Ever wondered how to buy land in Cameroon??? if yes, then this article was specifically written for you.
Buying a land in Cameroon is a wise investment and a great mile stone in one’s life if the transaction is smooth and fraud-free. However this is not often the case in Cameroon as about 20% of the cases in our courts every year is about land disputes arising from the sale of land in Cameroon.
In Cameroon, its very common to hear stories about double sale of land, somebody buying land from a 419ner, a person buying land from a member of a family and unable to build on the land or get a land certificate because other members (heirs) later filed a lawsuit to reclaim the land, alleging that it was sold without their consent, people buying parcels of land with an ongoing court case or purchasing lands which has been mortgaged etc
What if your hard-earned money went down the drain upon discovering that the parcel of land you have purchased was also sold to another buyer or you bought the land from a 419ner or you bought a land which has been mortgaged? sad right??
Some people may even commit suicide. To avoid this dreadful ordeal, its very important to know how to buy land in Cameroon to ensure that your first land purchase in Cameroon is smooth and hassle free.
Its sad that about 70 percent of the land transactions in Cameroon every year, takes place illegally (without the involvement of a notary). This explains why there are so many land sale disputes in our courts.
A bad practice common with the sale of land in Cameroon is that, for a land to be sold or bought, both parties (the buyer and the seller) will draw up a private land transfer agreement which will be signed by both parties and witnesses (without the involvement of a notary). After the illegal land transfer agreement has been signed by all the aforementioned parties, money will be handed to the seller and crates of beers will be bought to celebrate the successful transfer of ownership of the parcel of land LOL. This is the common beer parlor method of buying/selling land in Cameroon; which is very risky.
For a land transaction to be considered legal in Cameroon (and fraud free), the sale must take place in the presence of notary public’ who acts as the middleman between the buyer and the seller to ensure that there is no fraud or cheating in the land transaction.
Somebody may likely want to ask, WHO IS A NOTARY PUBLIC IN CAMEROON???
In Cameroon, a notary public is a senior member of the Cameroonian Bar Association; who has been authorized by government, to act as a middle man between a vendor and buyer in a land transaction.
Only a deed of conveyance and land transfer agreement signed and stamped by a notary in Cameroon, proofs that the ownership of a particular parcel of land has been successfully transferred to a particular individual or company.
Legal Documents which Confirms Transfer of Land Ownership in Cameroon
There are 4 documents which clearly confirms that ownership of a parcel of land has been successfully transferred after purchase. The documents include;
- Deed of Conveyance; It is a legal document prepared by a Notary Public to convey absolute rights over a piece of land to a purchaser as per Section 8(1) of Ordinance No 74/1 of 6 th July and Section 74 of Law NO 90/059 of 19th December, 1990.
However a deed of Conveyance can also be drafted by the purchaser solicitor and must contain the following information :
1. Personal information of the vendor and the purchaser
2. Information on how the vendor became owner of the land
3. Assurance from the vendor that the land is free from encumbrances
4. Willingness of the vendor to sell and the desire of the purchaser to buy
5. The purchase sum must be included
6. Covenant of indemnity to the purchaser in case of loss
7. The Deed of conveyance must be witnessed
8. Most especially Notarized by a Notary Public.
Whether a deed of conveyance is drawn by the purchaser’s solicitor or a notary public, its very important to note that it’s the signature and seal of a notary public which makes a deed of conveyance legal/authentic.
In other words any authentic deed of conveyance, must carry the signature and seal of a notary public in Cameroon.
A Notary public is statutorily commission to sign (notarized) all deed of Conveyance in Cameroon. In many countries in the world, a document can only be accepted abroad , if it has been notarized and, its genuineness verified and certified by a notary public.
- Land transfer agreement
- Land Certificate;
- Survey Plan; A land survey plan is an important legal document that displays the exact legal borders of a land and It also enables one to find out whether the land is under any government acquisition. Land survey plan is issued by land surveyors
Summarily, a land transaction can’t be completed without the signing of a land transfer agreement, Deed of Conveyance and the eventually the issuance of a land certificate.
Why the involvement of a notary in a land transaction in Cameroon is indispensable
An individual or a corporation desirous to purchase land in Cameroon have a duty to consult a property attorney to conduct due diligence and investigate the tittle of the land at the property land registry so as to ensure the said land is free from all encumbrances like bank mortgages, chieftaincy dispute, court cases and double sales.
Owing to the fact that the notary also has a duty to ensure the effectiveness of the deeds of conveyance, in the case of a sale, he/she verifies that the seller effectively has a property right that can be freely transferred to the buyer. Among other things, he/she will make sure that there is no mortgage (or fixed and floating charges) on the property for sale.
Additionally, owing to the fact that a Notary is statutorily commission to draft and sign all deed of conveyance in Cameroon, he is in a better position to quickly identify fraud. Simply put, as a middleman in every land transaction in a particular division, he must have sighted a copy of the letter of allocation from the chief ( in case of new layout ), survey site plan of the said parcel of land to ascertain the meters square area of the land or documents evidencing initial sale hence he is in a better position to identify fraud.
Legal Procedures to Buy Land in Cameroon
1) First step may seem obvious, but tends to be omitted by many people: it is simply to visit the land/property in order to make sure that it physically meets the buyer’s expectations and to ensure that the parcel of land is not located on public lands, which consist of roads, rivers, the sea side and other lands allocated for public use;
2) Find out if the land you intend to buy is titled (does the seller has a land certificate)
Before you initiate plans to buy a particular piece of land in Cameroon, the first thing you need to do is to find out if the land is titled.
A piece of land in Cameroon can either be titled or untitled. If it is titled, it means that there is an official document that outlines who owns the piece of land. If the land is untitled, it means that there’s no document for it hence its very risky to buy such a land.
If it is titled, then you’re quite lucky, as this means the land is ready for sale and to build on immediately once the transfer of ownership is approved.
It should be noted that a land title is the only official document which attest that a particular piece of land belongs to an individual or company.
2) Carry out due diligence of the land title
When someone wishes to purchase a landed property or carry out any transaction on a landed property, it is important to carry out due diligence in order to avoid purchasing a property with defected title.
A defective title is a title that is impaired with a lien, mortgage, judgment, or another claim. Defective titles are considered unmarketable, so the asset in question cannot be transferred or sold. Any encumbrances on a defective title must be cleared before the owner can sell their asset.
So it is of utmost importance to conduct search and investigation into every piece of land or house to be purchased.
Like i mentioned earlier, an individual or a corporation desirous to purchase land in Cameroon have a duty to consult a property attorney to conduct due diligence and investigate the tittle of the land at the property land registry so as to ensure the said land is free from all encumbrances like bank mortgages, chieftaincy dispute, court cases and double sales.
To find out if a land certificate is authentic and free from all the aforementioned encumbrances, you (the buyer) or your solicitor should go to the land registry office (in the division where the land is located) and request for the record of the land title of the parcel of land you intend to buy.
Why is this investigation phase very important in every land transaction:
- If you buy land that did not belong to the vendor, the land does not belong to you. Even if you build a house on it, you might lose everything. Look after your hard-earned cash.
- Like i mentioned earlier, any encumbrances on a defective title must be cleared before the owner can sell their asset. If a piece of land has been mortgaged or has other encumbrances, you won’t be able to get a land certificate after buying the land.
For those of you who don’t know, mortgage involves the use of a landed property as a collateral for a loan. Most of the times the mortgagee is usually a bank, and depending on the type of mortgage, the mortgagee either obtains a legal or equitable interest in the land.
If a piece of land has been mortgaged, then it means ownership or right over the piece of land has been transferred temporally to the mortgagee (bank) hence the owner of such a land doesn’t have the right to sell it as its possible for a him/her to out rightly lose his property if he fails to pay his mortgage within the required period of mortgage.
The land registry offices has a record of all the transaction linked with a registered piece of land (similar to bank statements which contains a record of all our bank transactions).
Since all legal land transaction in Cameroon happens under the watchful eyes of the notary public, he/she often send information to the land registry whenever a deed of conveyance or mortgage deed linked to a particular piece of land is signed. The information provided by the notary, helps the land registrar in a particular division to maintain an up to date record of all the transactions related to a particular titled land.
By requesting for the registry record of a particular piece of land from the Land registry, you will be able to get the following information about a land;
- The name of the registrant (owner of the land)
- The date it was mortgaged (if it has been used as a collateral) and if mortgage deed is till valid.
- When the land was bought by the registrant
- The total surface area of the land and lots of other vital information about the land…
Summarily, the title record of a particular land contains vital information about the registrant and the transactional history of a particular land hence it is the most reliable source of information when it comes to land sale in Cameroon. Do not rely on the information provided by the vendor but on information from the land registry.
Land registry offices are located in all the divisions in Cameroon so you don’t need to go to Yaoundé to request for the land registry record of any piece of land you intend to buy.
After obtaining the record from the land registry, check if the registrant’s name on land title matches the name on his/her national identity card or passport.
It should be noted that if there is no record or information about the land in the land registry, then the land you intend to buy is not titled or the seller is either trying to use a fake land title to sell a land which doesn’t belong to him or her.
If the land is titled, both the seller and the buyer can then consult the service of a notary public in Cameroon; who will facilitate the transfer of ownership.
Signing of Deed of Conveyance by Both Parties
After both seller and the vendor have found a notary that they will like to use for their land transaction, the land’s documentation (seller’s title deed, survey plan etc.) must be filed with the notary for the necessary verifications. The notary will check that the seller can freely sell his/her property, and inform the buyer of any identified obstacle or legal risk – usually a mortgage on the property.
The buyer (on his part) will make funding arrangements with a bank, and will in any case have to demonstrate the source of funds to the notary with regard to anti-money laundering legislation.
If the land is free from all the aforementioned encumbrances and buyer has indicated that funds is readily available to purchase the piece of land, both the seller and buyer can then proceed to sign the deed of conveyance for the transfer of ownership of the piece of land.
Like i mentioned earlier, a notary public is a senior member of the Cameroonian Bar Association; who facilitates the transfer of ownership of the piece of land.
As a judicial officer, the notary has a duty of impartiality i.e. a notary is not loyal to the buyer or the seller. His key role in a land transaction is to ensure a smooth transfer of ownership of the piece of land without any fraud or cheating. This makes him/her an essential trusted third-party to a sale.
Without the notary, the seller would refuse to sign closing documents until he/she gets paid and the buyer would refuse to pay until he/she obtains ownership of the property. The notary allows the parties to resolve this dilemma by guaranteeing/assuring the seller that the buyer has the necessary funds in his/her client account, and assure the buyer that the funds will only be disbursed on actual transfer of the property.
The notary also has a duty to advise his clients (the buyer and seller).
For example before a notary can initiate the land transfer procedure, he/she will first explain to both the seller and buyer the implications of the provisions of the contract that they are about to sign (this is called the “reading” of the deed), and ensure that they understand the extent of their commitments.
On the day of the sale, at the notary’s office, the buyer and seller must sign a deed of conveyance and land transfer agreement for transfer of ownership of the piece of land.
Finally (after both parties have signed the deed of conveyance & land transfer agreement) , the notary public will also sign on the deed of conveyance and then append his notary seal (stamp) on the deed of conveyance to finalize the land transaction. At this point, the land is considered sold and one party can’t reverse the transaction.
However the buyer will only receive the copy of deed of conveyance and land transfer agreement after the vendor has received payment. The notary is responsible for the collection of funds from the buyer.
After the land transaction is completed, the notary public, will then file the signed deed of conveyance for registration with the Land Registry and for taxing purposes.
The buyer can then proceed to request for a land title in his name. This can be done at the land registry office in the division where the parcel of land is located.
Notarizing a deed of conveyance makes it self-proving which moves it through registration faster because the land registrar does not need to call in witnesses to acknowledge whether the vendor signed the deed of conveyance hence with a deed of conveyance signed and stamped by a notary, it will be very easy to get a land title in your name.
Exchange of documents
Upon receipt of the complete documents from the seller, the buyer is obligated, in exchange of the documents, to pay to the seller the entire balance against the land through his advocates to finalize the registration of the documents after paying the requisite stamp duty.
Who pays the notary public for his service (the purchaser or the seller) and the stamp duty???
In property/land transactions the purchaser has a duty to pay adequate remuneration to his solicitor or the notary public for preparing the deed of conveyance. Notary Public in Cameroon commonly charge 10% of the value of the transaction and can only reduce after a hard bargain by the purchaser. The higher the value of the property’, the more percentage charged and the lower the value of the property’ ,the lower the percentage charged.
It is the responsibility of the buyer to pay the stamp duty. The stamp duty is a tax levied on all lands.
In addition, the notary is appointed by the State to collect the land transfer tax, registration duty and various stamp duties, and remit them to the land registrar on registration of a deed of sale.
How to buy an Untitled Land in Cameroon
Like i mentioned earlier, if a land is untitled, then it means there is no record about the land with the land registry and as such, it will be difficult to know if the piece of land is free from all the aforementioned encumbrances. This makes buying of untitled land very risky.
However, there are things you can do to minimize your risk.
Make sure the piece of land legitimately belongs to the vendor by enquiring from relatives of the vendor, the chief and other members of the village. If possible, check with Land Registry to confirm that the land is not titled. The vendor may have sold the land before and is trying to sell again using the beer parlor method.
There are some legal restrictions involved in a sale of land transaction that you need to be aware of, if you intend to buy an untitled land in Cameroon. They include:
1. Consent must be obtained when required i.e community head for any land (new layout) that is under a community can only be properly transferred when chief consent is obtained.
2. If the land is a family or community owned land, the land cannot be properly transferred unless the consent of the principal members and head(s) of the community and family is sought and obtained.
3. Some covenants under a lease might restrict the sale of land.
4. Town planning laws and regulations.
5. Where there is an ongoing court case in respect of a property, one cannot properly transfer such a land to another person (the doctrine of lis pendens).
If the land you intend to buy in Cameroon is untitled, read the procedure to buy an untitled land in Cameroon below.
Ignorance they say is not an excuse to the law. This write up is aimed at enlightening the society and reduce the alarming rate of land cases in our courts.
Whilst property fraud comes in many different guises, we have encountered a number of instances where property owners have discovered that their properties have been fraudulently sold without their knowledge. Forged signatures in transfer deeds, false witnesses, identity theft, foreign bank accounts and even dishonest solicitors are common ingredients in the mix for property fraud.
Its very important that you follow the right procedure to buy land in Cameroon as getting your money back is very difficult, as the vendor might have used it, travelled outside of the country or even died.
There are many of these cases in traditional and magistrate courts at the moment.
What to know before buying a land in Cameroon
DOCUMENTS INVOLVED IN LAND SALE IN CAMEROON
1. CONTRACT OF SALE OF LAND: This document is used by parties to agree on certain terms before the finalization of the transaction and before the final deed of assignment is prepared under sale of land transactions.
2. DEED OF CONVEYANCE OR ASSIGNMENT : This is used in sales transactions to permanently transfer or convey land from one buyer to another. It is a registrable instrument.
3. DEED OF MORTGAGE: This deed is used in mortgage transactions to show that land has been transferred from the mortgagor (borrower) to the mortgagee. It is a temporary transfer in sense that the mortgagor shall be entitled to retrieve this land back if the loan amount is paid with interest.
4. SURVEY PLAN: A survey plan is used to show the extent and size of one’s land. It also enables one to find out whether the land is under any government acquisition.
5. POWER OF ATTORNEY: This document might be required in some instances where a person in a property transaction is far away from Cameroon or is indisposed for one reason or the other. This is a document that gives another person the authority to act on behalf of a party to the transaction. A person who lives outside Cameroon but intends to buy a land probably manage it can donate a power of attorney to an agent to help him perform certain functions in respect of the property.
6. LAND PURCHASE RECEIPT: After the purchase of land, it is appropriate to ask for a receipt. However, the need for a receipt may be obviated where the receipt is already contained in the document transferring the land.
7. DEED OF GIFT: This is a document that proves that real estate has been gifted from a Donor to a Donee. Such a document can also be used to transfer interest in land.8. PROBATE: A grant of probate is a document derived as a result of the will of a demised person through inheritance. The document vests all the assets contained in it into the executors of the estate.’
9. LETTER OF ADMINISTRATION: The letter of administration also vests the assets contained in it in the administrators of a particular estate. It is granted to the personal representatives of a deceased person where the deceased died intestate.
10. ASSENT: Assent is issued to vest an interest in a particular estate into the beneficiaries of an estate or third-party buyer by the executors or administrators of an estate.
11. JUDGEMENT OF COURT : The judgement of a court is also another important document that may transfer an interest in a particular property from one person to another. It is useful where the title of a particular property is derived through a lawsuit.
Frequently asked questions about the sale of lands in Cameroon
Can i buy a land which has been mortgaged (to a bank)???
In a case where a buyer is interested in purchasing a land which has been mortgaged, both the seller and buyer will sign a sale agreement at the notary’s office. All parties commit themselves to the future sale, but only subject to certain conditions, called “conditions precedent”. For example, the buyer undertakes to buy the property on condition that the seller’s bank removes the mortgage held on the property. Alternatively, the seller undertakes to sell, provided that he/she holds a property subdivision permit. There are various scenarios, and the notary (middleman) must adapt the wording of the agreement to the specific circumstances of the transaction.
What happens in the case of a double sale???
After buying a piece of land from a vendor via the legal means, if the vendor fall into the temptation of selling the same piece of land to another person or even 10 other person via the beer parlor means mentioned above, that won’t affect you in any way. You still remain the bonafide owner of the parcel of land and any structure built on the land by anybody will be demolished.
In case of conflicting claims over a parcel of land, ownership is ascribe to the person that can proof a better tittle to the land. Simply put, ownership is given to the person who has a legal deed of conveyance document with signature and seal of a notary public on it.
The Notary seal is the impression of the Notary Public inked stamp or crimping embosser. It is used to authenticate the Notary’s signature and make the notarial act official.
A notarial deed “has the effects of a judgment and shall have immediate effect.” This is a significant difference compared to private agreements (without the involvement of a notary), which must be the subject to a court’s decision to have full effect in the event of a dispute.
Notarizing a deed of conveyance makes it self-proving which moves it through registration faster because the land registrar does not need to call in witnesses to acknowledge whether the vendor signed the deed of conveyance.
For double sale dispute over a land with no Land title in Cameroon
If there is no tittle document it is sufficient to show that you have been in possession of the land. Evidence of land possession includes but not limited to; cultivation on the piece of land, erection of building or fence and demarcation of the land with pegs or beacons. The purpose of a survey plan in a land cases is to identify the land in dispute because who so ever cannot identify- a piece of land will hardly convince the court to be the rightful owner. Traditional evidence can also be adduced to proof ownership of land but the court must be convinced as to who founded the land, how the founder founded the land and the names of intervening owners.