Woman wins battle against CH&PA over ‘seized’ house

A Parfait Harmonie mother has succeeded in her quest to stop the Central Housing and Planning Authority (CH&PA) from repossessing her house and has also been awarded $200, 000 in damages.

Gaytrie Singh, a single mother of four, filed a court action earlier this year after the CH&PA broke into her home and attempted to reclaim it. Among other things, Singh, sought to have the court grant a conservatory order prohibiting servants and/or agents of the CH&PA or any other officer of the State from interfering with her possession and occupation of her property at Lot 902 Plantation Westminster, Parfait Harmonie. She also sought over $10M in damages for what she wanted the court to declare were breaches of her constitutional right not to have her property seized without compensation.

In a statement to the press, her attorney, Anil Nandlall said that after all the affidavits were filed and after detailed written submissions were presented by the attorneys representing both sides, Chief Justice (ag)  Yonette Cummings-Edwards last Friday ruled in favour of Singh and granted several orders.

He said that Justice Cummings-Edwards declared that the taking of possession of the Applicant’s Agreement of Sale and Certificate of Title in respect of the property on the 23rd day of November, 2015 was “in violation of the Applicant’s fundamental right and freedom as is guaranteed to her by Article 142 of the Constitution of Guyana”.

It was also declared that the summary forfeiture or expropriation or compulsory acquisition or taking of possession of any land held by Transport or Certificate of Title on the ground that the Transportee or the Title holder is in violation of or has breached any term or condition contained in any Agreement of Sale in respect of the said land or any Transport or Certificate of Title in relation to the said land,  “is unlawful, contrary to and in breach of Article 142 of the Constitution of Guyana, in breach of natural justice, arbitrary, oppressive, unreasonable, capricious, null, void and of no effect”.

According to Nandlall, an Order was also granted prohibiting servants and/or agents of the CH&PA, the Ministry of Housing or any other Officer of the State from “entering upon, remaining, occupying or in any manner whatsoever interfering with the Applicant’s quiet and peaceful possession, occupation and enjoyment at her property…”

In handing down judgment, he said, the Judge also ordered the State to pay to Singh $200,000 in damages.

Nandlall reminded that the CH&PA had threatened and attempted to confiscate dozens of core homes which were allocated under the PPP/C Government to single parents.

“All these persons were either issued a Transport or a Certificate of Title. Hopefully, this ruling puts this issue to rest finally”, he said.

Broke and entered

Singh in her court documents had stated that CH&PA officials broke and entered her home and erected a signboard which read, “Notice: Property of the Central Housing and Planning Authority, Order by the CH&PA.” She also said that a CH&PA official subsequently took documents from her, including her Certificate of Title and Agreement of Sale, and refused to return them.

In an affidavit supporting her motion, Singh said that by a written agreement of sale in 2003, she purchased the property from the Government of Guyana/CH&PA for the agreed price of $112,000, which she paid in full upon signing the agreement.

She said that she was then issued with the certificate of title.

Singh went on to explain that by a contract, titled “Contract for the Participation in Core House Pilot in Existing Schemes,” during 2009 she purchased from the CH&PA a concrete and wooden building at the required cost $100,000 as equity towards the construction of the core house, which she paid in full.

According to Singh, the agreement contained a number of terms and conditions, including, “upon failure of the beneficiary (ies) to occupy the said property within one month of its delivery, the beneficiary (ies) shall be bound to give up possession of the land and building to the Authority and to re-convey Title to the Central Housing and Planning Authority.”

Singh, however, contended that the agreement post-dates her certificate of title by nearly six years and therefore, a condition on that agreement of sale cannot affect her certificate of title nor attach to her land.

In any event, she said that upon completion, she moved in and commenced occupation of the core house and that at all material times she has been in occupation of the property along with her children.

Singh said in her affidavit that after returning home from work on November 23, 2015 she saw the sign on her house indicating that the property belonged to the CH&PA.

She said that the following day, she visited the CH&PA to make enquiries and was informed by a Ms. Hussain that her house and land had been seized by the CH&PA because she was not in occupation.

According to Singh, she then gave Hussain her certificate of title, agreement of sale and other documents relating to the property, after which Hussain requested her to sign certain documents.

Singh went on to explain in her affidavit that she told Hussain she could not read or write and so requested that she [Hussain] read the documents to her but the woman refused.

She added that Hussain then informed her that she would return the documents only if she signed.

As a result, Singh said she signed the documents, after which Hussain refused to return her certificate of title and agreement of sale.

Nonetheless, Singh continued to occupy the house.

The CH&PA last November had written beneficiaries of the agency’s low income housing programme advising them that due to non-occupation they had breached the terms under which they had been sold houses and it would move to rescind their sale agreements.

The CH&PA had subsequently defended its move, while noting that it had seen evidence of persons sub-letting and, in one instance, attempting to sell one of the houses.

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