Business

Sitting on your collateral

By Tameka Gordon Assistant business co-ordinator tamekag@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, December 02, 2012    

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Whole communities across Jamaica have been transplanted to accommodate the country's mining sector. But after many years of waiting, some resettled residents still cannot legally say they own their piece of the rock.

The bauxite industry has left many imprints on the country's landscape. Rehabilitated playfields, parks and pastures remind us of the island's contribution to the world aluminum industry.

There is a general agreement among the residents of Belle Plain, Mcgil Crist Palms, Denbigh Kraal, and Farm in the Osbourne Store and Toll Gate areas of Clarendon, that they are better off having been relocated.

However, the residents also agree on what they described as, the neglect by the bauxite mining company, Jamalco that resettled them, and the frustration at the company's many missed deadlines to deliver the titles to them.

The citizens — some of whom have been occupying their new homes for over twenty years — were relocated by Jamalco, under its Special Mining Lease (SML).

Under the SML, "Jamalco has the right to acquire privately owned properties that have suitable ore content to satisfy its production levels", the company said.

But the company admits that it is "not doing very well in terms of providing titles to resettled land owners".

"All I have to show is a piece of paper that indicates the location and size of my land", said 57 year-old Hubert Shaw of Mcgil Crist Palms. "Jamalco gave me an ownership paper, but this is not a proper title."

The complaints are varied but the common cry is the lack of titles, which the citizens said, they were promised within a few years of relocation.

"They told me I would get my title within five years but to date, nothing," Shaw said.

Property titles are in essence, "collateral" explained Remax associate, Anya Levy, against "which an individual may seek financing for many purposes".

Aside from indicating legal ownership, titles allow owners to access to the wide range of services offered by financial institutions and the National Housing Trust (NHT).

And as the NHT explains, "all loans whether granted by the NHT or any other financial institution must be secured."

"The registered title is what most, if not all mortgage institutions, accept as security for the loans which they grant for the purpose of buying, building or improving a home."

Debt refinancing and home equity loans- loans secured with a title but used for reasons outside of home improvement or acquisition- are also financial services, which may be accessed with title collateral.

Owners can access "just about any type of loan with their titles said Maxien Davis, general manager of the mortgage services division of First Heritage Co-operative Credit Union.

Though Jamaica's current real estate market cannot be described as purely a buyers' or sellers' market, investment opportunities abound in the sector, Levy advised.

This places the residents of the affected communities at a significant disadvantage by Levy's reckoning.

"Real estate appreciates more than money in the bank" she said "so these people are literally sitting on tied up collateral".

"All my children live overseas and I am looking to migrate, Joyce Weathers, a 77-year-old a resident of Bell Plain, said.

Weathers, who has been living in Belle Plain for over 15 years, inherited her land from her parents.

She has tried, she said, without success, to sell plots of her land but, she laments, "buyers don't want it if the title is not available".

"We can't do any business without the titles and it is very frustrating because they told us we own the land but we have nothing to show that we do" said Denbigh Kraal resident, Marva Johnson.

"You are crippled without your title," Levy said. "There is no way these residents can either sell or transfer their properties to heirs without proper documentation and this is a terrible situation to be in" she said.

Describing the value 'location' in real estate terms, as paramount, Levy contends that these residents-who own prime agricultural lands- have much to be aggrieved about.

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