stool land in ghana

All you need to know about Acquiring Stool Lands in Ghana

In Ghana, land ownership is a precious asset, almost equivalent to owning a bar of gold. Lands hold immense value, both monetarily and culturally. Stool lands in Ghana, for instance, represent enduring symbols of heritage and community identity. 

However, there have been lots of conflicts related to land ownership today arising from unclear ownership rights – often at times. It is highly recommended today to use the formal approach towards land acquisition to ensure proper acquisition of land to avoid future disputes and disappointments.

Stool lands for one stand as a pillar of tradition, embodying the legacy and spirit of ancestral custodianship. Acquiring these types of land is different from the general land acquisition process in Ghana; it follows a way different transaction pattern. 

Despite the term “stool land,” ownership does not rest solely with the individual occupying the throne or any specific members of the royal family, such as the chief, elders, or linguist. Instead, stool lands in Ghana are collective assets owned by the royal family, with the chief serving as a custodian entrusted with their administration. 

In accordance with customary laws, the chief’s role is to manage the land on behalf of the entire community, ensuring its preservation and utilization align with the collective interests and values of the people.

It’s important to note that it’s illegal to finalize a transaction for stool land directly with the chief without the approval of the stool’s elders. Traditionally, such transactions should only be headed by the chief and not by the linguist or any other respected individual within the family with the proper consent of the relevant elders. Not doing this is what leads to the many land disputes in Ghana.

Recent court rulings have affirmed this practice. Engaging in such deals without proper authorization from the elders can lead to significant complications and disappointments down the line.

It is again advisable to use the formal approach when acquiring stool lands to ensure that all legal and traditional protocols are followed to help avoid any misunderstandings or disputes in the future and to ensure a smooth and legitimate land acquisition process. 

Though the process might be cumbersome and require lots of reviews, it’s highly worth it. This is one of the reasons why you should work with a real estate agent to get the best results. 

The alternative is the informal approach, which is characterised by haste and oral agreements but is prone to conflicts and disagreements in the future. 

READ ALSO: Why you need a land surveyor in Ghana

The process of acquiring a stool land with the formal approach includes:

1. Identifying the Stool:

Some ethnicities in Ghana practice rotational reigns, a system where there are several befitting heirs to the throne, resulting in each of them ruling for a tenure. 

It becomes your duty to identify the specific stool or traditional authority that owns the land you are interested in acquiring. This step ensures clarity on the land’s ownership status and eliminates any legal complications in the future.

For your research, your first look should be from the local elders. Local elders and community leaders are often the primary sources of information regarding land ownership and tenure systems in traditional communities. 

They possess knowledge about the history of land ownership and can provide insights into whether a particular piece of land is under the jurisdiction of a stool or traditional authority. 

In the past, a lot of these dealings were not documented and this is one of the reasons why we have the land issues that we have today but progress is being made and most of these dealings are now being documented by the chiefs.

You can then proceed to the land administration offices, like the Land Commission, to help clarify the ownership of the land and whether it is actually a stool land or not.

  1. Engage with the Stool Authority:

Once you have identified the stool authority, you need to engage with them to express your interest in acquiring land. This will involve following their procedures and protocols for acquiring land within their jurisdiction, like meeting with the chief or other representatives of the traditional authority to discuss your intentions to acquire the land.

Negotiate the terms of the land acquisition, including the size of the land, the price or lease terms, any restrictions or conditions, and the process for obtaining necessary approvals and documentation. It is important to build a good relationship with the stool authority to ensure a smooth land acquisition process. Again, this is a fundamental reason to work with professional real estate agents who can navigate this terrain and give you professional assistance.

3. Creating a Contract for Sale/Sale-Purchase Agreement

The Contract-for-Sale and the deed document are different legal documents in a land transaction, each serving a specific purpose in the land acquisition process, and should not be confused.

The Contract for Sale is presented first by the buyer and serves as an agreement between him and the seller, saying that he wants to take his time to verify certain things before buying the land so that when he is satisfied after the due diligence, the seller must sell to him only, even if somebody approaches him with a better offer. 

Essentially, it gives the buyer time to conduct due diligence on the land before committing to the purchase. If the buyer is satisfied with the verification process, the seller must sell the land to him, even if a better offer arises afterwards.

Importantly, this contract legally binds both parties, preventing the seller from backing out of the agreement, even in the event of unforeseen circumstances such as death. In the event of any breaches, either party has the right to seek legal action to enforce the terms of the contract.

4. Searching the land:

In this stage, the buyer himself goes or sends a lawyer or a real estate agent to do research on the land. The research done over here is the most important, as its results uncover information about the land that you may not know about—information that would determine whether you’d be hindered in the future or not.

This research begins with a visit to the Lands Commission, where information about the land is gathered. However, to conduct an accurate search, it is important to have a site plan drawn up by a licensed surveyor

Without a site plan, the Lands Commission will not be able to identify the specific land under consideration, leading to potential complications. While buyers may receive site plans from the seller, relying solely on these plans can be risky. You could be given the site plan of another similar piece of land that is in the same community without your realizing it, which would bring about misleading results.

In the case of stool lands, the search may reveal various important details, including:

  • Confirmation of the land’s status as stool land and the authority responsible for its administration.
  • Any existing customary or traditional rights associated with the land, such as communal ownership or usage rights.
  • Confirmation of whether the land is marked as a route for the construction of roads, drainage systems, or any other public facility.
  • Identification of any restrictions or regulations imposed by the stool or traditional authority governing the land’s use or development.

Be sure to create your own site plan through a licensed surveyor, regardless of the reputation of the person who is selling the land to you in order to avoid future disappointments and inconveniences.

4. Obtain consent and approvals:

Before finalizing the transaction, you will need to obtain consent and approval from the relevant traditional authority or chief. 

Never trust any single entity or individual in the royal family, regardless of their power, who asks you to pay him some amount of money for the land without the knowledge of the elders concerned. Trusting that he will cover up for you when inconveniences arise, you’d only buy yourself a heap of problems. 

As given by law, no individual in the family can single-headedly administer a stool land. Always involve the concerned elders before making any transaction.

6. Formalize the transaction:

Once all necessary approvals and documentation are obtained, formalize the transaction by signing a lease agreement or deed of conveyance with the traditional authority. Ensure that all terms and conditions are clearly outlined in the agreement to avoid misunderstandings in the future.

Before registering the document, it must undergo stamping, which involves paying taxes on the property. Once the tax payment is made, the Lands Commission will affix a stamp on the document, signifying that the purchaser has fulfilled the stamp duty requirement. 

The tax assessment process is conducted by the Lands Commission, and they will inform you of the amount owed for stamp duty. Failure to pay the stamp duty will result in the document not being registered.

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If it doesn’t sound alarming to you yet, know that the consequences include:

  1. Lack of Legal Recognition: Without registration, the deed may not be legally recognized as evidence of ownership or rights to the property.
  2. Insecurity of Ownership: Unregistered deeds may lead to disputes over ownership, as there is no official record of the transaction or the rights conveyed.
  3. Risk of Fraud: Unregistered deeds are more susceptible to fraudulent claims or multiple sales of the same property, leading to potential legal battles.
  4. Limited Access to Legal Remedies: If disputes arise regarding the property, unregistered deeds may limit access to legal remedies or protections available to registered property owners.
  5. Potential Loss of Property Rights: In extreme cases, failure to register a deed could result in the loss of property rights altogether, especially if someone else registers a conflicting claim.

You should know that…

When acquiring stool lands in Ghana, patience is essential. Avoid rushing into choices and reject any pressure from the seller to complete the transaction quickly. 

It is critical to take the time to undertake complete due diligence before making a decision. Trust your instincts, especially if you’re acting without a lawyer or real estate agent which is not advisable. 

If you see any red flags or doubts, it is critical to investigate them as soon as possible before making a payment. Disregarding any pending dues or duties might lead to issues in the future, so it’s important to deal with them appropriately rather than avoiding them entirely.

We hope this has been useful information for acquiring stool lands in Ghana. The chieftaincy element in the land process in Ghana can be both advantageous or disadvantageous to you depending on the land you are working on acquiring. Don’t hesitate to work with a professional real estate agent in acquiring stool lands in Ghana.

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