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BEYOND JUST A TITLE SEARCH

Sabiiti Herbert, MBA, BBA (MUK)

Sometime LAST year, I received a call from a young lady with whom I share one of the whats app groups.

The call was placing an inquiry about the cost of a title search, usually done before land purchase..Hopefully you know about this process. Anyway, so she wanted to close this land transaction *X* as soon as possible and was requesting Ridgeline to help her do the search inside 2hrs because brokers and “the owner" were putting her on pressure to pay, you know some brokers can almost make you feel like a little more waiting and the land would be taken like yesterday or as if an extra day to verify sanity would cause a 2nd volcanic eruption at Mt. Muhavura, so they claimed there were other potential buyers in the queue waiting to pounce on the chance to buy the land if she wasn't closing in the shortest possible time.

My response to her were only words to restore calmness & space for second thoughts, as buying land is a process that shouldn't be carried out in haste. I started “ranting” on how she needed to know the history of the land from the natives, open boundaries and finally do title search. She must have thought I was just interested in earning from her (it is not bad to earn when you provide a service later without exploiting any party).

Well well, long story short, she disappeared only to reappear lamenting how she had been defrauded. What a pity! So yeah, we often encounter these cases and more at our workplace and courts are bogged with quite a number of such land cases.

For purposes of this post, I'll narrow down to a title search.

A land title search is a verification from the commissioner of land registration to determine and confirm a property's legal ownership, and find out whether is any registered legal encumbrance. When the title is created, the land registry maintains a copy known as a white page. The white page has details similar to your title.

So in a nutshell, the title search report gives details of the title, it’s ownership and legal registered encumbrance if any, this report however bears a disclaimer clause *“It is for you to satisfy yourself that this land is the property of the person in whom you are interested in and not someone else of the same name. As only personal searches are of the Register is provided for in the Registration of Titles Act, (cap. 230), the above information is given on the understanding that it's accuracy is not guaranteed and that no liability whatsoever can be accepted if loss or damage result from any error, omission or mis-statement therein”.*

Ownership
My latest discovery is that we're 5 people bearing similar bank Account Names at a certain bank around town. This means there are many people with similar names. Uncovering this further, fraudsters have started making fake titles with all details like those in the land registry. They go ahead to produce fake national identification with similar names to those in titles. The can now comfortably transact as if they are the original owners of the property. These fraudsters target money lenders because they know money lenders commonly known as loan sharks do not have time to register a mortgage like other financial institutions do. I've also observed some MDIs and Saccos have started giving out loans basing on title searches and valuers' reports - before registering mortgage in order to hit a business target. Please consider this as some "orange-into-red" lights of sorts on your driveway, a polite warning!

Before any transaction, a more forensic sort of title search revealing the passport photo of the landowner should be carried out.

Size of the land
Yes, the title search report reveals the size of the land but in some cases the size the title might be different from what is on ground. That is why you need a land surveyor to open boundaries. (catch next weekend's episode about this)

Registered encumbrance:
The title search reveals any registered encumbrance, say if the land is mortgaged or it has a caveat. However some encumbrance may not be registered for example family conflicts, squatters, whether the land is in gazetted areas like national parks, wetland,etc. Sometimes you might find the land owner has already been compensated by say the government of Uganda for government projects.

You ought to do a serious investigation(due diligence) to reveal such unregistered encumbrance.

Nobody wants to find themselves in a position of losing their hard earned cash, and so a clean title is required for any real estate transaction and as you may believe with me now, it's always just beyond a title search.

Feel free to contact Ridgeline and many other reliable real estate consultant firms whenever you need assistance in this field.

Remember, land purchase is not as risky as the public has been made to understand, you just need the right people to point you to the right thing to do.

Wish you a blessed weekend.

 

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