The gradual increase in infrastructure development has heightened the sales and purchase of land in Ghana and has influenced the appreciation of land prices.
People migrate to settle in the cities and wish to build permanent structures for residence, business purposes and what have you. Sales and purchase of land, therefore, has become common currently, unlike what pertained several years ago, when when sales of land were sparingly known to the Ghanaian society.
The more Ghanaians transact in sales and purchases of land, the more imperfect sales are made. The courts have consistently warned purchasers to be diligent and prudent in purchasing land.
A prudent and diligent land purchaser must pay attention to, but not be restricted to the following;
A prudent buyer must inspect the land to verify whether the vendor is in possession of the land.
Possession in this context simply means physical occupation of the land (legally termed as corpus possessionis).
“Possession is a matter of law, but is established by physical acts” (Brown v Quarshiga (2003-2004) SCGLR 930, Kludze JSC at Pp.951).
If the land is occupied by any person other than the vendor, the purchaser must seek and find what interest that person has over the land.
If someone other than the vendor is in possession of the land but the purchaser goes ahead to buy and enter into the land, the person in possession may maintain an action in trespass against the purchaser.
This reflected in the Ghanaian case of Wuta-Ofei v Danquah  GLR 487, when the Court held that any slightest amount of possession a person has over a land, gives him a right of action in trespass.
The rationale is that “person in possession of land is presumed to be the absolute owner thereof” (see Section 48 of NRCD 323; and Aidoo v Adjei  1 GLR 431).
In Shell Ltd Ghana, the Court speaking through Date Bah JSC warned that as far as structures, whether permanent or temporary are on the land, the purchaser should not presume the possessors to be squatters, even if the vendor warrants such.
If someone is on the vendor’s land, the purchaser must find out what interest the possessor has in the land.
A prudent buyer must not presume the interest of the vendor to be valid but must take necessary steps to verify his interest in the land.
The purchaser may seek information from the Lands Commission as to the previous owners and how the vendor acquired the said land. This will include verifying documents indicating the tile of the vendor over the land.
I will conclude with a strong caution given by the Court Appeal in Boateng v Dwinfuor  GLR 360 at Pp.366-7, the Court stated as follows “... if the purchaser has, whether deliberately or carelessly, abstained from making those enquiries into the title of his vendor that a prudent purchaser would have made, he will be affected by constructive notice of what appears upon the title. Apart from investigating the deeds, a prudent purchaser will inspect the land itself. If any of the land is occupied by any person other than the vendor, this occupation is constructive notice of the estate or interest of the occupier, the terms of his lease, tenancy or other right of occupation, and any other rights of his.”
Be a diligent and prudent purchaser of land to save yourself from series of land litigations.
Engage in a diligent and prudent transaction to secure a valid transaction which is litigation-free.