Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : May 7th 2017 Contents Landmark judgment...
Victory for land tenants
In 1958 Shaira Mohammed,her
husband and their six children
lived in a single bedroom in her
mother-in-law's home in the
They were a poor family and while
her mother-in-law was quite hap-
pily housing them, the couple knew
they needed a place of their own.
It was around this time, Moham-
med was contacted by a cousin, who
gave her and her husband permis-
sion to rent some land off the Ma-
racas Royal Road.
The land was mountainside, over-
looking the road. The Mohammeds
were encouraged to cut and clear the
land and build a home for their fami-
ly. Less than a year later, after paying
excavators and tractors to clear the
land, the couple built a small two-
room structure and levelled some
land for the children to play.
The years went by and the cou-
ple continued paying rent for the
land---first $12 annually, then $36,
More relatives moved into the
land, with the permission of the
owner, paying similar rents and
building properties, permanent
structures, on the hillside.
The new tenants of the land were
David Sammy and Mary Gomez and
Separately, the three families dug
into the mountainside, cleared the
forested area to make the area suit-
able for building homes. Later, the
land would be sold to a new owner,
and left to the new owner's son, who
would continue the agreement while
building a home on a part of the land
The families interacted with each
other, eating food at each other's
houses, the cousins played after
school and were a close-knit group.
In 2013, after decades of living in
harmony, the three families were in-
formed that they would be evicted
from the land, after the owner had
stopped accepting rent.
The eviction was based on the
Land Tenants (Security of Tenure)
Act 1981, which gave tenants of land
a lease for 30 years with an option
to renew the lease for a further 30
years and thereafter, they have an
option to purchase the land at half
the market value of the land.
According to the 1981 act, if the
tenants did not give notice to the
landlords of the renewal of their
tenancies after the 30-year peri-
od, they would be viewed as yearly
tenants, which gave the landlords
the opportunity to evict them from
Steps taken to evict tenants
after 1981 act expired
Neither Gomez, Mohammed
nor Sammy gave notice that they
intended to renew the lease.
They lost their first legal battle
but appealed and in April, the Court
of Appeal comprising Peter Jama-
dar Justice of Appeal (JA), Gregory
Smith JA, and Peter Rajkumar JA
gave a landmark judgement which
could benefit, not just Mohammed,
Gomez and Sammy, but thousands
of tenants who face eviction from
landlords because they did not re-
new their tenancies before the Land
Tenants (Security of Tenure) Act
1981 expired in 2011.
The three families now have the
opportunity to renew their leases,
with the option to purchase the land,
as stated by the 1981 act.
According to the judgement in the
case, Mary Gomez spent $920,000
to build and extend her house, Shai-
ra Mohammed spent $295,000, and
David Sammy spent $1,425,000.
They lived on the lands almost all
of their lives, Gomez for 51 years,
Mohammed for 59 years, and Sam-
my for 54.
They built roads and all the drains
and infrastructure on the land to
The Court of Appeal unanimous-
ly agreed to reject the contention of
the defendant that the families were
"It found that the fact they built
permanent homes on the land and
continued to renovate them that by
the principles of proprietary and ac-
quiescence by the defendant and his
father they are entitled to remain on
the land as the tenants for an addi-
tional term of 15 years with an op-
tion to purchase the land during that
period at half the market value as at
2011," attorneys for the three families
said. According to the attorneys, the
judgement of the Court of Appeal is
a judgement of great importance as
it affects thousands of people who
constructed homes on rented land.
"The Court of Appeal held that
these three members of the fam-
ily were entitled to remain on the
land because they built permanent
houses with the full knowledge of
the owners of the land and they con-
tinued to expend substantial sums
of monies in renovating their houses
which showed a clear intention on
their part to live permanently on the
lands. The owners of the land did not
take any steps to evict them until the
1981 act expired in 2011."
Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj, SC,
Vijaya Maharaj, Alvin Ramroop, and
Nyala Badal appeared on behalf of
Deborah Peake, SC, and Ravi Hef-
fes-Doon appeared on behalf of the
Shaira Mohammed and her daughter standing in front of their home at Hillside Terrace, Maracas Valley.
Mary Gomez, in front of her home
David Sammy, standing in front of his home on Hillside Terrace in Maracas Valley.
guardian.co.tt Sunday, May 7, 2017
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