Key Features of Ghana's New Land Act, 2020
Ghana’s new Land Act, 2020 (Act 1036) (“the Land Act”) brings innovation to the land administration in the country by helping to inform the public about their rights and interests in acquiring and possessing land; by improving the tenure security of interests in land ownership; and by enhancing public accountability in land administration. The new Act consolidates the existing laws on land and land administration into a single Act; some of these features which are necessary to understand the growing land laws in Ghana include:
First, the Act holds that chiefs, tendanas, clan heads, family heads or any authority in charge of management of stool or skin, clan or family lands are accountable as fiduciaries. As fiduciaries, these “managers” must be transparent, open, fair, and impartial in making decisions that affect the land(s) they manage. They are also subject to disciplinary sanctions if they fail to comply with their fiduciary duties.
Second, the Act creates a Customary Land Secretariat. It imposes an obligation on stools, skins, clans or families to establish a Customary Land Secretariat for the management of their respective lands. The Land Act sets out guiding provisions that detail the structure, functions, staffing, powers and source of funds of these Customary Land Secretariats. A notable function is the duty to keep and maintain accurate and current records of land transactions within their respective areas of operation. The Land Act, however, does not provide any punitive measures for failure to adhere to this provision.
Third, there are now three systems of recording and registering land and interests in land. These are: (1) Recording of customary interests and rights by Customary Land Secretariats; (2) Registration of instruments relating to land; and (3) Registration of title, interests and rights in land.
Fourth, the Act has introduced electronic conveyancing. Land or interests in land can now be transferred by an electronic information system. This system will only be available to qualified legal practitioners whose access will be determined by the Lands Commission after an assessment as to whether they possess the equipment and facilities to provide the conveyancing services.
Fifth, parties are required to exhaust all procedures under the Alternative Dispute Resolution Act, 2010 (“Act 798”) before any action involving land in a registration district can be commenced in Court. This mechanism has replaced the Land Title Adjudication Committee under the repealed Land Title Registration Act, 1986 (P.N.D.C.L 152).
Sixth, within ten (10) days after the last day of each month, the Land Registrars are required to compile a list of all registered interests and rights from the previous month and submit it to the Director of the Land Registration Division. Within fourteen (14) days of receipt, the Director of the Land Registration Division is to compile a general list which will be posted on the Lands Commission’s website.
Lastly, the Land Act eliminates grantees and subscribing witnesses from the list of persons required to depose to an oath of proof in an instrument.
The implementation of these progressive features is expected to enhance the administrative framework of land registration, security, and governance in Ghana.