The land title is the only certification of real estate ownership. It is issued after a rigorous and animated procedure from start to finish with advertising. Any claimant to a right relating thereto, then having all the means and time limits to oppose, or request registration in the event of a claim raised to a real right or charge likely to appear in the land title, cannot therefore in principle, including assert real rights after its issue, if the registration procedure has been scrupulously respected. Said title is therefore final, unassailable and intangible. Thus, a victim of fraudulent tactics, third party to the procedure for registering land, has no direct recourse on disputed land which has been abused, but rather a personal action in civil liability for damages against the author of this fraud.
However, it is important to emphasize that despite these definitive, unassailable and intangible characteristics of the land title, it can however be either modified (following an assignment, a dismemberment or a merger) or rectified (at the result of errors or omissions) is completely cancelled. It is this last aspect, which consists in withdrawing any prerogative linked to the land title, which interests us in this case. This will be the case in the event of lack of vigilance or complicity of the administration or even in the event of fraud by the beneficiary, because no one can claim a legitimate right in the wrong; and there is a fundamental principle of justice which emphasizes that “fraud cannot serve as a title to a right”. Many rights holders in Cameroon are also victims of the cancellation of land titles, particularly with the recent waves of cancellations in certain regions of the country. In this study, we will therefore see together the conditions for the cancellation of a land title, its effects, but above all the attitude to adopt when one is a victim of it.
- THE CONDITIONS FOR CANCELLATION OF THE LAND TITLE
Article 2 of the 2005 decree setting the conditions for obtaining the land title, in its paragraphs 3, 5 and 6, is quite clear on the issue by providing:
“(3) … the Minister in charge of Land Affairs may, in the event of fault on the part of the administration, resulting in particular from an irregularity committed during the procedure for obtaining the land title, and in view of the authenticated deeds produced, proceed the withdrawal of the irregularly issued land title.
(5) The withdrawal of the land title provided for in paragraph 3 of this article may, except in the case of fraud by the beneficiary, only take place within the time limit for litigation.
(6) A land title is null and void in the following cases:
- when several land titles are issued on the same land; in this case, they are all declared null and void, and the procedures are re-examined to determine the legitimate owner. A new land title is then established for the benefit of the latter;
- when the land title is issued arbitrarily without following any procedure, or obtained by a procedure other than that provided for this purpose;
- when the land title is established in whole or in part on a dependency of the public domain;
- when the land title is established in part or in whole on a parcel of private domain of the State, a public authority or a public body, in violation of the regulations”.
This means that the applicants, parties or injured third parties, may seize the competent administrative authority for the purpose of canceling a land title within a period of 2 months from the establishment of this title (deadline not respected in practice at cause of the information most often known late, of the abuse: jurisprudential solution). In the event that the said authority, which can only pronounce the annulment, only in the hypotheses provided for above rejects the appeal, the applicant may lodge a contentious appeal before the administrative chamber of the supreme court within 60 days from the rejection of the administrative appeal under penalty of foreclosure (see the law article 7 of the law of December 8, 1975 on the procedures before the Supreme Court ruling in administrative matters).
The same is true for applicants who are against the cancellation of the land title by the Minister: they have a prior non-contentious appeal before this administrative authority, before going to litigation before the administrative judge.
It should also be noted that the cancellation of the land title is not only administrative but can also be jurisdictional; we will not dwell on it. But what about the effects of such a decision?
- THE EFFECTS OF CANCELLATION
In this case, attention should be paid to paragraphs 4, 7 and 5 of the same text which provides:
“(4) The withdrawal of the land title issued entails the free transfer of the said title to the name of the initial owner, if it is a registered building. The building is returned to the same and similar state it was in before the issue of the title, if it is an unregistered building.
(7) The nullity of the land title provided for in paragraph 6 above is declared by an order of the Minister in charge of Land Affairs, subject to appeal before the competent administrative court.
(8) Public officials recognized as perpetrators or accomplices of irregular acts resulting in the withdrawal or declaration of nullity of a land title, shall be sanctioned in accordance with the provisions of Article 2 of Law No. 80/22 of July 14, 1980 repressing attacks on land and state property”.
This simply means that if an irregular registration has occurred, the nullity of the title is absolute, that is to say with retroactive effect with regard to all, thus considering that it never existed. The title resulting from the fragmentation, for example, will be canceled and the land will automatically fall back into the regularly established parent title and will remain for the owner of this title. On the other hand, in the event of a withdrawal of the title of a land which was not registered at the start, but which, on arrival, was fraudulently registered, the land falls back into its domain of origin (domain national, public or private of the State). Crooked public officials who facilitated such maneuvers can also be prosecuted.
Ultimately, despite the inadequacy of the law with land practice on the retroactive effect of the cancellation of the land title, when we know that in most of these titles, sales, fragmentation, transfers... have been operated, it should be emphasized all the same that if the land falls back into the national domain, for example, nothing prevents a new registration procedure from being carried out there in strict legality.
Cancellation of the land title
fault of the administration