There are about 40,000 expatriates in Ghana. Most chose to live in the capital, Accra. Expatriate communities with large, detached houses with gardens and garages can be found just outside the city centre. Most of these are secure, with gates and guards on duty at night.
Buying a Property
There are no restrictions on foreigners buying property in Ghana. However, different kinds of land, some of which cannot be privately owned. There are four types of land in Ghana: Government Land, Vested Land, Customary/Stool Land, and Family/Private Land.
To acquire Government Land or Vested Land, an application must be filed with the Executive Secretary of Lands Commission or the Regional Lands Officer, depending on the location of the land.
Customary Land belongs to different Stools in Ghana, who have the authority to grant the particular customary land for which they are responsible. The 1992 Constitution states that there must be no free hold interest granted in land.
Customary Land granted to private individuals or families before the 1992 Constitution is now considered private land. In this case, the buyer has to go directly to the owner of the land.
The services of a real estate agent and a lawyer are needed in acquiring property. A title search is very important to determine the ownership and kind of land the buyer is interested in. Once all agreements have been settled, a Deed of Conveyance, or an appropriate instrument of transfer (indenture), is prepared by the lawyer. Upon signing, the title is transferred to the buyer, who, at the same time, pays for the property.
The title is registered at the Lands Commission Secretariat. Property registration takes around 382 days to accomplish, with seven procedures.
Renting a Property
Rental market practice in Ghana is pro landlord. Rents can be freely negotiated in Ghana and rent increases are unrestricted. According to the Rent Act, landlords can only charge 6 months rent in advance, and succeeding rents are due every six months; however, in practice, landlords charge one to three years rent in advance.
Rental contracts last for the duration of the advance payment, usually one to three years. An option to renew can be included in the contract. If the tenant wishes to pre-terminate a contract, he must inform the landlord three months in advance. In most cases, the tenant must look for someone to take over the lease for the duration of the contract, or wait for the repayment since the landlord may have invested or spent the money already.
The Rent Act was passed to protect the tenants from frequent evictions by the landlord, especially when the former are not able to cope with incremental rent increases. Under this law, a tenant is usually given time, usually three months, to find a suitable place to relocate before being asked to leave. He can only be ordered by the court to vacate the premises immediately if the landlord has demonstrated that the property is required for his or his immediate family’s personal use or that he wants to remodel and renovate. But even then, the tenant must still be given time to find a suitable place.
Evictions can be a problem in Ghana, especially when dealing with low-income tenants. The Rent Control Department is the primary authority responsible for resolving disputes between landlords, tenants, and other persons with interests in premises. However, this department is notorious for its inefficiency and corruption.
To evict tenants faster, the landlord can bribe the Rent Control Officer and his staff to ensure that your papers will be processed faster and to get a favourable decision. This is not guaranteed because some tenants would rather “counter bribe” the Rent Control Officer than pay rent. If the landlord is unwilling to pay the bribe, his case will most likely be referred to the court after waiting a long time for a decision from the Department.