Lagos State government has raised red flag for prospective tenants, advising them to beware of quacks and fake professionals in the state’s rental market who claim to be landlords and genuine estate agents.

The state in the last 12months has recorded a surge in rent fraud involving prospective tenants, landlords and agents in cases which the Special Adviser to Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu on Housing, Toke Benson-Awoyinka, estimated at over 200 in just a few locations including Alapere, Ajao Estate, Akoka, Gbagada etc.

The Special Adviser, who spoke at a one-day stakeholders forum for lawyers in real estate practice, explained that the case in Akoka involved about 113 renters who were defrauded of over N51 million while 66 prospective tenants were defrauded of N16 million in the Gbagada case.

She also cited other cases in Alapere and Ajao Estate areas of the state, pointing out that these victims paid between N200,000 and N500,000 for a limited number of apartments, not more than 20.

Boniface Adebayo, a civil engineer and estate manager, though worried with this bad situation in the Lagos rental market, said such was to be expected in a city where both urbanization and population are growing in leaps and bounds while housing supply is lagging that growth.

“This is a state where, according to report, there is a housing deficit that is in excess of 3million. That is not all; the same report says the state has the most active rental market in Nigeria where over 60 percent of its 20million population lives in rented accommodation,” Adebayo said.

“It is also said that, on daily basis, over 600 people come into Lagos and more than half of that number don’t go back, meaning that, at any given time, you have people who are looking for houses to rent. That unending demand for houses to rent is fueling the activities of these fraudulent agents and landlords,” he reasoned.

The Special Adviser enjoined prospective renters and home buyers to seek the services of genuine professionals like lawyers for all their real estate services, assuring, however, that the state government has decided to put a stop to such fraudulent activities by enacting the Lagos Real Estate Regulatory Authority (LASRERA) law.

“The LASRERA Law was reviewed in order to regulate and bring sanity to the real estate sector, as well as all transactions therein; this is to the benefit of lawyers and their prospective clients both in Lagos State and the Diaspora.

According to her, while the law will help to protect tenants against fraudulent agents and landlords, it is also an opportunity for lawyers, pointing out however that the role of property lawyers, as legal professionals, is to protect the interest of all parties in any real estate transaction.

“Real estate transactions have relevant processes with necessary documents required for the preparation of specific property business transaction in the sector,” she noted, adding that, in real estate transactions, lawyers and real estate agents offer completely different services.

“A real estate agent is involved in the process of buying and selling properties or rental services while all paper works are handled by a lawyer as prescribed by law,” she said.

Though some lawyers saw the setting of LASRERA as an unnecessary duplication of functions in government, the special adviser insisted that the functions of the agency were basically to formulate policies that will sanitize the real estate sector and to maintain the policies.

The agency, she added, would register and update that register of all people that are practising in the real estate sector and also people involved in real estate management, including Lawyers and estate managers.

“It will also regulate the stakeholders including developers, facility managers, facility companies and all. The agency will collate the data of all relevant people in that field so that the state is aware of what is happening in real estate and the general public too will know they are protected by the state,” she assured.

Source : Business Day