Home commentary Understanding Land/Property Titles and documents in Nigeria : How they work -Adeyeni...

Understanding Land/Property Titles and documents in Nigeria : How they work -Adeyeni Kolade Adeyoriju

The Nigerian Real Estate 🏡 industry is one of the fast rising industries in Africa. With outstanding real Estate projects being executed from time to time across the different states in Nigeria especially in Lagos state(The commercial hub of Nigeria).

In trading real Estate in Nigeria, buyers are advised to ensure they are acquiring a property with a good title also, to ensure that the seller has a legal right to transfer the ownership and possession such land or landed property.
Land titles are formal documents that show and outline the right of ownership on a piece of property. Apart from being used to confirm ownership of a property, Land titles help prospective buyers and landowners understand their rights and boundaries.

The importance of having a good land title can not be over emphasized. The controversy over ownership of landed properties in Nigeria is serious even amongst family members, on a daily basis, people are trooping into The Nigerian High Court to settle land disputes.

To avoid this, one of the first questions you should ask before you buy land what’s is title on the property?. You should also understand the key title documents that prove ownership of a property. To avoid conflicts as regards the subject matter, and safe yourself the hustle and bustle of hiring a lawyer and regular visits to the High Court. Which may cost you a lot of time, effort and money.

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  1. Deed of Conveyance or Assignment: This is a document that shows you are the new owner of the property.It is also referred to as ‘Deed of Conveyance‘ which means the process of transfer of ownership. It shows evidence that the seller has transferred all ownership, possession,right, and title on the land to the buyer. The deed of Assignment contains very important information like the date the land was transferred to a new owner and a clear description of the land.
    A Deed of assignment is one of the transactional document drawn up by a real estate attorney between the current title holder for a particular property and the new buyer.

However, after the exchange of deeds it is mandatory for a “Deed of Assignment” document to be recorded at the appropriate land registry to show legal evidence, as to the exchange of ownership in any land or landed property transaction in order to make the general public and government aware of such exchange or transaction.
Such a Deed of Assignment at the land registry will be authenticated in form of either a “Governor’s consent” or “Registered Conveyance” after it has been stamped at the Stamp Duties office.

The following documents are usually involved when you a purchase is made.

  1. The purchase receipt
  2. The contract of sale and
  3. The deed of assignment
  4. The survey plan
  5. The Building plan for housing investment
  6. Any other title document that may apply
    Each of these documents can come at separate times in the transaction process. The seller signs all documents when the transaction is complete and hands over the documents to the buyer.

2.Certificate of Occupancy (C of O): This title is usually issued by the state government indicating that a person is the legal owner of a portion of land or property. A Certificate of Occupancy (C of O) issued by the State Government officially is valid for a period of 99 years.

A Certificate of Occupancy is a legal document issued by the government that proves that a person owns land in Nigeria. The Government reserves the right to seize any plot of land or property without a C of O at any time without any compensation paid.
The purpose of obtaining a certificate of occupancy is to establish that the house or building is in a livable condition according to the law. Such a certificate is usually required to occupy the facility on a daily basis, to sign a contract to sell it and to close a mortgage on the property.

  1. REGISTERED SURVEY PLAN
    A survey plan shows in details the exact measurement and description (Topography) of land it includes the length and breadth and a also a geographic description of the land.This helps to determine or reveal if the land is under any government acquisition, which is also known as (committed land).which could be for commercial,agricultural,economical or residential purposes.
    A Survey plan is a document that measures the boundary of a parcel of land to give an accurate measurement and description of that land. The professionals that handle survey issues are Surveyors and they are regulated by the office of the Surveyor general in Lagos as it relates to survey activities in Lagos. Same is applicable in other states across the country
    It is advisable to check or search through office of the Surveyor-General whether a land is under government acquisition or not.
    A survey plan must contain the following information.
  2. The name of the owner of the land surveyed
  3. The Address or description of the land surveyed 3. The size of the land surveyed
  4. The drawn out portion of the land survey and mapped out on the survey plan document
  5. The beacon numbers
  6. The surveyor who drew up the survey plan and the date it was drawn up
  7. A stamp showing the land is either free from Government acquisition or not
  8. EXCISION AND GAZETTE
  9. To “excise” a land means to cut it or pulling out from a government gazette.This is the process whereby the government releases a parcel of land back to the indigenous owners of such lands for the purpose of residential and commercial developments.
    A gazette is an official record book where all government details are spelt out,detailed and recorded.
    When this excised parcel of land is published in government official gazette such a land is said to have “Gazette”as title. Excision and gazette are very good titles for a piece of land; such lands are safe to buy and develop. The gazette then becomes the title on the land and such land is safe to buy because a proper title can be processed on the land.
    However,If the government based on any peculiar reasons decides to revoke or acquire your land, you will be entitled to compensation as long as it’s within the authentic “Excised” lands given to that community.
    One of the ways inquiring to determine whether a land is under acquisition or has an excision that has been approved by a government Gazette is to get a good professional surveyor to chart the site and take it to the surveyor general’s office to do a detailed land information to confirm whether it falls within the gazette and mark out the specific location where it can be found.

5.DEED OF MORTGAGE
This type of deed is popular in most advanced countries across Europe and America.
Which basically means that a Deed of mortgage is actually used in mortgage transactions to show that land or property has been transferred from the mortgagor (borrower) to the mortgagee (lender).
A mortgage deed is a legally binding document outlining the terms of a mortgage that puts a lien(the right to take another’s property if an obligation is not discharged) on the house until the lender repays the mortgage loan in full. The mortgage deed gives the lender secure interest in the property that they loaned money to the borrower for, protecting them in the event that the loan is not paid off. If the borrower fails to pay back the loan, the mortgage deed may grant the lender the legal rights to foreclose or take ownership of the real estate, usually following litigation.
6.DEED OF PROBATE :
Probate is the judicial confirmation of the authority of the Executor or Executors to carry out the provisions of a Will. It is usually granted upon an application made to the Probate Registrar by an interested person, either personally or through his Legal Practitioner.
A grant of probate is a document derived after proving the will of a deceased person through inheritance in the probate registry. The document vests all the assets contained in the will into the executors of the estate, who are now recognized legal owners of the property in law.
When the owner of any property has become late, all the property’s documents of such person are no longer valid to transfer any interest in the assets left behind by him or her. The Probate will now be the only recognized legal documents to prove the title to such property.
Additionally, when an individual dies intestate, then the property of the deceased will be distributed according to the relevant provisions of the law. The legal representative of the dead will have the ability to apply as administrators and obtain a letter of administration in respect to the estate, which makes them legal owners.
The Executors or the Administrators of the estate can transfer ownership in the estate to any third party via an Assent.

  1. JUDGMENT OF COURT:
    A judgment is a court order that is the decision in a lawsuit. If a judgment is entered against you, a debt collector will have stronger tools to recover such a debt.
    The judgment of a court is another essential document which may affect or transfer an interest in a specific property from one person to another. In Nigeria, the legal interests in several properties have been transferred from one person to another through the decisions of various courts of. Competent jurisdiction.
    When property ownership has been derived through litigation or any property has been subjected to a lawsuit, it is essential to examine the full decision of the court in respect of such property by obtaining a copy of the judgement to avoid losses, which most of the time maybe overwhelming.
  2. ASSENT:
    This document is usually accompanied with Deed of probate.Assent is a legal document used to vest an interest in a specific estate into the beneficiaries of an estate or any third-party buyer by the executors or the administrators of the estate. It is always accompanied together with the grant of probate or letter of administrators. Assent is majorly to confirm the authenticity of the transfer of ownership or possession of properties.
  3. DEED OF GIFT:
    Generally, a gift is a voluntary transfer of property to another without compensation.This is carried out through the instrument of a deed of gift.
    A deed of gift is a gratuitous arrangement that voluntary transfers and delivers the legal ownership, with the physical control over an existing real or personal property, by its owner (‘the Donor’) to another person (‘the Donee’) without any compensation, consideration or payment emanating from the Donee to the Donor, for the gift.This means the property in Question has been transferred to another person (the donee) for free.
  4. LETTER OF ADMINISTRATION
    Letter of administration are granted by a Court or probate registry to appoint appropriate people to deal with a deceased person’s estate where property will pass under the relevant laws or where having been validly appointed under the deceased will.
    The letter of administration also vests the assets left behind by a deceased person into the administrators of a specific estate. It is usually granted to the personal representatives of a deceased person where the deceased left no will before death or where the will has become invalid for any reason.
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