Opinion: Changing role of real estate firms in former war zone

By Pavithra Ganesaratnam

The role of a Real Estate firm is expected to be quite simple and straightforward. The Real Estate firm has to sell, rent and lease out as much properties as possible while growing its portfolios of properties.

But think of these scenarios. A client comes to you stating they want your services. The have a property that is occupied by their former gardener of the premises. He is refusing to leave, could you please do something to get him to leave?

Another client says he has a property, which he suspects has some unexploded land mines in it. Could you please clear his property of it?

Another client comes to you with various deeds pertaining to ancestral land left behind 50 years ago in her grandmother name. Could you locate the land and get it transferred to her name?

Now think that out of the firms work load around 50 percent of your clients have these types of issues. Would your Real Estate firm be able to cope? Would you be able to survive?

This is the sort of “real” problems the “real” clients with properties in the North and East of Sri Lanka face day in and day out. This region has some of the most complex property related problems in Sri Lanka caused by squatters, lost deed certificates, boundary problems and demarcation of property during war, unenforced court orders and all this combined with foreign citizenships, foreign wills, death certificates from all over the world and last but not least the famously complex Tesavalamai Law.

35 Years of Civil war in Sri Lanka has seen 60 – 65 percent of the Sri Lankan Tamil population gradually leaving Sri Lanka for other countries. This has left a huge number of valuable properties in the North and East in a precarious situation resulting in an influx of squatters moving into these premises and using the prescription ordinance to take over the property.

This has resulted in a sizable amount of the North and Eastern individuals requiring land related legal services in one form or other, which a regular Real Estate firm will be unable to cater to. In addition to the legal complexities caused by the ground situation, international citizenship and global presences of the Sri Lankan Tamil diaspora further adds to the complexity of their legal problems.

This is why Jaffna Property Management (JPM), the company I work for, has managed to develop its business by changing the core business model expected of a Real Estate firm and innovating new techniques to deal with its clients special needs. Unlike a regular Real Estate firms JPM has strong legal dimensions to the service it provides.

Realising the importance of transparency we provide the name and qualifications of associates on our website. The firm hopes this precedent shall encourage other Real Estate competitors to follow suit and encourage transparency and accountability for the betterment of clients.

( – Pavithra Ganesaratnam is a lawyer who graduated from the University of Warwick and completed her British Solicitor examinations at the BPP Law School London. She is also a Sri Lankan Attorney at Law. Pavithra works for Jaffna Property Management, a provider of Real Estate and property management services in the North and East – )