I have mentioned it once and again I emphasize the importance of engaging professionals when coming into a real property transactions. Certainly when experts are engaged you will get qualitative services and not land into troubles. Grey areas become exposed and expounded to you. My general advice is for no one to sacrifice professionalism because of its attendant fees, when you do so, you pay far more by the likely damage and mess you may find yourself afterwards.
It is important that the document being presented by the seller to the prospective buyer must have been registered at the Lands Registry. This is because any document that creates or purports to create any interest in land must be registered at the Lands Registry. The registration makes it a public document under the Evidence Act and if the original copy is lost or destroyed, the certified true copy can be used in appropriate cases.
When a document is registered, the registration constitutes a notice to the whole world of the interest in the land to which the land/document relates. However, if there is any defect in the title of the person in whose name the document has been registered, the defect in the title cannot be cured by the registration.
Where it comes to the issue of priority, determination would depend on the time of registration. If X and Y had purchased the same parcel of land from Z and X registers his own document before Y, the document of X shall have priority over that of Y unless Y can establish that he purchased the land from Z before X and had entered into possession of the land immediately after the purchase of the land from Z and X has knowledge of his interest, he may lose the land to X who has registered his own interest.
PROOF OF TITLE TO LAND
To establish his title to a prospective buyer of land in Lagos State, a seller may present before the buyer any of the following piece of evidence;
- That he is the traditional owner of the land by way of customary inheritance i.e. on partition of family property or that his ancestor and predecessor-in-title owned the land from time immemorial and had been in uninterrupted possession before the Land Use Act and that he is therefore the person entitled to the right of occupancy in respect of the land. He is, in the eyes of the law, a deemed holder of the right of occupancy.
- That he has been in occupation and possession of the land prior to the Land Use Act by virtue of a Deed of Conveyance which must have been duly registered at the Lands Registry.
- That he is the beneficiary under a Will or Letters of Administration covering the land or property in which case he is the person entitled to the grant of the statutory right of occupancy. It must however, be observed that due care must be exercised by the prospective purchaser and his solicitor in confirming whether the Will has been genuinely admitted to Probate or whether the Letters of Administration was properly issued by the appropriate Probate Registry and there is no objection to the appointment of the Administrator. If the appointment of the Administrator is defective or invalidated as a result of objections being raised in respect thereto, the purchaser would have bought nothing as the sale would be void ab initio.
- That he has applied to the Governor of the state and been validly granted a Certificate of Occupancy. Undoubtedly, this represents the most popular and preferred mode of proving title to a piece of land in Lagos State. Although the Certificate of Occupancy is, in itself, not entirely unimpeachable, it still represents the most reliable method of establishing ownership.
- That he possesses a Deed of Assignment in respect of the land granted to him by an Assignor who was the holder of a Certificate of Occupancy. The Deed of Assignment must have been duly stamped at the Stamp Duties Office and registered at the Lands Registry after the consent of the State Governor must have been obtained. Failure to obtain Governor’s consent to the Deed of Assignment renders the Deed void.
Where no such legal document is available at the time of receipt apart from Receipts upon acknowledging payments, a bonafide purchaser’s interest is therefore protection upon the preparation of the necessary legal documents by his Lawyer and other professionals and such documents are further registered in the land’s registry.