By: Dr. Gad Asorwoe Akwensivie
The opportunity to acquire land, buildings, etc., and to register them, is crucial for individuals and businesses. People clamor for property due to their unique advantages. Land and buildings appreciate in value over time; they build equity and provide a nest egg for the future. But, the benefits of owning property cannot be maximized unless it is registered. Here, Dr. Gad Asorwoe Akwensivie, presents a step-by-step guide to an assured easy registration.
In Ghana, acquiring landed property is prestigious, and for many, acquiring a land or building is the fulfillment of a life time dream.
Registration of land is important because it puts ownership of the property on notice to the whole world and gives priority of the registered interest in the land over other unregistered interests. It is for this reason that financial institutions, these days, prefer registered property as collateral. With the aid of a site plan, purchasers or mortgagees can quickly obtain information about the property. Registration establishes proof of ownership in such a convenient, simple and easy to read document.
Registration makes future transfer of property easier, quicker and less costly. From experience, it is smoother to sell or trade a registered property than an unregistered one. This is because prospective buyers can conduct an independent search at the public land sector agencies, such as the Lands Commission, and obtain the root of title to confirm ownership of the registered property.
Studies have shown that, registered properties attract higher value when offered for sale because buyers are comfortable dealing with registered property. And, in the event that the property is affected by compulsory acquisition by government the registered owner is sure to receive compensation because of the ease of identification.
It is smoother to bequeath a registered property if it forms part of an estate in a will. Registration prevents fraud which can occur when another person lays claim to your property which is common these days. During disputes at the court, it is easier to establish ownership pretty fast. In short, land registration provides peace of mind and saves money.
Land Title Registration or Deeds Registration? When do they apply?
Currently, there are two (2) systems of land registration in Ghana: These are the Land Title Registration (LTR) System, and the Land Deeds Registration (LDR) Systems.
Land Title Registration applies only in areas declared as Registration Districts in Ghana. At the moment, only the Greater Accra Region and the inner city of Kumasi in the Ashanti Region (approximately 2 mile square of Adum) are registration districts in Ghana. Registration Districts are declared by the Minister responsible for Lands. Therefore, whether your property should be registered under Title Registration or Deeds Registration depends on its location. To be more specific, if the property is sited within the Greater Accra Region or within two mile square of Adum – Kumasi, the property can only be registered under the Title Registration System. Elsewhere in the country, the land must be registered under the Deeds Registration System.
Ghana has been practicing the Land Deeds Registration System for some time now. Deeds Registrationcommenced under the Registration Ordinance of 1883 and continued under the Land Registry Ordinance of 1895 till 1962 when the Land Registry Act (1962) Act 122 was passed. The Land Registration System had its own challenges and continues to pose some challenges in the areas where they apply.
These challenges include multiple registration of land. This and other challenges led to the introduction of the Land Title Registration System (a more advanced system) in 1986 after the promulgation of the Land Title Registration Law 1986 (Act 152) and the Land Title Regulation, (1986) L.I. 1241. The Land Title Registration System was introduced to cure the defects of the Land Registration System and to improve tenure security. The Land Title Registration System assures certainty, facilitates proof of title, prevents fraud on purchasers and mortgagees and renders dealing in land safe.
The Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources (MLNR) will in the near future rollout the Land Title Registration System to other parts of the country. The features of the Land Title Registration System include the use of parcel and cadastral plans. Cadastral plans are more accurate. They help to reduce fraud and the potential for litigation.
The Title Registration system publishes applications made for Title Certificates to the whole world before issuance of Certificates. The system also provides for an adjudication process for the resolution of disputes which erupts during the registration process. Land Title Certificates are indefeasible once issued and can only be cancelled by a court of law but under very few instances.
Nearly all instruments affecting land, as well as interests in land, are registrable under both the Title Registration System and the Deeds Registration System. The interests include: Mortgagees, Allodial interests, the Usufruct, also known as Customary law freeholds, Freeholds, Leaseholds, the Customary tenancies and even Mineral right licenses.
Cost and time for registration
The cost and time for registration under Title Registration and Deeds Registration differ. Title Registration takes a little longer to complete as a result of the inbuilt due processes and counter-checks. However, on average, it takes about two and half (2.5) months to get property registered back to back in Ghana, assuming there are no queries with the document and no contesting interests to the land, as they have the potential to prolong things.
In fact, the World Bank 2017 Doing Business 2017: Equal Opportunities For All Report also found that, it takes approximately 46 days to complete property registration in Ghana. The Banks Flagship Project: World Bank 2017 Doing Business 2017: Equal Opportunities For All Report, ranked Ghana 77 out of some 190 countries recently surveyed in the ease of doing business.
On the cost of registration, the World Bank 2017 Doing Business 2017: Equal Opportunities For All Report established that it costs approximately 1.2 percent of the value of the property to complete the registration process comprising some 5 main steps.
Requirements for registering land
Land Title Registration: The Lands Commission is mandated by law to register lands in the country.
A Land Title Registration starts with Stamp Duty payment. The application should be made to the Customer Service and Access Unit (CSAU) of the Commission in the regional capital of the region where the land is situated.
Thus, documents presented for Land Title Registration, must first be assessed for stamp duty. Once stamp duty is paid the document is embossed to signify and confirm that Stamp Duty has been paid in accordance with the law.
Stamp Duty is collected by the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA). The amount to pay as Stamp duty ranges from 0.02 percent to 1 percent of the value of the property. The amount is determined after a valuation by the Land Valuation Division of the Lands Commission to facilitate the payment/collection of Stamp Duty. GRA staffs are on standby at the Lands Commission premises.
Stamp Duty is a tax levied to give legal recognition to the document brought into being for the purposes of recording transactions. That is why during litigation, our law courts do not recognise un-stamped instrumentstendered in evidence. Stamp Duty is, therefore, a tax on documents which are meant to have legal effect.
Before presenting a document for stamp duty assessment/payment, the document must meet a number of qualities, such as:
- The land document (instrument) tendered in for stamping must be the original copy or a certified true copy of the original. Photocopies will be accepted only if it has an affidavit in support.
- The title of the document must be clearly stated. It must clearly show if it is a Lease, or an Assignment, or a Conveyance, or a Sub-Lease or a Gift;
- The document must bear the date, month and year of the agreement and must also bear the following:
√ Names, signature and contact addresses of the parties
√ Names, signature and contact addresses of the witnesses
√ The indenture must contain a site plan showing the precise location of the land and bear the name of the owner. The name in the indenture must be the same as the name on the site plan;
√ The document must also state the commencement date of the transaction and the term of the transaction For example: 99yrs, 45yrs, etc.
√ The document must state the consideration, if any, as well as the rent passing;
√ The narration and schedule in the document must vividly describe the location of the land (with land marks if applicable) and state the size of the land which must be the same as that stated on the site plan;
√ The site plan attached to the document must be signed by a licensed surveyor and approved/signed (with a date) by the Regional Surveyor of the region where the land is situated;
√ The site plan must bear the signatures of the parties on the back/rear side.
√ The document must have a duly executed jurat, in case the document is thump-printed,
√ It must bear a Solicitor’s seal, have the Oath-of-Proof executed, and the deponent column completed and signed by the grantor’s principal witness to the transfer.
Land documents that meet the above criteria have a 99 percent chance of being accepted for stamp duty assessment and will be embossed after the processing fee and stamp duty levy have been paid.
The writer is a Landed Property Consultant and an expert in the Valuation of Land and Buildings for Sales or Purchase, Lease, Rental or Letting, Mortgage, Probate, Insurance, Compulsory Acquisition, Rating and Taxation. Tel: 0244-843-997, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org