REAL ESTATE MINUTE With Cyril Nii Ayitey Tetteh: Talking squatters’ rights


– How you can lose ownership of your property to Squatters

Surely, you must be joking! Well, no I am not. Wait, wait, you are telling that a squatter, someone with little or zero connection can wander unto my vacant property, occupy it without my consent and after a length of time can claim ownership of the property? Yes sir, happen all other technical factors permitting. It’s called the Squatters Rights, which is based on the idea that if you, as an owner of land or property do not stop their use or evict occupiers on your property who have occupied it without your consent, then they, the occupiers otherwise known as squatters can lay claim or legal ownership after a period of time. In Ghana, these squatters can lay claim after 12 years of uninterrupted possession. Come on Nii, you want me to believe the law is on the side of trespassers, yes that’s what they are trespassers? This makes no sense and is unfair! Well, you know what they say about the law, you have to be or more importantly, the law has to be on your side rather. So, calm down, take in deep breaths and let’s get that law on our side, shall we?


You may think this squatters’ rights is a recent phenomenon, but no it is as old as Adam.  A very long time ago along the gold coast of Ghana, squatters started making claims to land they had occupied for several years against the rightful owners, just based on the sole fact that they had been in long possession. A landmark ruling however offered a bit of clarity. In the 1938 case of Nchiraahene Kojo Addo v. Wusu (1938) 4 WACA 96, it was held in unambiguous terms as follows: “That long possession alone was not enough to establish title at customary law because there were no prescriptive rights at customary law”. Prior to the determination of the above case, Sir Lancelot Sanderson had in the 1936 case of Kuma v. Kuma[7] set down the principle which was again applied in the 1947 case of Panyi II v. Anquandoh.[8]

So, if mere presence on the land over a long term (long possession) wasn’t sufficient grounds for claim why are we still battling with squatters right? Well, as you know with law, technicality is key. The key technicality now is whether these squatters “had a formal entry on to the land”. The question however remains, what constitutes “formal entry in a land”? Is it when the person is put on the land by the true owner or it is when the person physically entered on the land? If it is established that a person made a formal entry to the land and has been in possession or living on it for up to 12 years uninterrupted and uncontested, then these squatters can then lay claim on grounds of Adverse Possession. While you will struggle to find consistent precedent, I will not as much arrogate myself the title of a lawyer and attempt an accurate interpretation. What I can help you with are few tips to prevent a claim and also what to do should a claim arise.


As soon as you purchase land or property, ensure you perfect the title and if it is bare land, invest in some markers, either put up a foundation or erect a wall and secure the space with lock and key. Should you task a caretaker to periodically check on it, it would be wise to provide this in writing to clear all doubts. You can also actually rent it out officially to a tenant. The key is to provide a documentary trail of your ownership and key instructions. Sign agreements, provide receipts, ensure there are witnesses to all these transactions and all the while, have a lawyer look over these transactions for you. When you have all these measures in place, it is highly unlikely that adverse possession will hold in any suit.



When you are ready to take full possession of your land or property and there is push back or a counter claim of adverse possession by squatters, a calm head is required to get the law on your side. Ensure that you provide written notice of ejection. Should the squatters refuse to heed to ejection notice, you are advised to report to the police and furnish with requisite legal documentary trail. If and when all reasonable legal channels of eviction have been exhausted, you may be left with no choice but to use the courts. It is however advisable to settle the issue out of court as much as possible. You could come to an understanding to rent a new place for the squatter or support them financially to find a new place. It is only when all these attempts prove futile that you should go the hard-court line to secure judgement or a determination.

As with most things these days, all the above is a guide and not meant to be full proof legal counsel, so indeed let them be a guide but do seek full legal counsel from your qualified lawyers. Hope you did find these tips useful, do share any feedback, we love to hear from you as always.

The writer is the Executive director of Yecham Property Consult

 & Founder of Ghana Green Building Summit.


Email: [email protected]

Linkedin: Cyril Nii Ayitey TettehTweet

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