President of the Bahamas Real Estate Association (BREA) William Wong yesterday urged all prospective land buyers to ensure that due diligence is taken when purchasing property, including making sure that they have "clear and good land titles."
His comments came almost two weeks after Canaan Baptist Church was demolished after losing a land ownership battle with Arawak Homes.
"It is really up to the buyer to make sure that they do the due diligence, making sure that their lawyer does all the proper checking before they pay for a piece of property. That is one of the fundamentals in buying real estate - knowing that you are buying a piece of property that has a good title and the person who is selling it has a right to sell it," Wong said
Canaan Baptist Church pastor, Rev Eugene Bastian said that he purchased the property from a local company back in 1999 for $30,000. But a September 1 court judgment found that Arawak Homes rightfully owned the Charles Saunders Highway property.
As a result of the court ruling, Arawak Homes demolished the church, sparking outrage among some members of the religious community. However, Arawak Homes chairman Franklyn Wilson told The Nassau Guardian in an earlier interview that even more churches are embroiled in land ownership disputes with his firm.
Wilson said the problem of people occupying land with no legal claims is an issue that needs to be tackled.
While not commenting directly on the Canaan Baptist situation, the BREA president agreed that there are cases of people squatting on other people's land without buying the property.
Wong also agreed that over the years, people have abused the Quieting Title Act. This legislation provides for individuals who have occupied or farmed land for 12 years or more to apply to the courts for legal title to the property.
"I have heard stories of certain people acquiring properties that they have no interest in. And I think by now the government has seen to this and they have taken measures to have it corrected," he said.
"I have heard stories where people have been quieting properties for their own benefit and they have no idea who these properties belong to. They figure it is vacant and they make a claim for it. But, I think that is quieting down these days and people are a bit more diligent."
As for the Association, Wong said, "our agents, they make sure that when they are selling somebody's property that it is up to the buyer to make sure that he/she is able to get good title before they purchase property."