Continued from the Friday, July 13, 2018 issue of the Amandala
Justice Young said the court found that the Flowers were in possession of the portion and had exercised physical control over it since 1998, and that “The court also finds that they had the necessary intention to possess—to exclude the world at large.”
“In these special circumstances, their factual possession on its own, for the length of time, to my mind, is quite sufficient to prove the requisite animus.” Justice Young said.
The first court action in this matter had determined that Monsanto was the owner of the property. “So,” Justice Young said, “on the date of that decision, time stopped running. If indeed Monsanto was serious, he would have taken some action to enforce that judgment for possession. The appeal filed by Mr. Flowers was not a stay. This means that the original order was still valid and enforceable.
“Rather, Mr. Monsanto remained inactive, allowed the Flowers to remain in possession, and time began to run again. When he [Monsanto] transferred that property, the Flowers were still in occupation. The person to whom he transferred it also remained inactive, and it was then bought by Ms. Fuller’s company. To my mind, even Mr. Flowers’ appeal is indicative of his belief in his ownership.”
Justice Young said that Ms. Fuller never sought to dispossess the Flowers, and that Fuller’s company rarely went to the property. She said that the property was bought “solely as an investment to be resold,” and “after Fuller’s company gained title in 2000, she said she only realized that the Flowers were on the property in 2005, because their home was located behind another structure on the property…she had never seen it. That is a matter for her. She did not seek to dispossess the Flowers,” Justice Young said.
Fuller had offered Ms. Buller $30,000 to move, which was initially accepted, but then Buller changed her mind. “There was no evidence when this offer was made,” Justice Young said.
“In any event, even if the Flowers were there with her consent, when did this consent expire, or why didn’t she revoke it and have them removed pursuant to a court order before she sold the property. In my view, her offering money for their removal tells a strikingly different tale. By her own admission she knew there existed no injunction or other court order which allowed them to stay in possession., offering to pay indicated she recognized some rights they may have had outside any of that,” Justice Young pointed out, before adding, “In none of this has Ms. Fuller proven that the Flowers themselves acknowledged her company as the owner.”
Fuller’s Belize National Building Society sold the property to Taibo in 2016. “The Flowers were still there, and by then had been in adverse possession for more than twelve years. Any claim for recovery of possession was accordingly statute-barred and Belize Building Society’s title had already been extinguished. The court, therefore, need not consider anything which Mr. Taibo did subsequent to becoming the registered proprietor, as no title to the portion existed to be transferred to him, and no subsequent acknowledgment could revive ownership… “ Justice Young reasoned.
“This court finds that the Flowers were in adverse possession of the parcel for a period exceeding 12 years…On the strength of the court’s declaration, the Flowers may now apply for a registration as proprietors of the portion,” said Justice Young.
The judge said that a lot of emphasis had been placed on the fact that Flowers did not file a caution against the property.
“It seems that no one was aware that the Flowers’ mere open occupation could protect any interest they may have in the land, and although it was open to them to take some action, they did not have to do anything more. That is the nature of overriding interest…It did not matter what anyone did with the title. Once the Flowers continued in possession, its transfer from person to person made no difference. Their time began to run from the moment they went into adverse possession,” the judgment said.
Justice Young accordingly dismissed Taibo’s claim for possession of the back of the property. The court ordered Flowers and Buller to pay a court cost of $10,000, “as agreed.”