Real estate transactions require title investigations to ensure that both parties in the transaction know exactly what is being transferred. http://www.icsworld.com. Investigation of title to land is the process of confirming the title of the vendor or owner of the land as deduced by him. The major aim of investigation of title is to see if any defects exists in the title deduced by the vendor. It is usually done by way of searches conducted in all necessary places and offices where there may be particulars or details of the property, also on the property itself. http://legalemperors.com.ng. Upon receipt of the epitome of title, the purchaser’s solicitor is to ascertain the genuineness or otherwise of the documents. In Nigeria, registration of title to land is mandatory however it is trite that registration of land in Nigeria does not cure defects in that title to land. See Omosanya v Anifowoshe (1959). Thus, investigation of title to land is of utmost importance and should rank in priority over registration.
The relevant means of verifying land in Lagos state and conducting a search is briefly discussed below:
Physical inspection of the land/property location
The importance of physical inspection cannot be overemphasized. This stage of verifying land is simply achieved by visiting the property in question. This is usually done with a surveyor present alongside the purchaser’s solicitor. The purpose of conducting a physical inspection is to reveal any defects on the title of the land or property, confirm the physical condition of the property, know the boundaries of the land, confirm if it corresponds with the coordinate or survey plan and also know whether it is in possession by any person either by tenancy, leasehold or even by seizure. It is also to ascertain if the land is vacant or encumbered.
Conducting a search at the Land Registry
The land registry is responsible for maintaining documents relating to land within its territory. It is only properties registered with the government of the state that can be verified at the land registry. This search will reveal the true owner and position of the property as to acquisition by the government. It will reveal if the documents tendered by the seller are authentic or other encumbrances on the property. The land registry in Lagos state is in Alausa, Ikeja.
Confirmation of survey at the office of the Surveyor-General
Any land regardless of whether it is registered or not, can be charted at the office of the Surveyor-General. This process involves verifying the location of the land in question through the coordinate as contained in the survey plan. This stage is important in the verification of land. The purpose of this process is to reveal whether the land is under government acquisition and whether the survey plan of the land is genuine or not.
Search at Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC)
A search is conducted at the CAC where a vendor or previous owner of a land is a company incorporated with the CAC and also to disclose whether there is an encumbrance or charge registered in CAC in respect to the company’s assets. A search will also reveal if there are encumbrances on the company that can affect the title to the property such as floating or fixed charges.
This is achieved by a meeting with members of the family wherein the family head or the head of the town will be present to verify the root of title, ownership of the land and to ascertain if the land is family-owned or individually owned. It is important to verify that consent of all family members including the family head was had and obtained and identify the principal members of the family and the community or town where the land is located, especially where the land is a subject of family or community ownership.
Search at the Probate Registry
The probate registries are located and part of the High Court of States. It is important to search at the probate registry to ascertain the true administrators or executors of the estate, as well as the validity of the grant of Letter of Administration or Probate. This is important in cases where the seller became the beneficiary of the land by virtue of a will. Unless a probate is issued, the vendors do not possess the requisite authority to sell or transfer the property of a deceased individual.
As an intending purchaser seeking to acquire land or any landed property in Lagos or any part of Nigeria, it is important to conduct a search and with necessary due diligence to clear any doubts, ambiguities or confusion. This will help any intending purchaser to avoid buying a property with defective titles. It is advised that most stages stated above should be adhered to before purchasing any property.