The Lagos State Land Registry is considered the most updated in the whole of the country and it currently has millions of property titles providing evidence of ownership of landed properties in different parts of the state. A registered title can either be a Certificate of Occupancy, Survey Plan or a Governor’s Consent. For a property buyer, are there dangers/risks of dealing on a land that does not have a registered title? Some of the key risks dealing with unregistered land are as follows.
Firstly, if all or part of the title deeds are lost, destroyed or forged it will be difficult to prove ownership. It was reported recently that deeds to the homes of about five homes in the Lagos Island area were burnt and destroyed in a fire. If the majority of these deeds were unregistered it would be difficult to prove ownership and obtain good title to enable a sale in the future.
Secondly, if you want to know who owns a parcel of land it can be impossible to find out if the property is unregistered unless the owner has registered an interest. It can be a long drawn out process reviewing original title deeds which can involve lengthy hand written documents which can be difficult to read and interpret. If the title is unregistered there can be a delay drafting contracts as the Conveyancer will need to wait for the deeds, check the chain of ownership is correct and then draft contracts.
Another issue is that when a loved one dies it can be emotional dealing with the estate and also arranging to either transfer or sell a property. It can also be difficult to locate the full title deeds if the property hasn’t been sold or re-mortgaged since the date of compulsory registration. To avoid this situation arising it is worthwhile checking if the property is registered with The Land Registry. If it is not registered you should consider obtaining the title deeds and arranging for a voluntary registration now to ensure all paperwork is in order. If part or all of the deeds have been lost or misplaced it will be easier to submit an application for registration with the owner being alive and able to prepare a Statutory Declaration advising of how the deeds became misplaced. Also, unregistered land is a higher risk of fraud. Fraudsters can assume your identity and attempt to sell or mortgage your property without your knowledge.
However, key advantages and benefits of registered land are so numerous. One of the aims of the registration system is reliability, simplicity and the process to be economic assisting individuals to move quicker into their new home. If the title is registered it is faster and simpler to review the property details at the Land Registry. A copy of the registered title can usually be downloaded from The Land Registry in seconds.
As well as the registered title to the property there will also be a title plan which provides evidence of the extent of the property and also boundaries. It is easier for a buyer to view the boundaries and understand if they believe the extent of the land is the same as the plan. If it is not you should contact your Conveyancer to discuss any discrepancies.
If the title is registered the State guarantees the legal estate is indeed vested in the registered owner. This means there is no need to review old deeds or a chain of ownership. The information contained and provided by the Land Registry is sufficient. If it is proved that the information is subsequently incorrect and an innocent party suffers loss they can make a claim and will usually be compensated for the loss. Once the title is registered you do not need to retain old deeds, all information is held centrally and can be viewed online. This reduces the risk of delay when selling a property as contracts can usually be drafted by the seller’s Conveyancer in a day if the title is registered.