We don't sell land. To use our flexible repayment construction services, you need to come with your own litigation-free and/or unencumbered land. Land acquisition is serious business, and must not be taken lightly.
Before beginning your search for land to buy in Ghana, and to avoid potential land litigation issues, it is important to understand the laws surrounding land acquisition and purchase; especially the law on who owns land in Ghana. The first thing to know is this, no one individual owns land in Ghana! All lands belong to the state, traditional authorities and families and clans. Lands owned by individuals and private entities are simply leaseholds lasting 50 years for expatriates and 99 years for citizens (it’s a 50 to a 70-year ratio where commercial property is involved). Purchasing land in Ghana without adequate information can be disastrous for you.
It is important that you arm yourself with the detailed information provided below. If you're time-poor or luck the capacity to navigate land acquisition process in Ghana, invest in the services of a qualified surveyor or land professional - parting with few cedis is better than being mired in unending litigation battle.
It is sensible that you investigate the ownership and documents attached to the land you intend to buy before doing so - You can't use our services until you have demonstrated incontrovertible ownership of the land the project is expected to sit on.
TYPES OF LANDS IN GHANA
There are two categories of lands in Ghana: customary and public lands.
Customary lands are those owned by traditional authorities (stool in the southern belt of Ghana and skin in the northern belt).
Public lands are those either owned by the state or held in trust on behalf of traditional authorities. These lands make up about 20% of all lands in Ghana while the majority, i.e, 80% are customary lands.
Public and customary lands are further broken down into four smaller types. These are:
1. Stool Lands
Stool lands are a type of customary land under the custody of chiefs. These lands are held in trust on behalf of the people in traditional communities by the occupants of stools and skins, in accordance with customary law and usage. Accordingly, stool or skin refers to the traditional authority (usually a chief) exercising that control.
2. Family Lands
Family lands are those lands owned by families before and even after the coming into law of the 1992 Constitution. These lands are managed by the heads of families assisted by principal family members. If you’re about to purchase family land, it is important you do business with the head of the family and no one else.
3. State Lands
State lands are lands owned by the state and consequently, by all citizens. These lands include any land that has been vested in the Government of Ghana for the public service of Ghana and any other land acquired in the public interest. This, however, excludes all lands in the Northern, Upper East and Upper West regions of Ghana. Ghana’s state lands are solely administered by the Lands Commission. (1992 Constitution, Chapter 21, Act 257).
4. Vested Lands
Vested lands are those plots administered by the state on behalf of the stool or skin. These are usually owned by the state and customary authorities in a form of partnership i.e. split ownership.
TYPES OF LAND OWNERSHIP AND INTERESTS IN GHANA
The 1992 constitution of Ghana identifies two types of interest in land ownership: Freehold and Leasehold
1. Freehold Land Interest
Freehold lands are those that are owned outright by the landowner for an unlimited period, with landowners having the freedom to dispose of the property at will. This means the landowner – be it the stool, family or state – is the eternal custodian of the land. There are two types of freehold land interest. They are:
(i) Customary Freehold Interest
It is as an interest in land held by sub groups and individuals in land acknowledged being owned allodially* by a larger community of which they are members.
(ii) Common Law Freehold Interest
Common law freehold is an interest in land which is held for an indefinite period and is derived from the rules of common law. It is created only by express grant and could be acquired by both strangers (Ghanaians outside the land-owning community) and members of a stool or a family. The major difference between customary freehold interest and common law freehold is the instrument that backs it.
The former is backed by customary law and the latter by the Constitution.
2. Leasehold Interest
A leasehold or lease is a temporary right to occupy a land or property for a specified period. There are secondary types of land ownership and interest in Ghana especially tenancy (which is essentially a lease less than 3 years). Mensah Dorman goes in depth on those types in his paper on Land Acquisition in Ghana.
The allodial title is a real property ownership system where the real property is owned free and clear of any superior landlord. The owner will have an absolute title to his or her property. The allodial title is the highest land title recognised by Ghanaian law.
THE LAND BUYING PROCESS
Once you’ve become familiar with Ghana’s land laws, ready to make that purchase, and you've found just the land you’re after and for the right price too. The next steps are to perform due diligence, make payments and claim ownership to avoid any land litigation issues.
Due diligence is simply a careful audit you perform on the property you’re interested in. This is to confirm that whoever you’re about to do business with is genuine; that the land they claim to be representing actually exists and that they’re legal representatives.
(i) Conduct Searches
Most people limit themselves with just land commission searches - wrong !!!
The first step in performing your due diligence is to conduct a search at the Lands Commission (for an Indenture) or the Land Title Registry (for a Land Title Certificate). This search helps you track previous and current transactions on the land. This is to ensure that the land you’re interested in isn’t already owned by another person or entity. This simple process will stall any land litigation issues that may arise and save you lots of time and money. Submit the necessary documents (usually a cadastral or site plan) and pay the necessary fees at the Lands Commission.
Additionally, do a court registry search (high court) with jurisdiction over the location of the land
Also do Bank of Ghana Collateral Registry Search to satisfy yourself that the land has not been used as collateral for a loan - unencumbered status.
Earthquake Search - Leave nothing to chance. Find out from the geological survey department whether the land you're considering buying is an earthquake-prone zone or not, on the path of fault-lines.
Flood Search - A simple search with the Ghana Meteorological Service (or even consulting NADMO Data) could give you an idea of the flood-prone status of the land you intend to buy. There are instances where a physical visit to the said land during rainy season could also give you answers.
(ii) Ask the Locals
A rule of thumb when performing your due diligence is to inquire from the people who live close to your interested land. This is to ascertain rightful ownership as well as to gather information on potential issues surrounding the land. It’s especially helpful in figuring out who is responsible for the sale of land in the area. It’s also a nice way befriend your future neighbours who might come to your defence in the event of land litigation issues.
(iii) Seek Professional Help
The next step is to seek the services of a real estate lawyer to review all paperwork and ensure everything is in order. It's needless to employ a valuer to determine the value of the land you’re about to buy as that cannot be binding on the seller.
Payments, Transfer of Rights, Registration and Show of Ownership
The best way to pay for land in Ghana is via Bank Transfer (including bank cheque drawn on the seller's name). You should avoid direct cash payments at all costs as these can easily open you up to fraudsters who will present you with seemingly genuine receipts. Before you pay, draft a purchase and transfer agreement endorsed by you, the seller and witnesses from both sides. You must register your interest with the Lands Commission once the land rights are transferred to you.
It is important that you show some form of possession to avoid encroachers and to announce that the land has a new owner. You can do this by fencing your demarcated property and visiting the property regularly. You can also consider the services of a caretaker, although this is a risky venture - Beware of Squatter's Rights.
Registering your land reduces litigation issues and renders your documents admissible in court.
It is a dispute that arises when two or more parties believe that they are the rightful owners of a piece of land. These disputes can arise mainly through family feuds, abuse of power by government officials, corruption amongst chiefs and stool bearers.
The process of trying to acquire private land from an individual is a rather tricky one, but relatively safer from registered that sell lands. To avoid litigation, it's worth covering the following areas in your land acquisition and/or subsequent land registration to protect your interest.
If you approach a private land seller who is interested in selling off his/her land to you, find out all you can about this seller and his business. Be sure to check with the Lands Commission to validate from their records if this person truly owns the piece of land you are interested in buying - one cannot sell what they don't own to you. If the name on the land documentation is different from the seller's name, ask to deal with the actual owner - if the owner is deceased, make sure the land has properly been transferred to a living person's name before transacting.
It’s also advisable to check with government land overseers to ensure the land has not been taped for future national development projects. It is not unheard of for people to post a notice of inquiry in the newspapers to ask if there is anyone who has that particular land piece registered to their name.
Additionally request that the seller provides. At the same time, request that the seller provides you with a certified site plan demarcating the precise location of the land including its coordinates. He/She should have had a professional surveyor to do this and you are advised to also work with one to double-check everything. No money should have exchanged hands yet for the purchase of the land up to this juncture.
It is naive to make any form of payment based on just pictures of land or property - anybody can copy same online, pass them off as their own or authorized to sell it when they have no clue on the details of the said land or property.
Once you're assured of the legitimacy of the search results, then you can negotiate on sales terms with the seller and when you comfortably reach an agreement on buying land, then work with your lawyer (if you cannot do this yourself) to draft a purchase and ownership transfer contract/Deed of Conveyance which both you and the seller will sign. - - Once that is done and you make payment, you are now the legal owner of the land. You need to make multiple copies of the indenture (your ownership agreements, lease details detailing parties to the transaction, witnesses, price paid and ground rent) and have them endorsed by a land lawyer who also professionally stamps them. Each copy should have a land surveyor certified site plan attached.
ADDITIONAL LAND ACQUISITION EDUCATION RESOURCES