The wanton incidents of prospective property, land buyers been duped of their hard earned money can be attributed to the paucity of doing a due diligence investigation prior to paying for the envisaged property or parcel of land in contradiction of the best practice.
This is because many survey plans, deeds of assignment, certificates of occupancy, government allocation letters, and government gazettes bandied about by fraudulent property sellers out there, are forged. It takes an expert to figure this out. There are nasty tales of people falling prey to the whims and caprices of desperate and unscrupulous so-called land sellers, and quack surveyors. As a best practice prospective land buyers are strongly advised in their own interest to stringently investigate the genuineness, validity or otherwise of a property before parting with their money.
A survey search on a property will reveal whether for instance, that area has been designated for any specific purpose in the near future by the government. For instance, a piece of land mapped out for agricultural purpose is definitely a no-go-area if you look forward to building a residential apartment. You will have yourself to blame if you unwittingly purchase any of the so-called “committed lands or government acquisition”. It takes a good surveyor to ascertain the precise coordinate of a piece of a property and to figure out whether a land gazette or any other document is fake or not.
From the foregoing, it goes without saying that you need the services of a qualified and a street smart property solicitor, a surveyor or any other expert well knowledgeable about land matters to guide and help you in ascertaining the genuineness or otherwise of that property.
So before you pay for a property and as a best practice, it is advisable you collect if possible, photocopies of the property’s survey plan, deed of assignment, certificate of occupancy from the person that wants to sell the property to you, pass them to your solicitor, surveyor or a professional and they will in turn use the information to do a property search at the land bureau or land registry. If for any reason, a prospective property seller refuses to release photocopies as enshrine in the best practice of the said property’s documents to you for investigation prior to payment, you don’t need a soothsayer to tell yo that something is wrong somewhere.
The proposed Geographic Information System by Kano State government will put an end to sharp practices by fake property agents. As they say, to be forewarned is to be forearmed. Better to part with little professional fees than to foolhardily part with your money and regret later. Once more, investigate before you take the plunge as encourage for the best practice.
As we mentioned above, there is a plethora of nasty tales resulting from paucity of due diligence before buying or renting a property in Nigeria. As we say in our local parlance over here and within best practice, “shine your eye well well” before you part with your hard earned money for a property or before you sign the dotted lines. Here are issues, booby traps you must consider and sort out before you take the plunge:
- Before you pay for a property, politely request for the Tax Clearance Certificate of the person selling the property to you and make sure it is up to date. This will assist you when you want to process a ‘Governors Consent’. Failure to get his/her tax clearance certificate entails you paying for the sellers accumulated Tax as well as your own before your property’s document will be duly perfected.
- Land Use Charge or Ground Rent – Properties with a C of O (certificate of occupancy) usually attract an annual “land use charge or ground rent”. More often than not, property owners seldom pay this charge and can be inadvertently inherited by whoever buys the property. Now imagine where this charge have accumulated over the years. Again, this underscores the importance of doing a detailed check at the tax office prior to paying for a land or a property to ascertain whether there are outstanding charges, fees that the prospective buyer risks inheriting.
- Similar to the foregoing are sundry charges, fees charged by so-called dillalai (for those buying properties in Northern part of Nigeria, especially the Far North axis). These fees come in different guises: “foundation fee”, “signing fee”, “community development or neighborhood improvement fee”, “youth fee” and so on and so forth. These sundry fees invariably adds to the real cost of the property and must be factored in. It is worthy to note that one can negotiate for discount on these fees.
- Another dicey issue, pitfall that is worth understanding and considering, is that of “service charges”. This is prevalent in most “housing estates” scattered across Nigeria. Typical service charges include: Security charge, refuse disposal charge, electricity charge among others. Please do seek for clarifications regarding these sundry service charges otherwise they will shoot up your budget at the long run. You may need to consult a legal expert to help you breakdown the terms and conditions of a “contract of sale” because sometimes a lot of unfavorable or implicating clauses are masked in the ‘fine prints’ of most legal agreements.
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