Acquisition of personal Real Estate assets/Landed property in your name and registering your property will indicate 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. If you register your property title, it will make it more secure. That you paid 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 sure that the land owner 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 how to register your property.
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 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 the date details.
Attach to this application evidence of payment (a customized teller) of a search fee of 10,000 Naira for a residential or 20,000 Naira for commercial 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 also need to conduct a corporate investigation at the Corporate Affairs Commission. If a company sells the property, you also need to search with the State Probate Registry for a Letter of Administration or Probate Grant if the vendor says
he got the property he is selling via inheritance.
Suppose the property is said to be gotten as part of a share of Community land. In that case, 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, a certificate of structural integrity, and 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. Suppose the land is a pure Government acquisition. In that case, you can 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 gone, and you are getting no land as Government-committed lands are usually earmarked for dedicated State projects from
- Government estates
- Schemes for 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, you should 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 the vendor attempts.
- 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 property title after the Deed of Assignment has been completed and you have fully paid the Transaction value of the property.
Why do you need to register my property title? Wouldn’t just completing the payment and signing the Deed of Assignment or Conveyance be enough to qualify as a complete property transfer?
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. By the Act, he is the Statutory Trustee/ Legal ownership repository of all lands within a state. Customary Occupancy rights are regulated by the Local Government of the area where the land is situated.
After getting a Governor’s consent, all Land transactions must be registered with the State Land Registry. 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 your property title in case of Real Estate property, and how long does it take to obtain a Governor’s consent?
A completed application for a grant/subsequent grant of a Statutory Right of Occupancy
Proof of payment of an application processing fee of 100,000 Naira for commercial land and 50,000 Naira at designated banks
- A photocopy of a receipt obtained from the Abuja Geographical Information System (AGIS) upon presentation of the application processing fee teller
- 2 passport photographs
- A valid means of Identification
- Tax Clearance Certificate
For land that is to be acquired for Development/ Commercial purposes, the following will be required:
- A schematic design of the proposed building
- An Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA)
- Evidence of Financial and Technical capacity
- Incorporation Certificate, CAC forms, and Corporate Tax Clearance Certificates in the case the applicant is a company
Building permits in Abuja are handled by the Department of Development Control (DODC)
You should also note that the AGIS registers Powers of Attorney over undeveloped portions of land within Abuja. In contrast, a Deed of Assignment is recorded to indicate the conveyance of a title to a developed piece of land within Abuja.
An unregistered property is at a higher risk of fraud. Fraudulent people can assume your identity and attempt to sell or mortgage your property without your knowledge. Property registration helps to protect such property from fraudsters and resists third-party applications for adverse possession, commonly referred to as squatters’ rights.
Registering your property title will make it easier for you to market your property. To sell land, a person must show the buyer a registered identification for the property. Registering your property is also beneficial for the buyer as they do not have to ensure any complex legal documents proving your property ownership.
Another great advantage when you register your property tile is giving your access to Government Compensation.
An unregistered property will in no way be able to achieve coverage from the Government if, for some reason, there was a compulsory purchase of the property for overriding public interest. Only properties with registered title deeds will receive compensation from the Government upon presentation.
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