Law News
Necessary legal consideration when buying property

DUE to the highly complex nature of legal framework in real estate in Nigeria, it is very difficult to buy property without a horde of “experts” attempting to sway you with their advice. In Lagos state, in particular, the steps taken when purchasing property depends on whether you are buying empty land, an uncompleted building or a completed building, according to RE/MAX, a leading global real estate franchise company. The firm here offers some advice on legal matters to consider when buying property in the country.

Empty land

On the purchase of land, the company’s advice is twofold – Registered Title and Unregistered title. Under Registered title, you have at least two options: Registration after a private transfer i.e. in the instance of a sublease, deed of assignment, etc.; Registration by virtue of a direct allocation by the Government i.e.

In the case of sublease or a Certificate of Occupancy (C of O). Under Unregistered title – There are about six options: Sale by a private person who purchased from a registered owner but has himself not registered his title; Sale by a private person who purchased from an unregistered owner and had not registered his/her title; Sale by the Omo Oniles (Landowners) who have the title of a land that has been allocated to them by the government via Gazette or C of O, but have not processed their C of O;

Sale by the Omo Onile- who are selling land not yet allocated to them under the circumstances mentioned above. The land has not been excised and is still technically under government acquisition; Sale by the Omo Onile under acquisition but not under commitment and; Sale by the Omo Onile of land under acquisition and which has also been committed.

Land covered by C of O

To purchase a land covered by a Certificate of Occupancy or other registered titles, you must undertake the following steps: Sight the original registered document; Conduct a search at the relevant lands registry to ascertain if it is the allottee who is disposing of the property, how many years are outstanding on the life of the property (out of the 99 years usual life span), if the property is encumbered i.e. mortgage, prior sale, long lease, outstanding taxes or rents, or revocation.

If your lawyer is satisfied with the search and physical inspection of the Land conforms to the details on the title documents, and then it is time to draw up legal documentation of exchange of the title and payments. Upon this exchange, it is important that your title is registered at the relevant lands registry.

Among the documents for exchange, evidence that no tax encumbrances exists over the land must be presented. Clearance from the government agencies that all land charges and other demands have been made is also essential. If there are building plan approvals and land/soil tests, the results must also be handed over at final exchange.

Prior to the exchange, and if you have not done so yet, a physical visit to the land is very important. Once an exchange has been made and payment for the original titles, conveying documents and documents listed above are completed, then you should immediately take over physical possession of the land/property purchased. The law says that possession is 90 percent of ownership. The next step is to register your title or interest over the property at the appropriate land registry.

Registered land

When you are offered a land by a person who has bought and has registered his/her title, you are to sight the original registered documents, which in that case, will comprise of a Deed of Assignment, sublease etc. Conduct a search at the lands registry at which the said land was registered. Take all the steps  relating to the purchase of land covered by a C of O.

In addition to the above, and most importantly, you should get the survey plan attached to the Deed of Assignment, subjected to a  chart. The technical reasons for this can only be revealed on a more detailed consultancy.

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