fencing and Welding, which installed the fence around the property.

Whylly said he had known about the property in excess of 20 years as he was previously a defense force officer and often in Coral Harbour and it has “always been occupied by or in the possession of Stafford Bain only”.

According to the QTA, any person who claims to have any estate or interest in a certain piece of land may apply to the court to have his or her title to such land investigated and the nature and extent thereof determined and declared in a certificate of title to be granted by the court.

In his ruling, Justice Ian Winder said it was not “seriously disputed” on evidence that Bain, by his activity, had taken possession of the property.

“Additionally Bain’s evidence and defense of the Supreme Court action, positively asserting his ownership, adverse to the documentary title owner, demonstrated the necessary animus possidendi with respect to the property.

“I have no hesitation in finding that Bain’s activity amounts to factual possession and that he possessed the requisite animus possidendi.

“The only real issue in this dispute is whether this possession has been continuous and not interrupted by the Supreme Court act, as alleged by Shimoda.”

The court said notwithstanding Shimoda’s suit, it did not interrupt Bain’s possession.

Bain was granted a certificate of title for the land.

About Royston Jones Jr.

Royston Jones Jr. is a senior digital reporter and occasional TV news anchor at Eyewitness News. Since joining Eyewitness News as a digital reporter in 2018, he has done both digital and broadcast reporting, notably providing the electoral analysis for Eyewitness News’ inaugural election night coverage, “Decision Now 2021”.