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Starting a new business in Ghana; Obtaining Construction Permits
How do you obtain a construction permit for your new project in Ghana?
A common sight in Ghana is wooden kiosks loaded with provisions, or industriously recycled shipping containers turned stores clustered together with no apparent planning for their distribution or infrastructure. The Authorities’ infamous way of dealing with unauthorized structures, such as some of these is inscribing messages, “PRODUCE PERMIT BY …” or “STOP WORK AND PRODUCE PERMIT” on them. Failure to evidence their legitimacy is often met with demolishment by authorities. Many buildings in Ghana face the same fate and are vacated after work and money are expended. This article will highlight the process of obtaining construction permits before building, making structural alterations to a building or executing any works or installation of any fittings in connection with any building.
Requirements for obtaining a construction permit
The steps to obtaining a building permit are to:
- Have a land title certificate if the area is inT ema, Accra, Kumasi or Winneba, proving ownership and right to build on said land. In any other area, the deed the person has to the land should be duly registered.
- Submit building and site plans detailing proposed work to the Town and Country Planning Department.
- For a proposed building in a metropolitan or urban area (e.g. downtown Accra), the building must be designed by an architect, acting in consultation with a civil engineer, a structural engineer, and a professional builder.
The building plans to be submitted to the Town and Country Planning Department are part of an application which requires other documentation. The documents required for the application are:
- Four copies of structural drawings (which includes details of sections, elevations, calculations, drawings and specification of materials proposed)
- Soil test report
- Ghana National Fire Service report
- Environmental Protection Agency report
- Structural integrity report in case development has already commenced or is completed.
- Up to date business registration and operating permit (For organizations)
- Property rate payment receipt (For existing buildings)
- Endorsement of plans for State Housing Company’s areas.
- Copy of the title certificate from the Land Commission showing correct ownership.
To kick start the approval process, the Statutory Planning Committee (which is an interagency committee of officials) is recommended to review the application for the building permit, by the Town and Planning Department and mandated by law to reach a decision within three months.
There are certain procedures that a person must follow even after obtaining the building permit.
- Inspections are mandated by law to be carried out by Authorities at different stages to ensure the building remains within the scope of issued permit. The stages are the foundation, floor level, lintel, roofing, and finishing. These inspections normally last a day and come at no cost to the builder.
- After the building is erected it is issued with a certificate of habitation, on the condition that it is satisfactorily constructed according to initially approved plans. Authorities may still inspect and ensure it is safe for habitation after issuance of the certificate. This takes a total of 30 days and comes at the cost of GHS 728.
Reasons why your construction permit may delay
- When a building is put up before acquiring the necessary permits, there could be fines, delay in construction and in serious cases, demolishment. The Authority reserves the power toalter, pull down or removean unauthorized building. It is advised that no construction begins until the permit is issued. This is quite a common mistake of some contractors because they begin to erect buildings while waiting for the permit.
- There are sometimes bureaucratic delays in the issuing of permits due to the large demand for housing hence permits, and the multiplicity of agencies involved in the process. Aside from this, challenges may arise in evidencing of ownership of land. This is due to increasing cases of dual ownership, that is, land belonging to two different entities legitimately. In instances such as these, land title certificate and date and time of registration become instrumental – in complex cases, litigation is advised. These processes could drag for months or years, delaying the permit.
- There is indiscipline in the land market in Ghana, some caused by fraud where owners of land sell the same land to two or more parties. Land in Ghana typically belongs to stools, government, families, and individuals, of which an interest may be carved out and sold to another. The system is fraught with mischievous landowners and excessive delays within agencies with no other assuring remedies to these problems other than litigation.
Penalties and Charges for Building without Permit
Authorities are mandated to write to the offending party asking for reasons why the building should not be interfered with (abated, demolished, altered or removed). Inability to give a legitimate response by the offending party within the stipulated time could result in the building being pulled down, removed etc.
The Authority also reserves the right to sell any building materials to the offending party and apply proceeds as expenses incurred by the Authority in removing, altering or pulling down said building. Expenses can be recovered from the offending party by the Authority in the manner of a debt meaning that they could be recovered through legal means if the offending party defaults in payment.
In general, acquiring a building permit is quite a lengthy process that unfortunately a number of organizations do not go through. Aside from the general protection that legal compliance affords an individual/ business, there is also the added worth of insurance and real estate value on a building that has the required permit.