By Dennis Isong
Acquisition of personal real estate assets/landed property in your name, indicating a welcome change from a life of paying rent and living in fear of the landlord is what we term success.
But the Nigerian real estate sector is fraught with too many legal risks and is — as a result — highly regulated.
That you made a payment to the land vendor and signed a document called a Deed of Assignment which the “Agent of the seller” claims his lawyer prepared does not mean that you are good to go.
Is it over? How can you be completely sure that the owner of the land sold you a valid and free title to the property you paid for? How sure are you that your title has been registered and secured under the law just because you signed a Deed of Assignment?
We shall look into questions and responses concerning that.
How can I be sure that the land vendor is genuine and that he is selling me a legitimate title?
You can do your due diligence through this measure known as a SEARCH REPORT being carried out at the Land Registry of the state where the property you want to buy is located (the FCT Department of Lands Administration for Abuja or Federal Land Registry for Federal Land Registry for Federal Land owned in states e.g. FHA Real Estate assets).
What are the requirements and procedures for a Land Search Report?
– Write an application letter to the Director of Lands Administration detailing the property information as it appears on the Certificate of Occupancy including the particulars of the supposed owner/vendor of the property, the plot and file numbers, the Certificate of Occupancy number, and date details.
– Attach to this application evidence of payment (a customized teller) of a search fee of 10,000 Naira for a Residential purpose property or 20,000 Naira for Commercial purpose properties (which might have been increased). You will also need to present an original certificate or a right of occupancy for sighting and documentation purposes and a valid means of identification.
– A search of the property will then be carried out by Land Registry staff.
Note: In addition to a Land Registry search, you will need to carry out a corporate search at the Corporate Affairs Commission if the property is sold by a company. You also need to search with the State Probate Registry for a Letter of Administration or Probate Grant if the vendor says the property he is selling was gotten via inheritance. If the property is said to be gotten as part of a share of community land, you need to properly verify this by checking with as many members of the extended family and community as possible.
If the property you wish to buy is developed or a high-rise building structure you might need to procure or ask the vendor for a profile of the building designers as well as a certificate of structural integrity as well as technical information on the building foundation quality.
What if the land I want to buy is not registered and has no title documentation attached to it?
In the case of Lagos where this is more of a problem, you will have to carry out what is known as Charting at the State Surveyor-General’s office to check if the land is under government acquisition or eligible for private ownership. In some cases, the vendor might tell you that the landed property is covered by an excision (a release of land by the Governor of a state to a community or a set of Private occupiers using a Gazette) which might be a lie and can only be confirmed by a Gazette number.
What does it mean if I go ahead and buy this piece of unregistered property and it turns out to be a government acquisition?
That means you have been scammed.
Buying land of this nature is a gamble. If the land is a pure government acquisition, you can simply carry out what is called Land Regularization/ Ramification which involves buying the same piece of land all over, but this time paying directly to the government.
If the land however is what is called a government commitment acquisition, then your money is totally gone and you are definitely getting no land as government-committed lands are usually earmarked for dedicated State projects from government estates and schemes to Power distribution lines, Oil and Gas pipelines, Agricultural schemes, industrial layouts.
How can I do my due diligence without running the risk of losing this deal to quicker buyers? What can I do to commit with the vendor so I don’t lose the juicy offer?
In that case, what you should do is to execute a Contract of Sale which legally binds both of you pending when you carry out your findings and finally complete the sale through a statutorily required Deed of Assignment or Conveyance. This contract will have the legal effect of invalidating any subsequent discreet sale to a purchaser for a higher value if attempted by the vendor.
Note: Such a Contract of Sale usually requires that you deposit a portion of the Transaction price of the piece of land. It is also prudent to demand that the vendor under the contract provide every help needed to register your title to the property after the Deed of Assignment has been completed and the transaction value of the property has been fully paid by you.
Why do I need to register my title to the property? Won’t just completing the payment and signing the Deed of Assignment or Conveyance be enough to qualify as a complete transfer of property?
By Section 22 of the Land Use Act 1978, it is a compulsory requirement that every transaction or conveyance of a Statutory Right of Occupancy be registered after getting the consent of the Governor of the State who by the Act is the Statutory Trustee/Legal ownership repository of all lands within a state. Customary rights of Occupancy are regulated by the Local Government of the area where the land is situated.
What this means is that all Land transactions must be registered with the State Land Registry after getting a Governor’s consent, otherwise, they will be deemed illegal. So, you must commence the Registration process within 30 days of executing the Deed of Assignment.
What does it take to register a title to Real Estate property and how long does it take to obtain a Governor’s consent?
1. A completed application for a grant/subsequent grant of a Statutory Right of Occupancy.
2. Proof of payment of an application processing fee of 100,000 Naira for commercial land and 50,000 Naira at designated banks.
3. A photocopy of a receipt obtained from the Abuja Geographical Information System (AGIS) upon presentation of the application processing fee teller.
4. 2 passport photographs.
5. A valid means of Identification.
6. Tax Clearance Certificate.
(For land that is to be acquired for Development/ Commercial purposes, the following will be required:
1. A schematic design of the proposed building
2. An Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA)
3. Evidence of Financial and Technical capacity
4. Incorporation Certificate, CAC forms, and Corporate Tax Clearance Certificates in the case of the applicant being a company
Building permits in Abuja are handled by the Department of Development Control (DODC)
It should also be noted that the AGIS registers Powers of Attorney over undeveloped portions of land within Abuja while a Deed of Assignment is registered to indicate the conveyance of a title to a developed portion of land within Abuja.
Dennis Isong helps individuals invest right in real estate. For questions on this article or enquiring about Real estate. Follow him on Youtube https://www.youtube.com/landpropertyng , email Dennis@Landproperty.ng or Whatsapp/call +2348164741041