Owning a land can be fulfilling, but owning a home is certainly a dream come true. Adding commercial landed properties to one’s portfolio is beyond a dream. However, imagine how fast that dream could turn into a nightmare if there are legal issues with the land, home or commercial property purchased. Or that the property you bought was sold to you by a fraudster and the real owner shows up and starts demanding his property back?
How about if you bought the property from the real owner, only to find out that your newly acquired property has been sold to other people besides you? Then there is the situation where you buy the property from the right owner, however documentation is poor thereby making it difficult for you to smoothly transfer ownership.
A home is probably the most important and expensive purchase in one’s life. An event like buying a house compels us to go through some procedures in order to achieve the dream house we desire. This process can be cumbersome in reality, especially if you are a first time buyer. Having the money to purchase the property does not seal the deal. The minutest mistake can cause you to lose your property.
To this end, it is important to know the documents that pertain with property acquisition to avoid future mishaps that will take the dream house, land or other property away from you. Here is a list of documents that are important in the acquisition of a home.
The first document you need to acquire from a seller is the Side Plan. The site plan is basically a document that helps to check the perimeter of the land. Knowing what is on the development site is crucial when it comes to the design of a building.
A detailed plan is needed to give you important information. It also functions as the map of the building site which will help you to know the size of the land on which the house you are buying is on. It is for accountability sake as it helps to know how many plots of land you have after purchasing the house. It will also guide in renovation of the house if the need be.
It is a document that shows the plot of land and its property lines along with landscape features, structural elements, setbacks, drive-ways etc. They also serve as a historical record of a building. Real Estate Agents use site plans to show all the home’s key features, including the size and outdoor features.
You cannot encroach on an owner’s adjacent property; hence, the importance of including the property lines on your development site plan. Property lines are called out around the exterior of the lot. A site plan gives a detail of all this information so you know what you have and where you cannot cross.
In brief it has the size of the land measured in feet, acres or hectares. It has the name of the owner or owners of the land or property, the geographical location of the property, the plotted angles and lines of the land. It has the endorsement of the regional surveyor and signature of the licensed surveyor who worked on it. Currently in Ghana, lands in Accra, the national capital have barcodes on their site plans. The site plan is also referred to as the cadastral plan. It can contain an individual plot or multiple plots in one.
If you have a good site plan you can be able to conduct a search with it to confirm if the land is duly registered who currently owns it and the ownership history. By this you can be able to ascertain if you are buying a genuine property and from the rightful vendor.
Registered Title of Deed
The Registered Title or Deed is the land document proper. It is the certificate from the lands commission certifying that a particular land or property is legally registered by the state. It also validates the name in which the property is registered.
A vendor of a property can only get his if they have taken their time to go through the entire land registration process. Hence, it is the document that shows the original legal ownership of the property.
It is usually accompanied by the indenture or deed of conveyance which shows how the land was acquired. From whom it was acquired. The value at which it was acquired. The certified site plan and relevant signatures of parties, state actors and witnesses.
The owner should have this document and give you copies to verify them at the lands commission. When all is done, this is what will be used to develop a deed of conveyance for the buyer to also have the interest of the owner transferred to the buyer to also have the registered deed or title to the property.
Indenture or Deed of Conveyance
The Indenture is the legal document that shows the original ownership of the property. The indenture must correspond with the name on the site plan and must be proof that it’s owned by the seller. When that is handed over, you need to conduct a search at the Lands Commission to ensure that the land is void of issues and if indeed the one selling the property is the real owner of the house or land before you go ahead to purchase it.
It is important to have the indenture reviewed by a Lawyer, Licensed Surveyor or an experienced Real Estate Broker and cleared by the land registry office. This process may seem cumbersome and tiresome because it takes a little over a month and some leg work to complete, however you will find that it is well worth it because it’s the only legal means through which you can ascertain if the person selling you the land or the house is the rightful owner of that property.
The indenture in brief contains the details of the land beyond the site plan. It contains the site plan, the details of the owner and the detailed history of the land. The interest in the land, whether it is an allodial interest, usufruct, freehold, leasehold or Tenancy interest. It goes further to include the value of the land and how much it is being sold for and to whom (buyer) it is being alienated to.
It has to be prepared by a lawyer and endorsed by the vendor or vendors and the buyer or buyers and the witnesses of the two parties. It has to be appropriately dated and signed by the parties.
The indenture is also referred to as the deed of conveyance. It is the indenture that the buyer will use to register the property in his or her name otherwise known as land title registration.
Letter of Administration and Vesting Assent
These two documents are necessary in the situation where the owner has passed and his or her next of kin are in charge of the estate left behind. Those who have inherited the property must get a letter of administration and a vetting assent in addition to the registered documents of the property. Without these two documents the new owners cannot be able to alienate the property to another person on their own authority.
Sometimes instead of acquiring these documents, the new owners will transfer the property in the old owner’s name by forging that person’s signature. This is not sustainable as should there be any dispute on the property, it will expose the buy in a bad way. It will create a fraudulent impression before the court.
Always make sure of these documents if you are buying a property that was inherited, especially when the property was for an individual.
It is also important that upon the purchase of any property that a lease or purchase agreement is signed. This agreement is a legal contract that obligates a buyer to buy and a seller to sell or lease a property.
This is a way of finalizing the interests of both parties before closing the deal. Upon the signing of this document, ensure that the title is transferred correctly to your name. No one else apart from the legal owner of the land can transfer the land title into your name. This is a meticulous and complex process which requires that your name be captured correctly with no mistakes or typos.
If this is not done correctly, you will not be able to sell the property in the future in which case, it will be considered a dead asset. Which means you cannot register the property in your name. Unless a registration has been done, the property’s search at the Lands Commission will not indicate you as the owner.
The land will still be in the name of the vendor or the one you bought it from. If you painstakingly complete this process, you will not have to worry about other people encroaching on your property or making claims over it.
Property Tax and Other Documents
Many people often ignore property taxes, but it is one of the essential documents of any residential or commercial property. Property tax or property rate is a real estate tax that is calculated on the assessed value of the property. It is known in Ghana as property rate. Property Rates are governed by the Local Governance Act, 2016 (Act 936).
These receipts will help you to know if the seller or previous owner has been paying property tax in order to avoid issues with the law. Tax receipts should be checked to ensure whether the seller of the property has paid all tax accruing on the property for at least the past three years to the authorities.
Ask the previous owner or the builder for the receipts so that in case an issue relating to property tax arises, you will be able to provide evidence even in instances where the seller is out of reach.
It is not out of place to ask for the utility receipts of the previous owners. These documents can also prevent you from incurring utility debt from electricity and water usage. If there are permit certificates too, please get a copy to guide you as to what is permitted on the property or the neighborhood. This will guide future development, prevent you from paying for a permit twice and modify the permit where necessary.
The journey to acquiring your home or any landed property is an exciting one and shouldn’t be blocked by things that can be easily avoided. Acquiring these documents will save you from a lot of trouble. Remember these documents are non-negotiable in any property purchase. Make sure you get them and enjoy your new property.
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