Protecting yourself when buying property
Buying property in Nigeria is a very risky endeavour, it seems like everyone is out there trying to swindle you or extort you – but that is not enough reason to avoid buying property. Buying property in Nigeria is also one of the most lucrative and worthwhile investments you can make, and therefore instead of avoiding buying property because of the risks, what you should be trying to do is to eliminate those risks by protecting yourself adequately. The risks involved in buying property in Nigeria include:
- Buying Property from the wrong person – When you find a property you are interested in, you should always ensure that the person you are dealing with is the owner of the property or someone who has the valid authority to sell the property. You can determine if the person you are dealing with is the owner of the property or has the right to sell on behalf of the owner by reviewing and verifying the documents the person provides. Documents like Deed of Assignment, Certificate of Ownership, Power of Attorney etc are important documents here. In cases where you are interested in purchasing family land this is even more important, because there are added requirements to verify that the person you are dealing with has the consent of the family to sell the land.
- Buying Defective Property – Buying defective property is an expression used when you buy property without conducting proper due diligence, and you therefore get involved in a property which is already under litigation or is on its way to be in litigation. A good lawyer should be able to conduct the relevant searches and examine the appropriate documentation to ensure that the property is free from any encumbrance or pending litigation, that the property is not the subject of any Government acquisition, and that the property is not subject to any overriding interests. Do not use your money to buy litigation.
- Paying unnecessary expenses – when you buy property you are supposed to pay all sorts of fees – professional and official fees, however it is this multiplicity of fees which allows people to be hoodwinked into paying for things which they do not need to or paying for things which should be paid by the seller and not you the buyer. Having proper advice ensures that you only pay for what you should pay for and not a kobo more. Fees you should expect to pay are legal fees, agency fees, fees for survey plan, perfection fees (registration at Lands registry, consent fee etc.)
- Your property being illegally resold – when you buy a property it is important that you take steps immediately to physically secure the property., you can do this by fencing the property, laying foundation etc. just take steps to exercise your ownership – so if someone tries to sell it to another person, they will be put on notice that there is already an owner. Apart from physical possession, you should also legally complete the sale by filing all the necessary documentation with the appropriate government authority – the first thing to do here is to register your interest in the land at the relevant Lands Registry, once you do this, you have put the whole world on notice legally that you have an interest in the property and therefore any resale of the land after that is subject to your own interest.
From the above you can see that there are a number of risks involved with buying property in Nigeria, and the most effective way to prevent a number of them is to conduct proper verification before you proceed i.e. verify that the person you are dealing with is the legitimate owner and verify that the property has no encumbrances.
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We hope you have found this information helpful. Please note that this information is provided for general informational purposes only and is not intended to be legal advice. No lawyer-client relationship is formed nor should any such relationship be implied. It is not intended to substitute for the advice of a qualified lawyer. If you require legal advice, please consult with a qualified lawyer.