The Land Settlement Agency
Tenancy Policy on the provision of Security of Tenure and Land Pricing to occupants on State Lands in the Land Settlement Agency’s Designated Areas and Land Settlement Areas, who are not eligible for Certificates of Comfort, in accordance with the State Land (Regularisation of Tenure) Act, Chapter 57:05, Act No. 25 of 1998
COC Certificate of Comfort
COSL Commissioner of State Lands
LFLP Land for the Landless Programme
LSA Land Settlement Agency
SLRT Act State Land (Regularisation of Tenure) Act, Chapter 57:05
VCP Village Component Programme
VL Vacant Lot Programme
The Land Settlement Agency (LSA) was established as a body corporate under the State Land (Regularisation of Tenure) Act, Act No. 25 of 1998, Chapter 57:05 (SLRT Act), to implement the provisions of the SLRT Act in Trinidad.
The SLRT Act was intended to protect certain squatters from ejectment from State Land; to facilitate the acquisition of leasehold titles by both squatters and tenants in Designated Areas and to provide for the establishment of Land Settlement Areas.
The SLRT Act defines regularisation as “the incremental physical upgrading of and provisions of services to, Designated Areas and Land Settlement Areas and provision of leasehold title thereto.”
Squatter Regularisation has two (2) main components:
- Tenure Regularisation; and
- Infrastructure Development
Since opening its doors, the focus of the LSA has been on the regularisation of squatters who have applied for Certificates of Comfort (COCs) in accordance with Section 11 of the SLRT Act. In doing so, the LSA has engaged in development works in a squatter sites across Trinidad. While all occupants of these developed sites benefit from infrastructure and service improvements, only approximately Twenty-Five percent (25%) of these persons can be regularised by the LSA in accordance with the SLRT Act, under the COC-processing route. The remaining Seventy Five percent (75%) of occupants would therefore not be able to acquire a leasehold title if the emphasis is only on successful COC applicants.
Seventy-Five percent (75%) of occupants benefit from the infrastructure upgrade and they cannot utilise the land resource that they occupy as follows:
- as real security from ejectment;
- as real property;
- as a form or wealth, to pass on to their heirs;
- to sell it legally;
- as a form of wealth where they can benefit from the increase in value from their own improvements; or
- to mobilise the financial resources as an asset to explore certain endeavours such as home construction and repairs, purchase of vehicles, pay for medical bills, education etc.
The asset therefore remains unproductive and does not generate the full returns on investment made in developing the site by the Government. Additionally, the LSA cannot recover development costs by means of distribution of leasehold title to these occupants. These persons therefore effectively reside on the land for free without having to make land payments which can then be utilised to develop other sites.
It is this Seventy-Five percent (75%) of the occupants that the LSA must now, in keeping with its statutory duty under the SLRT Act, facilitate in the acquisition of leasehold titles.
Who can receive Leasehold Titles via the COC-processing route?
According to Section 3 of the SLRT Act, the SLRT Act applies to:
- Squatters in occupation of State Land on which there is a dwelling house before the appointed day;
- Squatters or Tenants in Designated Areas;
- Persons in Land Settlement Areas; and
- Squatters or Tenants in actual occupation or tenancy of lands owned by a State Agency, listed in the Schedule of the SLRT Act, in which there is a dwelling house before the appointed day.
The 75% – Non-COC Category
The category comprise:
- Squatters in occupation before January 1st 1998 but who did not apply for COC by October 27, 2000;
- Squatters who applied for a Certificate of Comfort but whose applications did not meet the criteria for the issuance of a Certificate of Comfort as a result of factors outlined in Appendix 3;
- Squatters who are the legal heirs of COC recipients;
- Squatters who came into occupation after January 1, 1998 but who are in occupation at the time of the completion of the relevant topographic survey Relocated squatters without COC;
- Tenants of the State who are still in occupation despite their tenancies having since expired; and
- Occupants of State Land who received allocations of land for residential use under various past programmes and for whom the type of tenure to be received was not specified.
The strategic actions that are to be considered, must promote equity whereby the occupant can utilise the instruments of the 30 year Statutory Lease and the 199 Year Deed of Lease. This is part of the social contract that will ensure equitable and affordability for the most vulnerable citizens. The measure of success for any proposed option should be that it allows for the acquisition of leasehold titles consistent with the SLRT Act, i.e. squatters/tenants must be able to utilise the 30 year Statutory Lease, 199 Deed of Lease and other lease arrangements under the SLRT Act.
The Proposed Mechanism for Facilitating Leasehold Titles
Creation of Tenancy Agreements
The LSA has exhausted the mechanisms for treating with certain types of occupants on its developed sites, particularly, squatters under Section 3(a) of the SLRT Act. It is therefore recommended that, in the short term, tenancies are created under the State Lands Act, Chapter 57:01, by the Commissioner of State Lands (COSL) on behalf of the President. This will have to be done on a case by case basis. Reclassification of the status of the squatter to that of a tenant would enable the LSA to now treat with the newly-classified tenant under Section 3(b) of the SLRT Act, rather than as a squatter under Section 3(a).
The Commissioner of State Lands (COSL) has the power under Section 7 (1) (d) of the State Lands Act, Chapter 57:01, to act on behalf of the President to create a tenancy for these squatters. In this regard, the COSL, under Section 6 of the State Lands Act, is empowered to create Tenancy Agreements in favour of those persons who do not qualify for a COC.
Section 5.9 of the Policy document “A New Administration and Distribution Policy for Land”,which was approved by Cabinet Minute No. 2901 of 1992, provides for the COSL to make temporary arrangements for fixed terms or for year to year tenancies determinable on short notice.
Once the tenancy is created, the LSA can then approach the newly-reclassified tenants on the developed sites to regularise them under the SLRT Act, whereby they can benefit from the Statutory Lease and Deed of Lease that are issued by the Chairman of the Land Settlement Committee on behalf of the President.
A partial approach of this nature was previously undertaken in 2012 under the Village Component of the Land for Landless Policy and Residential Lots Programme. However, the LSA only utilised the COSL to grant thirty (30) year Leases without pursuing the Statutory Lease and the One Hundred and Ninety-Nine (199) year Deed of Lease provision under the SLRT Act. Under that discontinued programme, beneficiaries would only have received 30 year leases.
The mechanism now proposed would facilitate the utilisation of the power of the COSL to create tenancies whereby the LSA can offer a more equitable leasehold title with greater longevity and one which harnesses the full potential of the Statutory Lease and the Deed of Lease.
This strategy will focus on the existing developed sites and new sites that are being developed and can be implemented quickly without requiring legislative amendment or Parliamentary approval.
Proposed Criteria for Eligibility for the Grant of Tenancy
In order to receive a Tenancy Agreement, it is proposed that the following criteria must first be met:
- Must be located in a Designated Area;
- Must be developed or surveyed for individual lots;
- There must be no unresolved lot boundary encumbrances;
- Sites must have received all approvals necessary for the execution of a Statutory Lease;
- The valuation and appropriate Land Price Policy must be finalized.
- The occupant has attained the age of legal majority,
- Squatters in occupation before January 1, 1998 but who did not apply for a COC by October 27, 2000,
- Squatters who applied for a COC but did not meet the criteria for issuance of a COC,
- Squatters who are the heirs of COC recipients and applicants,
- Squatters who came into occupation after January 1, 1998 and did not apply for a COC,
- Relocated squatters without COCs,
- Tenants of the State who are still in occupation despite their tenancies having since expired,
- Occupants of State land who received allocations under past housing programmes and for whom the type of tenure to be received was not specified.
Implementation of a Land Pricing Policy for the Non-COC Category
The fee to be charged to Tenants in respect of the proposed short term Tenancy Agreements, that is, the “Tenancy Fee” charged by the office of the COSL, will be to an amount set at the COSL’s discretion.
However, once the tenancies have been created, the LSA will now be able to issue Thirty (30) year Statutory Leases and One Hundred and Ninety-Nine (199) year Deeds of Leases, to the tenants under the SLRT Act. Accordingly, the tenant will be required to pay to the LSA the premium, infrastructure development costs, the annual rent reserved (lease rent), cadastral survey costs, all fees and stamp duty in respect of the preparation and registration of the Deed. The LSA will therefore be able to begin recovering costs incurred during the Statutory Lease period.
The proposed Land Pricing Policy should be affordable and should also be equitable so that occupants who have complied with the requirements of the SLRT Act benefit favourably from such compliance. As such, it is proposed that the subsidy applicable to the leasehold price of land in respect of persons who are outside of the provisions of the SLRT Act, be of lesser value, than for those who have met the requirements of the Act for the grant of a COC.
It is therefore proposed that the Land Pricing Policy for the issuance of Deeds of Lease to Non-COC persons, be as follows:
- The price of lots developed by the LSA be based on Forty percent (40%) of the market value, that market value to be determined by the Commissioner of Valuations;
- The recipient to pay an Annual Rent Reserve of Ten Dollars ($10.00) per year; and
- Other costs payable by the recipient will include Cadastral Survey costs and all other fees and stamp duty in respect of the preparation and registration of the Deed of Lease.
The leasehold price will be prorated over the term of the Statutory Lease. As such, a person who has completed full payment of the leasehold price before the Thirty (30) year period of the Statutory Lease, will be assigned a Deed of Lease for One Hundred and Ninety Nine (199) years upon completion of payment.