Rental scam, land fraud or property scam has been an age-long financial fraud in Nigeria. As you read this, someone somewhere in Nigeria is in the process of paying for non-existent property. Property scam is the reason why some empty lands usually have a signage with the popular inscription ‘THIS LAND IS NOT FOR SALE’. Reports from many registered estate agents have revealed that rental scam is still a menace and potential home seekers fall prey to this due to desperation. With the advancement in real estate, this practice should have been extinct, but it’s not. This is due to the fact that these fraudsters have perfected the act of deception. They will first identify a highly sort after property with easy inspection protocol. Usually with poor security, then they list at very competitive price. Unsuspecting victims fall easily to these fraudsters time and time again.
Rental scam is usually more frequent than land and property scam because prices for the former is lower and people can easily part with such amount. Rental and property scam are often commoner in the suburbs and stand-alone buildings. These unscrupulous elements work as a group which will include the supposed property owner, the agent and sometimes a supposed lawyer. They go as far as providing you with a fake property document to clear any doubts you may have about the property. From our research in Abuja, they usually target self-contain apartments, one-bedroom flats in the city & suburbs and stand-alone lands in the suburbs.
Avoiding rental and property scam starts from choosing your agent to carrying due diligence throughout the whole process. Under-listed are tips that will help you avoid property sale/rental scam and spot fraudsters that pose as real estate agents.
1. Desperation is usually the greatest weapon the fraudsters use to their advantage. This is always the case with self-contain, one-bedroom flat and affordable lands. These fraudsters will always make it look competitive by claiming that there are other clients in the process of making payment. Once you take your time, in just a matter of hours to days, you will begin to see signs of fraudulent scheme.
2. Seek the services of registered agents or agency. Choosing the services of registered or certified agents ensures you don’t fall prey to any sort of property scam. These agents/agency are registered with licensing bodies and thus have integrity to protect. They have traceable addresses and most have office address which will further instill confidence in carrying out deals with them.
3. Get the services of recommended agents if you have to patronize unregistered or unlicensed agents. The chances are that whoever is recommending an agent to you must have used the services of such agent. This means that these agents, mostly ‘road side agents’ are genuinely making a living out of practicing as freelance agents. Thus most of them can easily be traced since such freelance agents have locations where they operate, and can be traced.
4. Visit the property or estate in question and carry out little due diligence. This entails returning to the property in question to seek clarity for yourself. You could make further enquiries from the estate facility office (if it’s an estate house) or from the security personnel if it’s not within an estate.
5. Conduct window search and legal search on the property. A window search enables one to know details like the allottee’s name, the land size etc. while a legal search gives even more details. It goes as far as giving details of any encumbrances on the property. A window search can be performed by anyone with a photocopy of the right of occupancy (R of O), while legal search can be performed by a lawyer. When you conduct any of these searches on a property before buying, you will most definitely avoid property fraud or scam
6. Peruse the title documents for discrepancies. It is always pertinent to take your time to peruse land title documents, and if possible have your lawyer or a registered/certified agent go through it before you proceed with closing any deal.
To effectively avoid rental scam or property scam, the above listed tips will definitely come in handy and can help you navigate your way to owning/living in your desired home. Do not hesitate to contact us if you need more assistance.