Real Estate property

5 FAIL PROOF WAYS TO SAFEGUARD YOUR REAL ESTATE PROPERTY FROM DEMOLITION

How do you prevent your real estate property from demolition in this age and season? The period between October and December 2023 was one to forget for some homeowners in Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial capital and home to over 20 million Nigerians. The reason why that period would continue to hunt the affected individuals for a long time was for the simple reason that it was the period when their real estate property was demolished by the government for various reasons. The ominous sound of bulldozers tearing down houses has however become a recurring decimal not just to some areas of Lagos State, but across the country as a whole.

Indeed, real estate property demolition has become a distressing reality for many Nigerians with properties around the country. When houses are reduced to rubble, the realities are better imagined than experienced; families are suddenly uprooted from their homes, communities of people are broken down and sometimes shattered for good, and lives are disrupted. When your real estate property is demolished, it simply means dreams are shattered and some livelihoods are cut short. While the government cite various reasons for these demolitions, the experiences of individuals affected provide an illumination of the complex interplay of factors causing this development. 

There are many perplexing stories of people who suddenly become homeless after watching their houses demolished.

Somewhere in Lagos State, Nigeria’s commercial capital city, 59-year-old Mr Adewale, a civil servant, lived with his family of five in his three-bedroom apartment, which he had constructed about four years earlier. The building, perched on the edge of the waterways, was a sanctuary of solace amidst the chaos of the city of Lagos.  The building was not just a home for Mr. Adewale, but also a symbol of a restful future. He reckoned that at 59 and being close to retirement, he didn’t have to worry about one of the most basic needs of man- shelter- when he leaves active service. He had spent more than four years building the house using one cooperative loan after another.

Unfortunately, Mr Adewale’s idyllic existence came crashing down when the government decided to clear the waterways of illegal structures to address the incessant issue of flooding during the rainy season. With just a few weeks’ notice, Mr Adewale’s once cherished home became a heap of debris when, after all, pleas for leniency failed, the government bulldozer demolished real estate property along the waterways.

Amidst the wreckage, a flicker of hope emerged; community leaders rallied to the side of all those affected by the demolition. They took the case to court seeking compensation. Unfortunately, Mr. Adewale could not produce a valid CofO to back up his appeal and thus failed to secure a judgment against the State.

The story of the Abdullahi Family in Kano is also as fresh as is saddening. The Abdullahi family had established their roots in the neighbourhood and built a lot of history and tradition in the process. Their home, an ancient one-story building with sixteen rooms, is a testament to generations past, standing as a symbol of a family that once enjoyed the fine things of life. However, sometime in 2022, the government came with demolition orders citing violations of planning regulations. Despite fervent protests and legal challenges, the Abdullahis found their real estate property being reduced to the ground one afternoon upon returning from the Jumat.

However, Abdullahi’s case deferred from that of Mr Adewale because, after a long legal tussle, he got compensated by the government on the order of the court, having been able to produce the CofO issued on the land many years before.  

Under the law across states in Nigeria, the government may demolish properties for many reasons including the construction of a building without required approval and an approval plan that complies with building laws and codes, constructing on land that is under government acquisition, if the building is distressed or structurally defective, amongst others.

WHY REAL ESTATE PROPERTY GET DEMOLISHED

1. Addressing flooding and environmental challenges: As observed in the case of Lagos State, the government sometimes demolishes real estate property to address environmental issues such as flooding and erosion. In places where houses are constructed near canals, drainages, or waterways, the government can demolish real estate property to pave the way for the smooth flow of water, especially houses that do not obtain the correct approvals.

Real Estate

2. Urban renewal and redevelopment: Another reason for the demolition of real estate property, especially using the Abuja example is urban renewal and redevelopment.  Governments may demolish real estate property as part of urban renewal and redevelopment projects to revitalise blighted areas, improve infrastructure, and attract investment. This often involves clearing old or dilapidated buildings to make way for new developments such as commercial complexes, residential towers, or public spaces.

3. Public Safety and Health: Sometimes, countless real estate property are demolished if they are observed to pose safety hazards due to structural instability, damage from natural disasters, or environmental contamination in a bid to protect public safety and health. Unsafe structures can endanger occupants and neighbouring properties.

4. Building or reclamation land: Some lands are owned by the government and reserved for future use. People who buy and build on such lands marked for government use can end up losing their properties when the government is ready to take action on them.

Reclamation land

However, while the provisions of Section 44 of the 1999 constitution allow the government to acquire properties belonging to citizens to be used for projects aimed at catering for the welfare of the general public, the government is required by law to pay compensation to the individuals whose land they acquire.

You have said that, as a prospective investor or homeowner, how do ensure that your real estate property doesn’t contravene the government’s guidelines and attract demolition, whether now or in the future?

The following are tips to help you protect your real estate property from demolition by the government:

1. Obtain correct and complete land documentation:

The surest way to safeguard your real estate property from government demolition is to obtain the appropriate land documentation that applies to your State. All over Nigeria, some land titles are sacrosanct and they include the Governor’s Consent or Certificate of Occupancy (CofO), Deed of Assignment, and Sales receipt all of which must be obtained from the relevant government agencies or sellers. Some documents are relevant to the State where your property is acquired. In other words, ensure that you have clear and legally recognized ownership of the land on which your house is built.

Land Documentation

The secret to obtaining your documents is that it forestalls any reason for the government to want to demolish your property and even if it does for whatever reason, you can be adequately compensated.

2. Obtain building approvals and comply with building regulations: From the experience of real estate property demolished in Lagos, some of the property owners failed to obtain government permission to build where they built. Those who obtained permits did so through unscrupulous government agents, sometimes innocently. Let’s face it, it’s not likely that the government would approve a builder to build on the waterway or carnal. So, before you build, ensure that you go through the appropriate agencies, not even through staff members, to obtain approvals. Furthermore, ensure that your building plans comply with size, setback, height, and other specifications outlined in the regulations.

3. Avoid Encroachment and Illegal Constructions: Another way of ensuring that your real estate property is not demolished is to respect property boundaries and avoid encroaching onto public land, road reserves, waterways, or environmentally sensitive areas. It’s also important that you refrain from constructing buildings in areas designated for specific purposes such as floodplains, green spaces, or government reserves.

Avoid Encroachment

4. Regularly Maintain your property: Poor maintenance is a bane of buildings. If properties are poorly maintained, they quickly dilapidate and end up attracting safety concerns for dwellers. When properties are deemed to harbour safety issues for occupants or neighbours, the government can wade in and bring the property down. Therefore, carry out regular maintenance of your property. In many cases, people who inherit properties are mostly concerned with the rents they get from it and not the well-being of the property itself. Even when you inherit a property, ensure to put it in good shape for users.

5. Be aware of what is happening in your property: Some people buy or build apartments solely for rental income. Some property owners have no interest whatsoever in what goes on in their property beyond collecting rents. Because of this, some unscrupulous individuals rent flats to carry out evil activities such as kidnapping and rituals. When such people are caught, a government may decide to bring the building down as part of forestalling a recurrence. In such situations, the landlords are the losers. Be careful of these red flags when searching for real estate property.

As a property owner, you must protect yourself legally by conducting necessary searches to confirm the validity of any title document or approval provided. You must also ensure to comply with all the guidelines above so that you don’t fall on the wrong side of the government.

In summary, in other to prevent your house from being demolished by the government in any part of the country, as has been highlighted, there is a need for you to understand and comply with relevant laws and regulations while actively engaging with relevant agencies to ensure your house is on the right side of emerging laws and policies.

For more guidelines or advice on property acquisition, contact us at PWAN Stars today.

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