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- Category: Development
- Created on Thursday, 19 June 2014 00:00
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What To Ascertain Before Acquiring A Piece Of Land
ACQUIRING A dispute-free land these days has become quite challenging to most people. With hundreds of people litigating at the law courts, many more continue to lose their lives in avoidable disputes.
The menace of land guards and the impudence with which they operate has become a nightmare to all concerned Ghanaians. The act of lawlessness and indiscipline exhibited by some individuals, under the guise of protecting their lands, has become an issue that calls for concern.
Recently, the police issued a stern warning on the land guard menace and promised to treat it as one of the serious crimes, comparable to murder, robbery, rape and defilement, among others. This obviously shows how serious land-related disputes and altercations have become.
Sometimes, I am tempted to believe that some of us contribute greatly to this phenomenon since little or no efforts are made to do due diligence before acquiring any piece of land.To most people, cross-checking to ascertain whether or not a piece of land is dispute-free is too much of a burden. Instead, potential land buyers would conveniently and greedily commit themselves by making part/full payment, even before deciding to conduct the necessary search. Instances where search results prove to be unfavourable, contention is often the alternative.
I quite appreciate the fact that acute accommodation challenge in most parts of the country, especially the regional capitals, the high cost of mortgage, incredible rates of decent accommodation, the unemployment situation and constant pressure from land lords, have all contributed to the recent development.
That notwithstanding, efforts could still be directed at curtailing the increasing spate of land disputes, litigation and land guard menace by doing due diligence before you decide to buy a piece/parcel of land.
Also Ensure The Following:
Demand for the Site or Cadastral Plan – Documents presented to the interested party (buyer) are technical in nature and may be difficult to understand, especially when you are lame in the building or architectural settings.
It is always advisable to seek the assistance of an official or licensed surveyor for the location and boundary determination. There have been instances where lands sold to people were eventually located deep in the ocean.
Verify Site Plan is duly certified by Regional Surveyor - Site Plans without the signatory of the regional surveyor must be rejected. The true signatory of the surveyor could only be determined from his office.
Conduct search from Lands Commission or Land Title Registry - This is to ascertain the allodial title of the land. In as much as possible, do this independently of the seller. Avoid involving the sellers in conducting the search. They may connive with some unscrupulous individuals to outwit you. Always conduct the search on your own and at your own convenient time.
Send the Site Plan to the Town and Country Planning Department - This department is integrated in the Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies mandated to ensure and promote the orderly and efficient management of all human settlements in Ghana.
You also do yourself a great help by verifying whether the intended development conforms to the plan of the area. This is to ensure that an area earmarked for say, a filling station is not used for some other purpose.
Contact current owner as revealed by the search - Whoever your search reveals as the current owner of the land, efforts must be made to contact him/her. Consider dealing with the owner directly if your search results proof otherwise and avoid middlemen or agents. By this way, you are less likely to fall prey to fraudsters.
Always desist from buying pieces of land whose search results vest title in Government.
Most sellers are likely to persuade you into buying a piece of land, irrespective of what the outcome of the search. Ignore them if you have to.
Also scrutinize land documents carefully for forgery or fictitious documents. Documents prepared in family names and chiefs must be well investigated and cross-checked; the rightful owners may be ignorant of the said transaction.
Verify if the person selling the land has the title, the authority and whether the piece of land has not been granted to another person, especially if it is a family land. Be sure the seller has his name on the title. Disregard undue persuasion employed to gain your conviction.
Most of the lands are owned by families as such, it may be dangerous dealing with only one family member. If possible, engage all family members concerned and every transaction must be carried out in the family house to avoid fraudulent deals.
Before you express interest in a given piece of land, try to interrogate further by asking neighbours around, who may feed you with relevant information about the land.
Whenever you go to conduct a search at the appropriate offices, avoid people who may offer to fast-track the process for you. These perceived “Goro boys” are very good in swindling desperate people. Always walk to the front desk and speak to the right people.
Residents in the Diaspora – A particularly attractive group who are often defrauded or exploited are those in the Diaspora who visit the country on vacations and for short periods. This group of people have the ready-money but always fall into wrong hands.
Also, because they have short periods to stay they are compelled to buy the land and process all necessary documents before leaving. The danger normally associated with this transaction is that, victims are unable to sustain criminal charges against suspects when defrauded, since his presence is essential to litigation.
It is advisable to purchase the land in the name of a trusted family member or friend who may sustain criminal charges, should fraudulent transaction occurs.
The Director of Property Fraud Unit at the Criminal Investigations Department, Supt. Solomon Ayawine, has cautioned the public to be wary of the phenomenon and conduct adequate search before purchasing a parcel of land. He further advised that investing in lands these days had become an unattractive venture, hence people who have no intention or ability to develop any piece of land must desist from acquiring acres of land for future developments.
“Nowadays people hate to see land lying fallow for a long time. If you have a piece of land anywhere, be reminded to visit it regularly to avoid encroachment,” he noted.
If the public observes and adheres to the above enumerated tips, the sale of unauthorized parcels of land and its related disputes shall be curtailed.
The public is advised to seek redress on any piece of land in dispute at the relevant land management offices, such as Land Title Registry, Office of the Administrator of Stool Lands (OASL) or take civil action at the law courts.
In cases of trespassing which may be a criminal offence, complaint could be lodged with the police at the Property Fraud Unit of the Criminal Investigations Department.
Source: By ASP Effia Tenge
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