One of the greatest investment opportunities is in land and one of the most frequent cases in court is also in relation to land.
To prevent future frustration and struggles there is a need to ensure certain precautions and steps are taken when purchasing land. A summary paper like this cannot cover all the precautions and guidelines that aid the purchase of land, that is why the number one guideline that will be discussed is the need to have a lawyer engaged when dealing with buying or selling land.
1. Get a Lawyer
The truth is that to engage in a more secure land agreement it is important to engage the services of a lawyer at all stages in the transaction. The advantage in having a lawyer at all stages, is that he/she is there to guide the transaction and to give legal advice and feedback that would be beneficial to you whether as a purchaser or a seller. Furthermore it is only a legal practitioner that can draft valid land agreements.
2. Investigate title to the land
It is important to investigate title to the land. Do not rely solely on what the seller tells you. Talk to agents, talk to the neighbours surrounding the land. Find out how long the seller has been in possession of the land, how he/she came into possession, who were the persons formerly in possession of the land before the seller, does the seller have authority to sell the land and whether there is any dispute or court case surrounding the land . Investigations may also be conducted at land registry, probate registry and corporate affairs commission. This is one of the areas in which having a lawyer also comes into play. You can engage the services of a legal practitioner to conduct these investigations on your behalf.
3. Properly Drafted Deed
A vital document in purchase of land is a deed. The transfer of title and interests in land is required by law to be in writing and by deed duly executed by the parties. This is another area where the services of a lawyer will be required. By law, a deed is required to be drafted, stamped and sealed by a legal practitioner. The deed is usually drafted by the purchaser solicitor, as a seller, it is important to have a solicitor who is there to help you vet the agreement and make sure everything is in order.
4. Ensure all copies of documents are validly signed.
It is important to ensure that all copies of the agreements are validly signed by the purchaser, the seller and their witnesses as this affects the authenticity and validity of the agreement.
5. What to do as a purchaser/seller where the seller/purchaser asks someone to sign on their behalf
The next thing to discuss after valid signature is what happens when a person signs on behalf of the buyer/seller. Is such a signature valid?. The answer to this is, such signature is valid only where there is valid authorization. A certain latin maxim is appropriate here, nemo dat quod non habet meaning one cannot give what they don’t have. As such without valid authorization, the signature would be void.
There are situations where the seller may ask a relative or their agent to sign on their behalf. For instance, if Mr A wants to sell his land but is out of the country, he may authorize his agent or Mr B his relative to sign on his behalf. In such a case as a buyer, do not rely solely on the words of Mr A saying he has given Mr B the authority to sell the land and sign for him. Always insist that such authority be put in writing and that the signature of the owner (in this case Mr A) should be on the letter of authorization. Such letter of authorization can save you, as a buyer, future legal problems, should Mr A try to falsely claim that no authority was given. The same goes for a seller, to ensure that the buyer puts any authorization in writing with his signature.
6. Perfection of Title
Another important aspect to note is perfection of title, there is a need to perfect title to protect the purchaser’s title to the land. This is done by application for Governor’s consent, payment of stamp duties and registration of the sale at the Land Registry.
7. Ensure to have all copies of the documents delivered
Once the land transaction is completed, it is important for the purchaser to handover to the seller all the relevant title documents to the land. The seller must ensure that he/she is in possession of all valid title documents such as the certificate of occupancy, survey plan and original title deed.
In summary, these are just some tips to aid successful land transactions between purchaser and seller. Always engage the services of a legal practitioner when dealing with land agreements to ensure a smooth and safe transaction.