Man claims squatters' rights 60 years on

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 21 July, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 21 July, 2010, 12:00am

A man who says he has occupied a piece of government land for more than 60 years without any objections is claiming ownership under the squatters' rights principle of adverse possession.

Lee Bing-chueng is also claiming damages, saying the Lands Department intruded on the property and evicted his tenants after the government no longer had any right to the land.

In a writ filed yesterday, Lee asks the High Court to declare the government's title to the land, at 29B A Kung Ngam Village Road, Shau Kei Wan, has been extinguished because it failed to recover it in time.

He is claiming ownership of the land under the Limitation Ordinance, which states that a person can claim ownership of land after using it for more than 60 years without any objections from the owner. Lee is among an increasing number of people who have recently claimed ownership under the principle.

According to the writ, Lee started living in a wooden structure on the land in dispute before March 1949. He later bought an adjacent private plot for HK$7,000 and, in May 1954, engaged a contractor to demolish the wooden structure and build a two-storey concrete building straddling the two pieces of land.

Lee says officers from the Lands Department evicted his tenants from the building in late January this year, while its authority to do so had expired a year earlier. The ground-floor unit was used for housing a restaurant, while the unit on the first floor was for residential use.

If the court is not convinced he has occupied the land for more than 60 years, he is alternatively asking it to order he is entitled to possession of the land until the end of 2892, when the lease on the adjacent plot expires.

The Lands Department declined to comment because legal proceedings had begun.

The building has been locked since January and is now watched by a security guard hired by the Lands Department, which says in a notice that trespassers will be prosecuted.