Recent reforms in Registering Property and Dealing with Construction Permits
Sierra Leone sped up property registration from 235 days in 2008 to 86 in 2009 by no longer requiring the cadastral map to be authenticated before each transfer. The country also improved the building approval process and reinstated phased inspections, cutting 24 of the procedures previously required to obtain a construction permit.
The government realizes that additional barriers exist in the area of accessing land, and that removing these are crucial to growth and investment. Improving land administration in the Western Area and enhancing access to land in the rest of the country is a priority, which President Koroma has cited in his recent speeches.
Today, there are two types of land tenure, inherited from colonial times. Colonial land is a freehold system in Freetown and the Western Area. Customary land is a leasehold system that prevails in the rest of the country. There is no land titling system to validate property rights.
Citizens can acquire private land in Freetown and the Western Area through the State Lands Committee and the Ministry of Lands. Foreigners may not own land.
Under the customary land system an investor can lease land by entering into a “joint venture” with the local paramount chief who controls the land in his district. To register a parcel of land, an investor must complete an application and provide the Office of the Administrator and Registrar General with two signed copies of the legal land conveyance and two signed copies of a land survey. The registration process is simple and takes no more than five business days to complete. The registration process costs USD$10, and investors must pay land taxes (which are determined by the location and size of the site) and the stamp duty.