Last week, we commenced decoding the mystery of Real Estate Documentation. For this edition, we shall conclude the mystery of Real Estate documentation and delve further into information prospective home buyers need to know.
An Excision means the Government makes a law ceding and releasing portions of an expanse of land to customary owners, typically communities or land-owning families which enables that family sell to third parties. Such excisions must always be Gazetted.
Warning — there are lands that Government has clearly defined development plans around! In such cases, you will typically hear that the area is under acquisition.
When you buy such a land, you must apply to the Government for ratification and the Government is NOT obliged to approve your request.
As a rule of thumb, AVOID ANY LAND THAT IS UNDER GOVERNMENT ACQUISITION.
When you do a land search at the registry with the initial survey map, the State Surveyor General Office will often issue a letter confirming if the land is “free of Government Acquisition”
When land is free of government acquisition, converting a customary right into a deemed right of occupancy (certificate of occupancy for non-government land) is straightforward.
A Gazette is an Official State Record where all special government decisions or approvals or orders are detailed and recorded. A Gazette carries the Logo of the State for example “LAGOS STATE OF NIGERIA OFFICIAL GAZETTE”. It will also include the Number, Volume, Page, Date, and Location where it was signed into law. When it has to do with excision, it will include the list of the Villages, Settlements, and parcels of land excised back to the named community. It will also include details of the Area(s) excised, the number of Acres or Hectares of land excised to the named communities; the boundaries, coordinates, and beacons for the area of land excised to the named community.
WARNING: Anyone offering you an excised land without a gazette is selling you a gambling chip! Why not “sell you a lemon!”
CERTIFICATE OF OCCUPANCY (C OF O)
A Certificate of Occupancy is the first official title certificate issued by State Governments in Nigeria to landowners and property owners as certified and registered proof of ownership. This certificate also spells out what the land can be used for; residential, commercial, or mixed development. ALL Certificates of Occupancy (C of O) are valid for Ninety-nine (99) years. Unless revoked or voided for any reason, ONLY ONE Certificate of Occupancy can be issued on the same property.
All subsequent buyers simply have their rights noted on the registered copy of that Certificate of Occupancy and then apply for what is called a Governor’s Consent to their acquisition of an interest in that same property.
Governor’s Consent is an attestation stamped on every registered transfer of title confirming that ownership of the leasehold has been transferred to a third party. Governor’s consent is always issued for the unexpired term of the lease calculated from the date upon which the original Certificate of Occupancy was issued by the State.
Deed of Assignment / Deed of Sub-lease
A deed of assignment or deed of sub-lease refers to the legal document that records the transfer of ownership of a real estate property from one party to another. It affirms that the Seller has transferred all his rights, his title, his interest, and ownership of that land to the buyer. A Deed of Assignment or Deed of Sub Lease MUST be submitted to the Land’s registry to obtain Governor’s Consent and it is then registered/filed by the State Land Registry as further interest in that property.
REMEMBER – having a registered title is primary evidence of ownership of the property; the second most potent proof is being in physical possession of the property.
Contract of Sale
This is a contract containing the complete terms of the agreement between a buyer and a seller for the sale of a particular parcel or parcel of real estate properties. It precedes due diligence and execution of a Deed between respective parties.
A contract between a landlord (the lessor) and a tenant (the lessee) transfers the right to exclusive possession and use of the landlord’s real property to the lessee for a specified period and a stated consideration (rent). Typically, in Nigeria, a lease serves a tenure of at least three years, whereas a tenancy is for a tenure of 2 years or less.
Power of Attorney
This represents a written instrument authorizing a person (the Attorney) to act on behalf of the Donor to the extent indicated in the instrument. It is important to ensure that the Power-of-Attorney (P.O.A) seeking to transfer title or to be used to transfer title is registered meaning Governor’s consent is obtained.
A title company’s review of the deed and the (potential) claims upon it. This is part of the due diligence a prospective buyer needs to undertake to verify the authenticity of the title to the land. This is usually conducted at the state lands registry. (E.g., Alausa in Lagos State)
In subsequent posts, we will explore the planning approval procedures using Lagos as a case study.
Title to land is first a customary title then a certificate of occupancy then a registered deed with Governor’s consent.
Anyone selling your land under acquisition must provide you a proof of excision
If you are buying a community property that is not under acquisition; ensure that the family leaders sell collectively; ensure that they all sign on record to the sale and ensure that you have audio and pictorial records of the sale; once completed, ENSURE YOU FILE AND OBTAIN YOUR CERTIFICATE OF OCCUPANCY.
STAY SAFE AND REMAIN PRODUCTIVE