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How to protect yourself from real estate cons

By Harold Ayodo | February 6th 2020

We want to take advantage of the falling property prices in Nairobi to buy our family house. However, we are apprehensive following the recent media stories of prospective home buyers losing their savings to con artists in real estate. What can we do to cushion ourselves from possible fraud?

Maria, Nairobi

Dear Maria,                                                 

One of the best ways to guard against con artists in property deals is to engage a registered lawyer.

Buying a house is a legal process which has several requirements to be completed before becoming a registered owner.

Engaging a property lawyer is a sure way of avoiding traps of fraudsters as he/she will prepare the sale agreement, title documents and approve the final transfer.

The sale agreement entails the agreed selling price and possible percentage of deposit required or whether it has been paid and if so, to whom. Others are details of any mortgage or charge of the property – if there is – the name of the lender and outstanding balance.

Another important detail is the expected date of completion of payment especially in cases where purchase is by installments.

Another important detail is the expected date of completion of payment especially in cases where purchase is by installments. Others professional duties to be undertaken by the lawyer include procuring execution of the conveyance (transfer of property), attesting documents, receiving and accounting for proceeds of the sale to his/her client.

The advocate for the buyer will require the similar information and further advice on finances, legal costs and possible future liability for taxes.

As a purchaser, your advocate must be vigilant to cushion you from possible fraud lest he or she is wrapped for professional negligence.

The lawyer must carry out an official title search of the property at the Ministry of Lands towards ascertaining the legal owner.

The lawyer should scrutinise the search certificate issued by the Ministry, approve the sale agreement and prepare the transfer.

The advocate will also stamp the legal documents and forward them for registration as required. It is also the duty of your lawyer to obtain and pay the purchase money to the advocate representing the seller of the property.

Further duties of the lawyer include obtaining a rates clearance certificate, land rent certificate and consent of the Commissioner of Lands.

Others are obtaining consent from the land control board, town clerk and trustees, public corporation/authority where necessary.

  Harold Ayodo is a communication consultant and an Advocate of the High Court of Kenya


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