Mobile Land Clinic assists San Pedranos with their land ownership concerns

Thursday, August 5th, 2021

From Wednesday, August 5th to the 6th, the Department of Lands and Surveys are hosting a two-day mobile land clinic in San Pedro Town at the Angel Nuñez Auditorium to provide administrative assistance to residents experiencing problems with their land documents. The land clinic is the first-ever on the island and will be tending to concerned residents from 9AM to 5PM each day.

On the first day, a long line of islanders formed outside the auditorium, waiting for their turn to discuss their issue. The Minister of Natural Resources, Petroleum, and Mining, the Honourable Cordel Hyde, was on hand to provide the much-needed administrative assistance to those with questions. Area Representative the Honourable Andre Perez was also present along with members of the San Pedro Town Council.

Perez invites all persons with private land transactions who need assistance to visit the land clinic. These transactions include private land transfers, realtor and real estate sales, transactions between private individuals, and first-time land registration on the island. Other services also include restrictions such as dealing with actions involving land disputes, prescriptions, and squatter rights. Persons needing to pick up their completed land certificates can also collect them at the land clinic.

Hyde explained that one of the main problems they have encountered is issuing land titles to people for land that belongs to someone else. “The way how the law is set up is that who owns the land first has perpetual ownership, and whosoever gets the title afterward doesn’t have that say,” said Hyde. According to the law, he explained that those disputing the ownership could take the government to court and demand compensation. One of the land clinic aims is not to repeat such cases, which can cost the government a lot of money in legal fees.

The minister overseeing the lands department said they are looking at the situation from all angles and trying to be fair. Hyde said one of the priorities of this campaign is to see how they can help people who have lived on a property for an extended period and have been unable to get their land papers.

That was the case for Mirta Marin, who has been waiting for the opportunity to get her land documents. After visiting the land clinic, she was granted permission to purchase her land. “I had traveled to Belmopan before this, and I was told that my land was on hold. We came at 4AM to catch the line, and I thank God I was granted the purchase price to my land,” said Marin. She was given three years to cover the cost. “I am sure now that I have my little piece of land where I can build my house,” she said. Marin shared that she has been renting for almost 20 years.

The mobile clinic will continue across the country, and according to the Honourable Hyde, it will be throughout his government’s five-year term. This alleviates the tremendous backlog in applications and long lines of people visiting the Lands Department in Belmopan City. The ministry is also using this system to streamline what they are doing. Hyde announced that in September, his ministry would be launching another program to make the land application more manageable and allow them to provide leases, titles, permission for surveys, and purchase approvals in the shortest possible time. But in the meantime, they need to address the other problem, a considerable backlog of applications in the thousands.

After San Pedro, the mobile land clinic will visit Caye Caulker. No date has been set as yet.


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