Sri Lanka has accumulated a wide variety of laws for the past two centuries that allow the country’s government to manage its society, its economy, and its place in the midst of hundreds of other countries around the world. Among the array of laws are those that govern the country’s real estate. These rules help to regulate the real estate market, the ownership of property, lease of properties, buying and selling of property as well as taxes related to real estate. As a result, understanding the framework of these laws will allow interested parties to take better decisions, helping them to yield the optimum advantage of their properties.

  • What are the main types of laws that involve the governing of property in Sri Lanka?

While there are dozens of laws that govern the regulation of property types, the majority of them will fall under two main branches of the country’s legal system.

  1. The Roman-Dutch law: Is the most influential branch of the country’s legal system. Introduced by the Dutch during the Dutch colonial period, this law is also considered as the Common Law of Sri Lanka.
  2. The English law: Known also as the British law, this legal system was introduced to Sri Lanka during the British colonial period of the country. Sri Lanka’s criminal law is largely based on the English law.

Apart from the above, another set of laws only apply to certain demographics of the country also regulates the management of properties. These are known as the Personal Laws and includes:

  1. The Kandyan law: Applicable to Sinhalese families and their descendants who are living in regions that came under the Kandyan Kingdom, during the period when the British colonial government of Ceylon took over the Kingdom of Kandy.
  2. The Thesawalamai law: Applicable to ethnic Tamil inhabitants of the Jaffna Province, who are also described in the law as the Malabar inhabitants of the Jaffna Province. The laws related to property in Thesavalamai is applicable to all immovable property, both land and buildings located in the Jaffna peninsula.
  3. The Muslim law: Applicable to the followers of Islam in Sri Lanka.
  • The following is a comprehensive list of Individual laws that govern the management of property in Sri Lanka

Rent Act No. 7 of 1972: The Rent Act governs all aspects related to the renting of property, except for specific instances that are excluded from the legislation.

Protection of Tenants (Special Provisions) Act No. 28 of 1970: This legislation protects tenants, from property owners who may use force to remove the tenants from their properties.

Ceiling on Housing Property Law No. 1 of 1973: This law regulated the ownership, size and cost of construction of housing properties.

Urban Development Authority Act No. 70 of 1979: This special act oversaw the establishment of the Urban Development Authority (UDA) of Sri Lanka.

Urban Councils Ordinance No. 61 of 1939: The Urban Councils Ordinance act directed the establishment of Urban Councils, for the purpose of governing urban regions of Sri Lanka.

National Housing Development Authority Act No. 17 of 1979: The National Housing Development Authority Act oversaw the establishment of the National Housing Development Authority (NHDA) of Sri Lanka.

Pradeshiya Sabhas Act No. 15 of 1987: This specific act directed the creation of local authorities known as Pradeshiya Sabhas for local administration.

National Housing Act No. 37 of 1954: This act created the office of the Commissioner for National Housing.

Land Acquisition Act No. 9 of 1950: The act creates provisions for the acquisition of private lands by the State to be used for public purposes.

The Prescription Ordinance No. 22 of 1871: This legislation sets out the time duration for instituting actions in courts of law.

Primary Courts Procedure Act No. 44 of 1979: Is used to settle land disputes resulting from the breach of peace.

Land Reform Law No. 1 of 1972: The law aims to utilise agricultural lands to increase productivity and generate more employment.

The Land Grants (Special Provisions) Act No. 43 of 1979: The act aims to grant agricultural or estate lands to landless Sri Lankan citizens.