Real Estate Development 101: Land Registration in Ghana – Part I   

Land Guardism – a menace that must be confronted head-on

Land Registration in Ghana is a very thorny issue. A lot of people have bizarre stories to share about how challenging the process is. I am sure should I give people opportunity to share their experiences, there will be no space left to talk about any other thing.

Be that as it may, many people keep buying lands in Ghana, because to us as a people, it is a significant milestone in one’s life. In many families, communities and homes, being able to acquire a land no matter how big or small is a huge achievement; thus it is a success indicator.

In fact, one’s children, family, friends, relations might consider you a failure should one grow old without acquiring a land. Hence, the reason many strive to acquire a land despite the many unpalatable stories of the process of registration.

Thankfully what appeared to be a cumbersome and an uncoordinated process in the past has improved significantly with some of the processes automated; making way for more success stories on land registration. The advent of professional real estate brokers and surveyors has also led to less confusion in the registration process as many people have to relax while the brokers and agents take up the registration process for them. Of course, this comes at a cost and peace of mind too as the issue of litigation is eradicated.

Whatever the case, always ensure you register your land appropriately to safeguard your property and your own self. In the subsequent paragraphs I will break down what land registration in Ghana means. I will make sure it has less technical and legal terminologies so that you do not get confused.

What is Land Registration?

Land registration is simply getting the state to endorse one’s ownership of a land and making that endorsement public knowledge, so the whole country gets to know that Mr. A is now the owner of XYZ land. The idea of land registration is to give security of ownership.

In Ghana there are two types of Registration, the Land Deeds Registration (LDR) and the Land Title Registration (LTS). These two types of registration have been a bone of contention with many explaining them in different forms.

Land Deeds Registration

Deed is a document that transfers ownership of a property from one party to the others. It is the registration of this document that is referred to as the Deeds Registration. The Land Deeds Registration started with the Registration Ordinance of 1883 and continued under the Land Registry Ordinance of 1895 until the Land Registry Act (1962) Act 122 was passed in 1962.

Under the laws of Ghana, the deed registration is any document at all that a party or parties present to the Lands Commission for registration. It can be an Indenture, a site plan, a hand written transaction, a Newspaper, a blank sheet etc.

The Commission has no right to reject any document presented as a deed for registration. The commission does not have to verify the document nor the actual land to ascertain the veracity of the document. In other words, it is possible to have a deed registration that does not correspond with the actual land or property.

Since the Commission only has to register the deed as it is presented without contesting or verifying it, more than one party can register a deed on the same land. It is no wonder that we have had a lot of land litigations in the past, because more than one person can have a deed on the same piece or land.

Currently, Land Deeds Registration is done in every part of the country. This is because all stool lands grants, per the Constitution, need the concurrence of the Lands Commission to ensure conformance to planning schemes. That process leads to the deed being registered or plotted. After the Deed Registration, one can go ahead and do a Land Title Registration which is now the norm in Accra, Tema and Kumasi. If the land in question is not a stool land and is located in Accra, Tema and Kumasi, one is likely to go ahead and do a land title registration based on the transfer of ownership pertaining between the parties.

Don’t Be Scared, You Can Have a Secured Deed Registration

As a way of dealing with the challenges that are associated with deed registration, the norm is that one must ensure he or she presents valid documents for deeds registration.

Make sure you get a surveyor, either a licensed one or get one from the survey department of the lands commission.

He or she should be able to help you to get a good site plant. A certified site plan is one that has been endorsed by a licensed Surveyor and or the Director of Survey or his or her representatives across the country, thus the Regional Surveyors.

You then get a lawyer to help you develop an Indenture. Some experienced surveyors can help you with that, but it is invalid if it is not endorsed by the lawyer. It must also have the signatures of the seller and the buyer as well as witnesses. The Indentures should among other things tell us the owner, tell type of transfer of ownership; leasehold, sub-lease, freehold, gift, assignment etc. it should also tell the location and size of land and many others.

With the certified Site plan and the Indenture, you can proceed and do the deed registration without any hindrance. With these two documents, you can be said to be safe, thus if the one who sold the land to you is the actual owner and not an imposter.

It is always safe to have licensed surveyors do the site plan as they work hand in hand with Survey Department of the Lands Commission; the department that certifies all site plans. That way, should the land have any problem or a have an owner unknown to you, they are likely to find out and subsequently alert you. It is also advisable to let them see the site plan and indenture you were given by the owner to verify if it is original or fake.

That way, should the land have any problem or a have an owner unknown to you, they are likely to find out and subsequently alert you. It is also advisable to let them see the site plan and indenture you were given by the owner to verify if it is original or fake.

Bottom line, the norm across the country is to use site plan and indenture for land deeds registration. If the site plan and indenture are coming from the verified owner of the land, you will not have a problem with your deed, even if thousand people register the deed on the same land. It will boil down to; who is the legal owner? Unless the legal owner sold the same land to more than one person. Which is fraud. But of course, the verification by the surveyor at the survey department is meant to deal with that possibility too. So, you are safe.

Land Title Registration

Land Title is simply the legal term of owning the right to something, in this case, a land. In the case of real estate, we can say a title means ownership of a property, thus one has the rights to use the property or land as he or she deems fit. Having the title to a land means you can transfer the interest or portions of it to another, but not more than what you own or are entitled to as far as the title is concerned.

It is the registration of this title with the lands commission (State) that is referred to as Land Title Registration. In Ghana, one cannot present any document for land title registration. The law is specific as to what document qualifies for a title registration.

This is so because the Land Title Registration System was introduced to cure the challenges the Lands Deeds Registration posed under the previous laws under which the deeds registration operated. To this end, in 1986 the Land Title Registration Law 1986 (Act 152) and the Land Title Regulation, (1986) L.I. 1241 were promulgated.

One can only begin a Land Title Registration Process if he has a certified site plan and well prepared and endorsed indenture plus a Stamp Duty Payment or a tax Stamp.

This is all time will permit. Make a date next week when I finish this episode with more details on Land Title Registration and the key elements of a good Indenture and a Site Plan.

Stamp Duty or Tax Stamp

The stamp duty is tax levied by the state to give some legal backing to the land documents being presented for registration by a client. This tax which is collected by the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA) is determined by the Land Valuation Division of the Lands Commission after they have assessed and valued the land or property in question.

For convenience sake, the GRA usually has an office at the Lands Commission for easy transaction. The cost of the stamp duty or tax stamp depends on the value of the land.

The legitimacy that the stamp duty gives one’s registered document is so strong that currently courts in Ghana do not recognize land documents without the stamp duty tendered in as evidence. It is just like your vehicle documents; without the necessary duty and taxes paid, they are not considered valid.

The reason the stamp duty is powerful is because documents that are presented for stamp duty must have certain requirements without which the duty will not be issued. Without the stamp, one cannot begin the land title registration; thus one cannot register his or her property.

In the next edition we will finish off with what the requirements for the Stamp Duty or Tax Stamp and what happens next. We will know what the ever popular ‘Yellow Card’ is and all the steps that entails in finalising a land title registration in Ghana. See you next week.

The writer is the CEO of CBC Properties Limited, a member of Ghana Association of Real Estate Brokers (GAR) and Ghana Real Estate Developers Association (GREDA); Email: [email protected] Cell: +233-20-422-5002


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