Stories by Maduka Nweke; [email protected] 08034207864, 08118879331
A Certificate of Occupancy (C of O) is a document issued by a local government agency or building department certifying a building’s compliance with applicable building codes and other laws, showing it is suitable for occupancy. But for many reasons, some government departments make the process of acquiring the document so cumbersome that public investors find it difficult to get it.
The procedure and requirements for acquiring the certificates vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction and also depends on the type of structure. In the United States, obtaining a certificate is generally required whenever a new building is constructed, when a building built for one use is to be used for another (e.g., an industrial building converted for residential use) and when occupancy of a commercial or industrial building changes or ownership of a commercial, industrial or multiple-family residential building changes ownership.
The purpose of obtaining a C of O is to prove that, according to the law, the house or building is in liveable condition. Generally, such a certificate is necessary to be able to occupy the structure for everyday use, as well as to be able to sign a contract to sell the space and close on a mortgage for the space. A C of O is evidence that the building complies with the plans and specifications that have been submitted to, and approved by the local authority. It complements a building permit. It is a document that must be filed by the applicant with the local authority before construction to indicate that the proposed construction will adhere to ordinances, codes and laws.
The constitution of Nigeria confers the ownership of all lands in the country on the government. Simply put, all lands in the country belong to the respective state governments. Consequently, to own a piece of land, you have to buy it from the government as it were. When you do that, the government issues you a C of O, which transfers ownership to you, the buyer, for 99 years.
C of O is deemed the most important document to a land owner or property buyer in Nigeria. A C of O is a document issued by state governments in Nigeria to landowners and property buyers as a legitimate proof of ownership. This document also spells out what the land can be used for, either for residential, commercial or mixed development.
The government is constitutionally mandated to issue the C of O because all lands in the state are vested in the Governor of the state. This is clearly spelt out in the Land Use Act 1978. But for obvious reasons, including to make money and frustrate some people’s efforts or to compensate those belonging to the party of government in power, governments make rules that discourage the issuance of C of O to applying publics. But when they decide to give the C of O, they put such a high price that may even be higher than the cost of the land and the property you want to put up there added together. All these are to discourage the light hearted.
Ordinarily, cost of procuring C of O shouldn’t be a stumbling stone to building houses. But it has denied a lot of people that opportunity and the government is not doing anything about it. Instead of doing something, they only help to compound the problem. If not so, how can government that sings about reducing housing deficits be creating the hurdles that help to increase the deficits? One would want to ask, why is it so important? Owning a parcel of land or property without a C of O is as good as owning a vehicle without a logbook. This is not the kind of situation you want to find yourself in as a landowner or property owner in Nigeria.
Although the importance of C of O cannot be overemphasised. This is because for any building you see, whether a bungalow, duplex, skyscraper or even the foundational stage of a building, the C of O is what signifies legally that you have interest on the land upon which that property is standing. It is a very important document in any land transaction and is issued by the government to the buyer of the land. A C of O is what makes you a lawful interest holder in the land and it also describes the type of use the land can be put to whether commercial, mixed development or residential.
For you to get your title and secure your land or property with a C of O, there are some vital processes you must have to follow. Although the procedures are tedious, they are a matter of must for all blessings to be given. There must be acquisition of land. Since 1978, the major legislation regulating the acquisition of land within the country has been the Land Use Act of 1978, which states that all lands in a state are to be held in trust by the state governor for the benefit of all Nigerians. By law, foreigners may also acquire land wherever it is located in the country from either the state governments or from other holders.
There is the issue of consent. The issue of getting a property can sometimes be very daunting if you have to think about the stress and many processes involved. First, you have to be sure what you are buying is genuine and will not be sold to anyone else after your payment. Then, the deed; as defined in the dictionary, it is a signed document pertaining to the ownership or legal rights of landed property. Ownership, legal rights, property, signed are some of the keywords that stand out here.
Another one is the land title, which the governor of each state announces showing that land owners have no proper land title risks forfeiture. There is what is called the building plan. Every idea starts with the gift of imagination. However, it has been proven that even the shortest pencil is better than the longest memory. Imagination needs to be captured, otherwise it becomes a thing of the past.