Two weeks ago, a guy came to our office. He looked like he is in his late 20s and asked the receptionist how much it would cost to do a valuation and to do a search separately. This was strange since a search is normally part of valuation so we don’t charge it separately. The receptionist referred him to me. For the sake of this illustration, let’s call him Peter.
When Peter started explaining what he wanted, I enquired as to the reason why he wanted this. He said that his friend had done a search on his land and the search had yielded different results from the previous search he has done earlier. Peter claimed that his friend’s land had been “stolen”. Technically, if the search doesn’t read your name, then the land is not yours. Peter was looking for a way to protect his land from being “stolen”.
I went on to explain to Peter that a valuation wouldn’t prevent his land from being stolen, but could help him purchase a genuine plot.
Now, this is how land is “stolen”. A thief liaises with a lands officer who takes the green card (The card that has the details of the land with its history up to the current owner). This good green card is replaced with a fake one that has the thief’s details. When this is done, a search will read that the thief is the real owner of the land. The thief then goes to “River Road” or wherever fake title deeds are made and gets a title deed for your land. He can therefore go ahead and sell your land.
It is therefore not uncommon to have more than one person with an “original” title deed to a given property.
Peter told me that every 6 months, he likes to do a search to his land and he keeps the search certificate. Incase in future someone “steals” his land he will have proof that he has owned that land for longer than the thief.
I think Peters’ precautionary measure is good practice for all land owners.