Acquiring a Certificate of Occupancy (C of O) is often considered a crucial step in securing property rights in Lagos State, Nigeria. It grants the holder legal ownership of the property and provides a level of security against potential encroachments. However, despite possessing this essential document, property owners in Lagos State may still face various challenges that could lead to the unfortunate loss of their property. In this article, we will explore some of the factors that can jeopardize property ownership, even with a valid C of O, and discuss possible ways to protect one’s real estate investments.
- Unapproved Building Structures:
One of the most common reasons for property loss is the construction of unapproved buildings or structures. The Lagos State government has stringent regulations regarding building permits and adherence to building codes. Constructing without the necessary approvals can result in property demolition, regardless of the C of O status. To avoid this risk, it is crucial for property owners to obtain proper permits and ensure compliance with the guidelines before commencing any construction or renovation work.
- Right-of-Way and Public Infrastructures:
Lagos is a rapidly growing city, and the government often needs to create or expand public infrastructures such as roads, bridges, and utilities. If a property is located within a designated right-of-way or development zone, the government may exercise its powers of eminent domain and forcibly acquire the land for public use. Even with a C of O, property owners may lose their land in such circumstances. Staying informed about government development plans and potential right-of-way designations is essential for safeguarding property investments.
- Land Disputes and Community Claims:
Land disputes and community claims are other significant risks that can lead to the loss of property. Ownership disputes can arise due to unclear land boundaries, conflicting title documents, or historical claims by communities. These conflicts can escalate and result in litigation, leading to prolonged legal battles. Even with a C of O, property owners may find their ownership challenged, making it crucial to conduct thorough due diligence before purchasing land and resolving any disputes promptly.
- Non-Payment of Property Taxes:
Property taxes are a critical aspect of maintaining ownership rights in Lagos State. Failure to pay property taxes can lead to the government placing a lien on the property, which may ultimately result in foreclosure and the loss of the property. Ensuring prompt payment of property taxes is essential to avoid such dire consequences.
- Foreclosure Due to Mortgage Default:
Many property owners finance their real estate purchases through mortgages. In the event of mortgage default, the lender may initiate foreclosure proceedings to recover the outstanding debt. Even with a C of O, if the property owner fails to meet mortgage payments, the lender has the legal right to sell the property to recoup the loan amount. To avoid foreclosure, property owners should manage their finances prudently and seek assistance from financial advisors if facing difficulties with mortgage repayments.
- Environmental Regulations and Erosion:
Lagos State is susceptible to environmental challenges, including coastal erosion and flooding. Properties located in vulnerable areas may be subject to erosion and other environmental hazards that could lead to significant property damage. In extreme cases, the government may enforce environmental regulations that restrict or prohibit development in certain areas, rendering the property unsuitable for habitation or development. Being aware of environmental risks and complying with relevant regulations can help property owners mitigate these threats.
- Fraud and Title Irregularities:
The risk of property loss due to fraud and title irregularities is a concern for property owners in Lagos State. Fraudulent activities such as fake land titles, forged documents, and fraudulent sales can lead to the wrongful transfer of ownership. Despite holding a C of O, property owners may find themselves embroiled in legal battles to reclaim their property. Engaging the services of reputable real estate agents and conducting comprehensive title searches can minimize the risk of falling victim to fraudulent activities.
Dennis Isong Writes From Lagos