VALIDITY OF A SEARCH REPORT IN NIGERIA
Before the purchase of a property in Nigeria, it is always advisable that a search be carried out on the title of the property in other to ascertain the root title and authenticity of the documents provided by the vendor.
Validity is derived from the word “valid” it is therefore defined according to Merriam-Webster Dictionary as “the quality or state of being valid.”
Importantly, search reports are usually done at the various states’ land registry, however, searches are also done at the probate registry of the court, corporate affairs commission as the case may be and this is done by the staff of the registry or organization and not the legal practitioner himself.
When this search is done and it is ready, the legal practitioner is informed to pick up the search report documents from whatever body or organization to the title investigation application was submitted. The constrain or challenge with this document is that there is no legally specified life span for which this document is valid for like a police character certificate that has a 3 months validity time frame or a driver’s license which is valid for 4 years. As a result of this lack of validity time frame to search reports, most vendors are quick to defraud innocent purchasers once no initial deposits are made as regards the property in question in which negotiations and the search report have been made.
Most times, purchasers may still be trying to come up with the purchase money or may still be deciding whether to enter the deal or not, on the other hand, the vendor may be in a very tight situation and desperately need to sell the property, does so and possibly forget to inform the purchaser. However, in many situations, the vendor intentionally wants to defraud the purchaser.
It is my humble submission that to cut down the high rate of fraud in property transactions, a validity time frame should be attached to every search report issued by the government. By implication, a purchaser who fails to deposit or shows any form of commitment as regards the agreed purchase price should not be liable to a vendor who sells the property after the expiration of the search report. By this, both the vendor and purchaser are protected and it will mitigate the high rate of property fraud in Nigeria.
With a time frame or expiration date endorsed on a search report, the vendor is duty-bound to wait until such a report expires before he can go ahead and sell to another interested purchaser. The purchaser on the other hand will be on his toes too, as not to run out of time or forgo the privilege to purchase the property.
Paul I. Adejoh Esq.,
Innocent E. Asogwa & Co.
No. 14 Tafawa Balewa Street, Jos, Plateau State