By: Dr. Gad Asorwoe Akwensivie
The Part l of this article, last month, discussed the land registration requirements under the Land Title, Registration System. Here, we continue the Part ll and last of the articles on this all important issue. This final part focuses on the requirements for property registration under the Deeds System.
As noted, the opportunity to acquire land, buildings, etc. and to register them is crucial for individuals and businesses. In Ghana, acquiring landed property is prestigious, and for many, acquiring a land or building is the fulfilment of a life time’s dream. People clamour for property due to their unique advantages. Land and buildings appreciate in value over time, build equity and provide a nest egg for the future. But the benefits of owning property cannot be maximised unless it is registered.
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 now today 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 the transfer of property much easier, quicker and less costly. From experience as a property broker, it is smoother to sell a registered property than an unregistered one. This is because prospective buyers can conduct an independent search at the Lands Commission and obtain the root of title to confirm ownership of the property. Studies have shown that, registered properties attract higher value when offered for sale because majority of buyers are more comfortable dealing with registered properties. Also, in the event of compulsory acquisition by the government the registered owner is sure to receive compensation partly due to the ease of identifying the owner.
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 now 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 in the long run.
Land Deeds Registration
The Lands Commission is mandated by law to register lands in the country. Application for registration under the Deeds System should be made to the Customer Service and Access Unit (CSAU) of the Lands Commission in the regional capital of the region where the land is located.
Requirements for Deeds Registration
The following are the basic requirements for Land Deeds Registration.
• First, the land document tendered in for Deeds Registration must be the original copy or a certified true copy of the original. Photocopies will be accepted only if it has an affidavit.
• The nature of the instrument, (indicating the intention of the parties) must be clearly stated. The document must state if the agreement is a Lease, or an Assignment, or a Conveyance, or a Sub-Lease, or Mortgage, Gift or whatever;
• The document must bear the date, month and year of the transaction and must 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 boundaries of the land. The name of the owner (in the indenture) must be the same as that on the site plan;
• The document must also bear the commencement date of the transaction and also stipulate the term of the transaction; (e.g. 99yrs, 45yrs etc.)
• The document must show the consideration if any and the rent passing;
• The narration and schedule in the document must vividly describe the location of the land and state the size of the land which must be the same as that 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 printed and
• The document 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;
• For Stool and Skin Lands, the applicant should provide a planning comment/approval from the Town and Country Planning Department from the local authority in the area where the land is situated. This confirms whether or not the proposed use conforms to the planning scheme;
• Also for Stool, Skin and State Lands, the applicant to provide evidence of consent; Show evidence of the Ground Rent payment if the registration is not a first time registration; (e.g. straight from a chief)
• Also show evidence of the payment of Tax with a Tax clearance Certificate from the Ghana Revenue Authority;
• Finally, the applicant should attach any recited documents that he/she believes will support the application;
Land documents that meet the above criteria have a high chance of being registered.
Collection of registered document
Measures have been put in place to prevent the collection of Registered Documents by fraudsters and impersonators. Therefore, the under-listed documents will be required at the time of collecting the completed document at the Client Service Access Unit (CSAU). They are:
• A photo I.D. of the grantee if he is receiving the completed document in person. The grantee is the person in whose favour the registration has been made;
• Where the person collecting the document is not the grantee, the recipient must provide his/her photo I.D. and an authority note of the grantee. Documents will not be released without them;
• The recipient must also show proof of the payment for concurrence (the payment receipt). This requirement is applicable only to stool and skin lands;
• The recipient must also show proof of the payment of ground rent. This requirement is applicable to stool, skin and some family lands.
Land title registration vs land deeds registration
From the information so far, one would glean that, the main difference between Title Registration and Deeds Registration is that, Stamp Duty payment is not a pre-requisite for Deeds Registration. This means that, unlike Title Registration, Stamp Duty may be paid after the land has been registered (plotted). By law, registration is not complete until Stamp Duty has been paid.
Secondly, for Deeds Registration, there must be evidence to show payment of Ground Rent if that is not a first registration.
Conducting official searches prior to purchase
Prior to purchasing land and or buildings, it is recommended that a land search is conducted at the Lands Commission. The application for a search report must be lodged at the Customer Service and Access Unit (CSAU) of the Lands Commission in the regional capital of the region where the land is situated. For example, if the property is located in Axim in the Western Region, the application for a search report should be lodged at the Lands Commission in Sekondi. Where the land is situated in Bole in the Northern Region, the application should be lodged at the Lands Commission in Tamale.
Land or property searches are enquiries that discover information about a property you intend to purchase or hire. As part of a land-buying process, it is recommended that searches are done at the Lands Commission and other places, such as the local authority. An Official search at the Lands Commission, for example, provides details about the ownership of the land. The report will normally trace the root of title several years back in time.
A search at the local authority typically will indicate whether or not Permit will be granted for the intended use of the land and whether or not planning permission has, or will, be granted for a future development that would negatively impact your development and so on. It is advisable that, during the process of negotiations, searches should be completed before contracts are exchanged and before purchase agreements are prepared and signed. If searches are not conducted, it could result in loss of money and additional costs further down the line.
Applying for official searches – requirements
The requirements for conducting an official search at the Lands Commission are as follows:
• Submit an application letter addressed to the Regional Lands Officer for an official search;
• Attach two (2) copies of the site plan clearly showing the land for which the search is being conducted;
• The site (i.e. the particular plot) must be marked “edged pink”;
• The site plan must bear legible grid values; (for both longitudes and latitudes)
• Preferably, the site plan must be drawn to a scale of 1:2500 although other scales may be accepted by the Lands Commission.
Cost and time for conducting searches
The cost for an official search depends on the size of the land. Larger parcels attract higher processing fees. Currently an official search on a parcel of land (below one acre) costs fifty-five Ghana Cedis (GH¢55.00). Add GH¢10.00 for every additional acre. For example, the official fee for a search on a 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6 acre plot of land is GH¢65.00, GH¢75.00, GH¢85.00, GH¢95.00 and GH¢105.00 respectively. Currently, it takes about two weeks to obtain an official search report.
Conducting a certificate search
It is still possible to conduct a Certificate Search to ascertain the authenticity, or otherwise, of a Land Title Certificate. This is called a Certificate Search. This, typically becomes necessary in situations where a vendor of land presents Land Title Certificate as proof of ownership.
To conduct a certificate search, you must complete and submit an Application and Affirmation form available at the Customer Service Access Unit (CSAU) of the Lands Commission. The application should be lodged at the regional office of the Lands Commission in the region where the land is situated. This means that, you cannot conduct a certificate search at the Lands Commission in Accra (Greater Accra Region) when the land is in fact situated in the Central Region. For a certificate search an applicant must submit:
• A completed application form;
• A completed affirmation form;
• Provide a valid, nationally accepted photo I.D of the applicant.
Cost and time for conducting a certificate search
Currently, a certificate search costs GH¢55.00 and takes approximately 2.5 weeks to complete.
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