The Lagos State government has issued a warning to potential tenants, urging them to be wary of quacks and imposters posing as landlords and real estate agents in the state’s rental market.
In the last 12 months, the state has seen an increase in rent fraud involving prospective tenants, landlords, and agents, with over 200 cases estimated by Toke Benson-Awoyinka, Special Adviser to Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu on Housing, in just a few locations including Alapere, Ajao Estate, Akoka, Gbagada, and others.
The Special Adviser, who spoke at a one-day stakeholders forum for real estate attorneys, said the case in Akoka featured 113 renters who were cheated of over N51 million and 66 potential tenants who were duped of N16 million in the Gbagada case.
She also listed other incidents in Alapere and Ajao Estate regions, noting that the victims paid between N200,000 and N500,000 for a small number of apartments, no more than 20, in these areas.
Though concerned about the current status of the Lagos rental market, Boniface Adebayo, a civil engineer and estate manager, believes it is to be anticipated in a city where both urbanization and population are rapidly increasing, but housing supply is lagging behind.
“According to the report, there is a housing deficit of more than 3 million people in this state. That’s not all; according to the same survey, the state boasts Nigeria’s most active rental market, with almost 60% of the country’s 20 million people renting accommodation,” Adebayo said.
“It is also said that, on daily basis, over 600 people come into Lagos and more than half of that number don’t go back, meaning that, at any given time, you have people who are looking for houses to rent. That unending demand for houses to rent is fueling the activities of these fraudulent agents and landlords,” he reasoned.
The Special Adviser enjoined prospective renters and home buyers to seek the services of genuine professionals like lawyers for all their real estate services, assuring, however, that the state government has decided to put a stop to such fraudulent activities by enacting the Lagos Real Estate Regulatory Authority (LASRERA) law.
“The LASRERA Law was reviewed in order to regulate and bring sanity to the real estate sector, as well as all transactions therein; this is to the benefit of lawyers and their prospective clients both in Lagos State and the Diaspora.
According to her, while the law will help to protect tenants against fraudulent agents and landlords, it is also an opportunity for lawyers, pointing out however that the role of property lawyers, as legal professionals, is to protect the interest of all parties in any real estate transaction.
“Real estate transactions have relevant processes with necessary documents required for the preparation of specific property business transaction in the sector,” she noted, adding that, in real estate transactions, lawyers and real estate agents offer completely different services.
“A real estate agent is involved in the process of buying and selling properties or rental services while all paper works are handled by a lawyer as prescribed by law,” she said.
Though some lawyers viewed the establishment of LASRERA as a needless duplication of government tasks, the special adviser emphasized that the agency’s primary functions were to design and implement regulations that would purify the real estate sector.
She went on to say that the agency would register and update all people working in the real estate industry, as well as those involved in real estate management, such as lawyers and estate managers.
“It will also govern all players, such as developers, facility managers, and facility firms.” The agency will compile data from all relevant people in the sector so that the state is aware of what is going on in the real estate market and the general public is aware and protected by the state,” she assured.