Buying or selling of a landed property is a serious undertaking, which requires the services of experts, most importantly a real estate lawyer. “Prevention is better than cure” as they say. The role of a Real Estate Lawyer is to protect the interest of the parties in a property transaction (i.e. either the Purchaser or the Seller).
That being said, there are several reasons a lawyer is important for every property transactions. Below, I will quickly enumerate, at least, 7 reasons why a lawyer is important for every property transaction:
1. SEARCH OF PROPERTY TITLE
Different types of searches must be conducted before a property’s sale can take place. Lawyers usually conduct these searches on behalf of clients. Some of the important searches that must be conducted include the followings:
1.1. A title’s search of the property at the Lands Registry to ascertain whether there is any form of government’s acquisition or encumbrances that would affect the purchaser’s ownership interest. An encumbrance on a real estate may include-
• Acquisition by government for overriding public interest
• Outstanding deeds of trust or mortgages on the landed property
• Construction liens on the property
• Unpaid taxes
• Certain easements or restrictive covenants,
• Court Orders/judgment on the property
1.2. The Lawyer also conducts a Search at the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC), where the Seller or the Past Owner of the Property is a company incorporated under Companies and Allied Matters Act. The search at the CAC would reveal whether or not there is any charge whatsoever on the property.
1.3. The Lawyer furthermore conducts a Search at Probate registry to reveal whether or not probate has been granted on any estate and to ascertain the personal representatives or executors of a testator in cases of properties belonging to the estate of a deceased. Without a grant of Probate and/or letters of administration, the Seller does not possess the requisite authority to sell the property of a deceased person.
2. INVESTIGATION OF THE ROOT TITLE
A property’s root title is usually investigated by carrying out a necessary verification from the principal members of a family or from relevant people within a community, where the property is subject to family or community ownership. It is crucial to verify that all relevant consents have been obtained and that the title is neither void nor voidable before a purchase can be made.
3. PHYSICAL INSPECTION OF THE PROPERTY
A lawyer may also personally visit the property to be purchased to conduct a physical inspection. This is a personal visit to the property in question in order to find out if there is any issue with the property, or to ascertain the actual size of the land and whether it conforms to the dimensions on the survey plan at the Lands registry.
4. DRAFTING OF NECESSARY DOCUMENTS
Lawyers prepare different types of documents for properties’ transactions. Meanwhile, it is important to mention that quite number of properties’ purchasers, especially buyers of a bare land, still rely on mere receipt as evidence of title to land, which is very risky and unadvisable. It is only a lawyer that may determine the type of documents that must be prepared for a specific property transaction, based on circumstances of the property to be purchased.
5. PERFECTION OF TITLE TO THE NEWLY ACQUIRED PROPERTY
Lawyers may help out in the perfection of a title to the newly acquired property by applying for Governor’s consent, payment of stamp duties and registration of Conveyance or Deed of Assignment at the Lands Registry. It is important and a requirement of Law (Land Use Act) for an owner of a property to perfect his or her title, as to be deemed as the legitimate owner of the said property in the records of the jurisdictional government.
In conclusion, lawyers are pivotal parts of the real estate transaction and an experienced real estate lawyer will be able to lend his or her expertise to ensure that your real estate purchase is as seamless as possible.
Written by Omolade Animashaun, a Real Estate Lawyer in Lagos and Associate at Resolution Law Firm