With a housing deficit of over 22 million homes and the growing expense of rental properties in Nigeria, there has been a continuous surge in real estate fraud in the country, in recent times. Con artists take advantage of the desperate need of potential tenants and homeowners to find affordable housing and commit all manner of fraud against them.

Reports indicate that more than 700,000 landed property scams are committed annually in the country.

This highlights the need for emerging purchasers to be diligent, especially if they are purchasing a first-time property in a rapidly developing city like Lagos, Abuja or any other state in the country.

Property owners in Nigeria have made it a routine to post signs that read “This House/Land Is Not For Sale” or Beware of 419. Owners of properties have adopted this local practice to prevent their properties from being fraudulently or illegally disposed of without their knowledge or approval.

There are numerous illegal practices in the real estate sector, It is not unusual for people who do not legally own properties to sell them to gullible third parties under false pretences that they are theirs.

it is possible to purchase cloned documents without the owner’s consent, which may still be used to swindle a purchaser.

Landed property Scams may take many different forms. It is possible that someone posing as the landlord and attempting to rent out the property is not the legitimate owner, or that someone posing as the seller and attempting to negotiate a sale is not the genuine custodian of the property.

The following examples illustrate the most prevalent tactics used in Landed property  fraud:

1. The sale or mortgage of land to an ignorant buyer or mortgagee by someone who has no legal or equitable claim to the land.

2. When an individual who genuinely possesses a legal or equitable stake in a piece of land sells or mortgages it to many purchasers, with the intention of defrauding them all.

3. When two or more people own a piece of land jointly and one of them sells or mortgages the property without the other owners’ or co-owners’ knowledge or approval.

4. When it comes to family land, any member of the family may sell or mortgage the land without the approval of the other members.

Before purchasing a property, there are a number of questions a buyer should ask. The first is to perform a thorough search in the land registry, this involves investigating the property’s legal status, which entails determining if it meets your needs and whether you are purchasing from the appropriate allottee or if there has been a transfer of legal rights of ownership, all this inquiry can be made at the land registry. It is also advisable to verify a property or Land Owner’s Authenticity by Involving an Attorney.

Strategies that may Aid to Curb Landed Property Fraud

1. Conduct thorough diligence and search in the land registry

Before purchasing land, potential buyers should engage the services of an Attorney to review all paperwork and guarantee that the property is free of encumbrances.

The latter is critical because there are situations when a property owner may mortgage property and then sell it to an unknowing buyer while knowing that there is a risk of default in his mortgage arrangement. therefore, hiring a legal practitioner to do due diligence and search on a property/land will go a long way in limiting fraudulent activities in the purchase of landed property.

2.   Avoid non-professionals when purchasing a property

80% of real estate scams might have been avoided if purchasers had worked with experts instead of non-professionals. One prevalent characteristic associated with working with nonprofessionals is that they are primarily driven by gluttony.

It is far more easy to be defrauded by a quack than a professional. When purchasing a home, the initial point of contact is with the estate surveyor. A registered surveyor’s primary function is to match you with the property of your choice. After working with a surveyor to obtain a property of choice, contact an Attorney to verify the legitimacy of the property information presented, if it is the same as what is on file with the Land Bureau.

3. Avoid being in a hurry to buy land or property

Many people who fall victim to fraudulent land deals were in a hurry to obtain it. For example, there have been occasions where Nigerians living abroad who feel compelled to build a house in their home country before ‘Christmas’ or ‘the next time they visit the nation’ (or for other reasons) are eager to transfer money to fraudulent land agents who fail to deliver the lands or property to them.

it is critical to take one’s time while purchasing landed property to avoid years of lengthy litigation. Therefore, a potential property owner must engage the services of a legal practitioner as well as an Estate Valuer to do due diligence and offer relevant recommendations to the client before decisions are made.

4. Real Estate Professional Regulation

On the part of the professionals, there is a need to regulate key players in the real estate sector, including; lawyers, surveyors, and Estate Developers and managers, this is because it is their responsibility to prevent dishonest acts in this field. It is undeniable that some members of these categories lack the necessary license to engage in their professions. These scammers defame the real estate sector since they frequently conspire with fraudsters to sell properties and then create fictitious Deeds of Transfer for the buyer’s alleged advantage. When these documents are presented to the custodian to get his or her approval, the buyer will realize that they have been duped. Therefore it is necessary to Regulate some policies in the real estate sector to curb these excesses.

5. Implementation of a unified property tracking database 

Organizations still use the analogue method of document filing, for example, the Land Registry, the Corporate Affairs Commission (“CAC”), and Courts. As a result, there is a need to implement a digitalized computer network system so that, at the touch of a button, all of the many authorities giving various licenses or Land permits would have all important information about any property presented before them.

Conclusively, It is critical to note that the obligation to remove fraudulent activities in the real estate business is a collaborative effort by all parties. The government, community, seller, and buyer of land all have a shared responsibility to ensure that this long-standing problem is completely eradicated. Even more shocking is that experts in the real estate industry, are now becoming victims of these fraudulent methods; hence, a high level of competence and devotion is essential while dealing with real estate transactions, in order to avoid landed property fraud.

Source: ViewPoint Housing News