Modern land registration systems are usually compulsory. Countries must be able to keep track of land, ownership and land use. This is important for planning, real estate sales and urbanization. When land is properly and legally registered, it should protect landowners.
The National Land Policy (NLP) will seek to ensure that a staggered, accessible and affordable process of compulsory registration is enforced after the ratification of the policy.
In accordance with the current best practice, government shall consider the unification of the physical functions of government, survey and mapping, and the title registration functions in a single agency, which will be named the Sierra Leone Land Title Registry.
The system shall be comprehensive in the sense that all rights claims to land will need to be registered, including ownership, possession for a term of years (leases) mortgages and other liens (e.g. judgement liens) servitudes and covenants, hostile claims, (caveats) and possessory rights not amounting to legal title.
According to policy, the general principle of the new registration law will be that earlier registered rights will be superior to later registered rights, subject to exceptions including fraud or dishonesty.
“Protection of unsuspecting owners, the new system shall provide balanced protection to both unsuspecting owners and bona fide purchasers or any person dealing with the land e.g. creditors without notice of unregistered and conflicting claim to the land.”
The policy also looked at the legal formation of property objects, the link between cadastre and registration of titles, the NLP states that the new system, will establish as a condition of registration a right to land, that the land parcel first be ‘created’ as legal through the process of cadastral survey. Rights to a land parcel that is not surveyed cannot be registered.
“Indemnification, like most modern registration systems, the new system will provide for some amount of indemnification to users of the system that are harmed by misfeasance or malfeasance of the registration office.”
Mary Foday, Women’s Leadership and Advocacy Advisor –Trocaire, said that during their recent learning visit to Uganda, who are also implementing their new land policy, they have as a nation planting boundary trees to help resolve potential conflict between land owners especially women who are not well protected by the traditional laws.
“They have developed and interpreted the Principles, Practice, Right and Responsibilities (PPRR) of customary land tenure in local languages, setting up of community structures to mediate land conflicts, as they think that mediation has helped reduce the number of cases and instances of violence.”
In Uganda, all land occupied before 1995 when there was no clear law automatically belonged to the occupant irrespective of his/her status and that land certificate and title is only given to community land when the land officers do inspections, verified by community and register it in the name of one stakeholder in the community who holds the land in trust.
“Family certificate is given when the land officers meet with all family members for their consent, register the land in the name of one person the family considered and the person could be a male or female member of the family.”
However, with this new land policy, the government is expected to set up a unified land registration system that registers collective and individual rights in land under customary tenure.
A registration statute will be enacted, that will combine and provide statutory recognition to legitimate tenure rights from customary law and general law, provide for the recording of group, family and individual rights and interests, create a related register of encumbrances.