BEFORE achieving the dream of your own home or land…

Just like food and clothes, shelter is also a basic need for us, humans. It doesn’t matter what position a person holds; they always have a place to call home. Some people own a land from their parents or any other grants, while some own it by purchasing a land that satisfy their needs. Despite the manner in which they obtained the ownership, almost everyone dreams to have their own land.

Some people purchase and build a house to satisfy their requirements, but some purchases lands with houses already constructed for them. Sometimes that building could be a condominium unit as well.

Generally the first thing that happens when someone finds out about a land sale is to visit the site and inspect the land to find out whether it actually satisfy their requirement profile and  whether the land is worth for the cost. However, even if it fits, the buyer should remember that there are many other legal facts to be checked and sorted out.

In the first instance, the buyer should find out the ownership of the seller and whether  his ownership is undisturbed. The copies of the documents related to the land such as the deed of the land, the land plan should be taken and inspected carefully. The most effective way to inspect the said documents is to have the assistance of a lawyer or a notary public. This increases the accuracy of the inspection.

The registration of the ownership of the land to the seller can be find out through the documents issued by the respective Land Registration Office according to the deed given by the seller.

In the registration office, the information regarding the land is mentioned in extracts/folios. The clear verification on the land seller’s connection to the land ownership can be found in them. It is important to find out whether ownership is undisturbed for about 30 years. If the ownership of the land continues in a regular hierarchy, the land is considered to be an undisturbed right.

Sometimes, even though the owner has the undisturbed right, there can be some disputes and obstructions for the land. As such it is advisable to find out whether the land is under any kind of mortgage or a lease, a caveat, seizure notice, priority notice or a lispendance. If such circumstance found during the inspection of the land at the registration office, it should be cleared out before purchasing the land.

If this land has a plan or a design plan of a building, buyer should check whether the plan has been approved by the respective local authority. Even though it is approved, there can be limitations regarding the plan. Therefore, the buyer should pay more attention to this matter as well. 

When purchasing the land, the buyer should seek information from the respective local government authority. Theseller is required to provide following documents from the same authority.

  1. Certificate of Ownership
  2. Non-Vesting Certificate 
  3. Certificate of Street Line
  4. Certificate of Building Line
  5. Certificate of Conformity

In case the buyer wish to obtain a for loan facilities to purchase the land, the banks and other financial organizations request for the above documents from the buyer. Even if the purchasing occurs on a cash deal, it is advisable to have these documents checked and looked out for a safer purchase.

1. Certificate of Ownership

As per the certificate, the registered owner of the land in the respective local government authority can be found. In some cases, the name of the seller does not appear on this certificate. In such cases, a duly filled application form to change the name of the assessment rate register can be submitted to the respective local government authority under the owners’ name and obtain the certificate.

2. Non-Vesting Certificate 

In case certain property is not owned by a respective authority due to not paying the assessment rates or development taxes, the respective authority issues this certificate.

In case authority does not issue the certificate, it is probably due to the remaining arrears. The certificate will be issued once the arrears are settled.

3. Certificate of Street Line

This certifies the fact that the land has not been obtained by an authority for a road construction. However, if it is obtained, then the certificate states the fact that it has been taken over for a such work.

4. Certificate of Building Line

This certificate states the limitations that applies to a building construction in a land. It is considered illegal to construct a building without taking them in to account.

Since the above mentioned Non Vesting Certificate , Certificate of Street Line  and Certificate of Building Line are valid only for six months, the buyer should check if the certificates were issued within a time period of six months from the date of purchase.

5. Certificate of Conformity

This certificate is issued by the government authority verifying the fact that a building is constructed according to the plan and that it is suitable to live in. So, this certificate should be obtained before occupying the house.

It is also to be noted that, there are few other approvals and certificates to be obtained according to the location and the nature of the land.

For example

  • when categorized under residential, industrial and mix-development zones, it is advisable to find out to which zone the land belongs to. It is to be noted that the approvals are not given to construct a building for residence in an industrial zone.
  • If the land is in a coastal area, the development can only be carried out if the Director of the Coast Conservation Department issues a license approval for such a development.
  • Some urban areas are taken over by the Urban Development Authority. If the land is in an urban area, confirm whether the land does not come under the property of the Urban Development Authority.
  • If the land is bordered by a road which comes under the Road Development Authority, make sure to find out the possibility of that land being taken over by the Road Development Authority for road development / road widening projects in the future.
  • If the land is located in an area close to an airport or in a highly restricted area, approvals should be taken from the Civil Aviation Authority in respect of the height of the building construction.
  • Some limitations are posed upon the land constructions close to high tension power lines and the constructions directly under the said lines are prohibited.
  • There are different limitations on the developments in lands carried out close to forest reserves and river reservations.
  • When selling tea, rubber and coconut lands, the approvals should be obtained from the Tea, Rubber, Coconut Estate (control of fragmentation) Board.

Therefore, it is not suitable for anyone who buys a land to just consider about the selling price of the land and the other facilities. It is more important to pay attention to the legal background of the land and its’ ownership to the land seller. If not, the chances of getting into unnecessary  troubles such as court cases and various disturbances are very high for the land even after you purchased it by spending most of your wealth. So, by following the above-mentioned guidelines and by looking out and paying attention to the information and documents mentioned in this article as stated above, you can have an undisturbed right to own your dream land or house.

Translator – Prabuddhika Ramawickrama


Professional in charge – Law of Property

Buddika Serasinghe
Attorney-at-Law
[email protected]


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