Ghana Land Litigation: How Not to Land in Trouble

Acquiring land in any country brings with it its own set of rules and legalities. However, in Ghana this can get a little more complicated. You may have already identified the piece of land you wish to purchase, bought it and felt extremely satisfied, but it would not be uncommon to suddenly find another legal owner of the land knocking on your door demanding answers. How do you avoid this situation? Well, you first do all the due diligence before signing any papers. This includes knowing the background of the land as well as the country of Ghana!

There are no individual landowners in Ghana

That’s a shocker isn’t it? But those are the laws of the land and the faster you get acquainted with it, the better it is. All lands usually belong to the state, traditional communities, families and clans. Individuals that own the land are nothing but leaseholders (50 years for expats and 99 years for citizens). Now, these are important facts to know so that you can ask the seller appropriate questions during negotiations or when you need to discuss paperwork.

Real Estate Law

Understand the land type you plan to purchase

There are two basic categories that land can fall under -customary which are owned by traditional authorities and public, which are state-owned. These can be further divided into Stool, Family, State and Vested Lands.

Stool Lands are usually in the custody of the chief of the stools or skins, which are traditional communities of Ghana. The communities use these lands for common purposes.

State Lands are owned by the government on behalf of its citizens, for the advancement of their people. These exclude lands in Northern, Upper East and Upper West Regions of Ghana. All land dealings for state lands have to be overseen by the Lands Commision.

Vested Lands are lands that have been entrusted to the Government by the traditional communities. They are owned in a sort of partnership between the state and the stools/skins.

Family Lands are lands privately held by families. However, it’s not just one member that owns it. The head of the family is the only one that you should be doing business with. He/she is the sole seller in your case.

Freehold and Leasehold Land Interest

The aforementioned groups – state, traditional stools/skins and traditional families are the only ones who own a piece of freehold land. This means they are the sole owners for an unlimited time period and can dispose it off at will. However, leasehold lands give a buyer a temporary right to the land, a category you may fall under.

Avoiding Land Litigation

The reason we have been stressing on lands and land ownership is because that is where the trouble really lies. “Who is the rightful owner and have you been doing business with him or someone who has stake in the property, but no power to sell?” This is a question that your search should answer clearly.

Understand the background (title, transfer) of the land at the Lands commission office, then ask the locals regarding the land and its owner. Lastly, engage a professional and credible lawyer or broker who will help you with the process. Once the due diligence is done and you are satisfied all the legalities, pay the seller by Bank Transfer and not cash, so that in case of fraud you are backed by all the paperwork.

A few precautions can save you a lot of trouble in the future. If you are planning to purchase land or interested in buying property in Accra, do take a look at what SIGL has to offer. Their clear plans and credible reputation can make your next investment completely stress-free.

13 Dec 2017