What could be more ideal than to have your luxury Jamaican home ready to move into and in a secure and well-kept gated community? Maybe all is not as it seems in some of these ‘man-made’ communities as I discovered after staying with a returning resident friend in their beautiful home. I was amazed to hear about the comings and goings, politics, back-handers and more, it was easily enough drama for a Jamaican Housewives T.V. show to be made all about it!
I will spill and give you the best high(low)lights, but I will keep the development name and location a secret to protect my lovely friend from any more unfortunate incidences. Please note that this article is indicative of one individual persons experience of living in a gated development in Jamaica as told to me over two visits to their home. For the purposes of the article I shall call my friend *’Ashley’.
I will admit to sometimes browsing through the adverts for gated communities in Jamaica, scanning the prices and looking wistfully at the beautiful properties imagining living there. But after my short stay in a gated residence my views have changed somewhat and the rose-tinted spectacles have been somewhat removed!
What are Gated communities All About?
Many people who dream of having a second home, or return back to live full-time in Jamaica decide to buy on or off plan from one of the developers that are springing up all over the island. This is usually for the Peace of Mind of:
living in a secure gated community.
not having to manage a building project whilst being overseas.
The developers show images and plans for residents living in luxury homes, on perfect streets with beautiful surroundings and communal areas for swimming, eating and meeting up. But the reality of the development that I visited was very different as it s-l-o-w-l-y filled up, residents started to come and go and the excitement of the initial opening and interaction of the community drifted away. Some houses were taken by international music artists, whilst other houses were eventually bought, but left unkempt and empty.
What to Exect When You Move Into Your Gated Community
If you visit the site before purchasing a property you should be shown the ‘pegs’ that lay out the parameters of the Plots, including your garden area – make a photographic and signed record of this using fixed objects, such as, a lamp-post or fire hydrant to help accurately depict the location. Just in case they have magically moved decreasing the exterior land size after you have put down a deposit or paid in full.
The exterior of the house is unfinished meaning extra money was required for:
The driveway was a plain concrete screed, wide enough for one vehicle, and which stopped about 18″ (1.5ft) short of the ‘porch/front verandah’. You were free to tile, pave (and so on), increase the size to a double car width (eliminating your front garden) and ‘join’ it seamlessly to the front of the property.
The house has no physical boundaries present. That is to say there are no fences or gateways to the houses, creating private areas. Boundaries must be put up at a designated height and style to keep a uniform look.
- The garden only consists of a lawn. You must plant your own trees, plants and shrubs.
Wooden carports and balconies can be added to the properties to match the style of the others already present on the site.
- Other verandah type structures are permitted but must have the same type roofing as the main buildings.
- The ‘grounds’ of the gated community are not overly planted and residents were gaining permission from the Office to add plants and trees.
- The ‘corner’ properties had grass verges that some residents ‘captured’ and planted up to create larger front garden areas.
Who Lives in Gated Communities?
Jamaica has a melting pot of residents buying into the properties on gated developments, but most are bought by professionals or wealthy globe trotters. ‘Ashley’ commented that when they first moved in, primarily returning residents from the UK or USA bought up the properties. After 3 years of living there the shift of residents has moved to mainly Chinese and Indian business owners and professionals, with a smattering of American and European people joining them. This made distinct micro communities within the development and these different cultures kept themselves to themselves dissipating the ‘we are one’ village feel and making some residents feel isolated and unwelcome.
There is a universal hierarchy to the development too, with snobbery, constant one-upmanship and reverence given to residents that are doctors, lawyers and respected business owners over residents that worked as tradespeople or care workers. Persons who were deemed to be single, or non-married where also held with somewhat contempt too by the others. This favouritism can run to the point of preferential treatment from the office staff and the snubbing and belittling of the unpopular or unwanted residents by those wanting to be ‘in with the in crowd’.
Unfair Play and Back-Handers
One of the things that most amazed me about the development and ‘Ashley’s’ experience was that there were so many incidents of theft. Unbeknown to ‘Ashley’ the Sales Office staff did not hand over all the sets of keys for the property when they first moved in. So, every time ‘Ashley’ left Jamaica the Sales Staff were letting themselves into the house and basically helping themselves to whatever they wanted which, included pots, pans, other assorted kitchen items, bedding and even the shower curtain; which was what eventually gave the game away as it was so obviously missing and drew suspicions.
A garden hose, various small trees, palms, flowers and other planting was physically dug out of the ground and stolen from the front garden after Ashley bought it and bedded it in. Other established plants and trees were hacked by neighbours who were later oblivious to it ever happening despite it being blindly obvious who had done it.
When tradespeople came to do work on the house they rifled through draws and helped themselves to household items and bits and pieces of tools and other materials they could make use of. Jewellery was stolen right from under their nose, when some post building cleaning was being carried out in the house.
Poor workmanship was carried out when making repairs or snagging and it took ages and a multitude of missed appointments before the tradespeople turned up, if at all. This was potentially because the tradespeople seemed to all be friends of the Office Staff and back-handers seemed to be prevalent in ensuring the work was handed out to their preferred suppliers; even if this meant severe delays caused by the (over) workload. There was even an incident of catching one of the Office Staff watching porn when they claimed to be too busy to leave the office and do something within the grounds of the development!
As the development offered the service of finding tenants for certain owners and investors, there were incidences of properties being let out by the Office Staff without the knowledge of the owners and without them getting payment for it.
Piles of rubbish, garden waste and pruned trees would turn up on the grass verge outside ‘Ashley’s’ house which other residents have dumped and the Office Staff would make to complaints about it, despite it being nothing to do with them.
One of the other residents damaged ‘Ashley’s’ property and when it was reported to the Police it was ‘paid off’ and the incident never had a proper statement taken in order for it to stand to trial.
There were thriving clubs to join when the development first opened and a lively bar and restaurant, unfortunately three years down the line these facilities have closed down or diminished and the micro-communities have their own events and gatherings.
Things to Remember…
Security is one of the main reasons for living on a gated development, but sometimes the devil is among those who are supposed to be looking out for you. Change the locks when you move in and save yourself the headache of unwanted and uninvited persons from entering your home.
If you are to be away from the property for extended periods of time be aware that the house will not be ‘aired’ and the heat generated in the property will be immense, these factors can create all types of unwanted problems. Insect infestations, especially ants are common as they have all the freedom and uninterrupted time to make your home theirs, eating away at wooden areas and destroying the beauty of it. Your furniture will also swell and shrink in the changing temperatures of the property, which can even cause a 10ft solid wood dining table to warp and fabrics to ‘burn’ in the sun.
Be careful who you trust to come into your home to carry out work, or to manage it for you. Keep valuables LOCKED AWAY. Notice the bag that the person carries with them, is it noticeably fuller when they leave?! Try to supervise or get a trusted friend or family member to supervise them.
If you want to get on with your fellow residents try not to be too overtly anything! Most people like people who just agree with the masses and don’t cause too much drama. If you want to live peacefully try and pick your arguments (very carefully!) and only make people aware of you when it is really necessary.
It can get lonely if you come to Jamaica on your own. Despite the beautiful views and freedom that comes with chilling out in your own oasis, it is nice to have someone to share it with. Try and encourage friends and family to visit, if you don’t have someone special in your life to share all that Jamaica has to offer. Or get out there and make some new friends…
I am not dismissing the value of living in a gated community as to some the experience can be fulfilling and enjoyable, giving them the home they always wanted in beautiful Jamaica without the headache of having to manage the building phase from overseas. You also get the benefit of 24 hour security, grounds maintenance, on-site facilities and the companionship of the other residents, all being well.
If you aren’t planning on being there all year round do you really care enough to worry about whether you are keeping up with the Jones’s? Obviously theft and criminal damage and two things that you do not want to come up against, especially in the so-called confines of a secure development, but you can help to limit the risks by being vigilant, changing locks, keeping them locked and keeping things behind closed (locked!) doors when not in use.
The drive of some people (including me) to live and be in Jamaica, even if it is for extended visits at a time, can be so powerful we would put up with almost anything just to be here. My advice to you if Jamaica really is your feel good place than just enjoy yourself and chill out a bit when you are here. Yes, there are loads of things to really get on your nerves and things are done differently and at a different pace, but don’t give up your dreams due to someone elses small mindedness. If you let things get on top of you and give up going back overseas feeling disheartened it will put a bad taste in your mouth about coming back. Look on the bright side, bad stuff happens no matter what side of the planet we are on, I just prefer to be depressed and disheartened wearing shorts, eating fried fish, rice and peas with a cool natural juice and a beautiful view!
Peace – I Love Jamaica!