What You Need to Know About The Certificate of Occupancy – C of O

What You Need to Know About the Certificate of Occupancy

What you need to know about the certificate of occupancy is that it is the most important land title in Nigeria. Whenever I receive a call from a prospective buyer who’s interested in buying or trying to know more about a particular land in an area, they will ask, does the land or property has C of O?

People have taken the hype about having land with CofO as a big thing and important thing in Nigeria. I am not saying is wrong though but a land that has CofO doesn’t come easy. They are mostly expensive to buy because of the title. It has its advantages and disadvantages.

In this short article, these are what you need to know about the certificate of occupancy.

1.      What You Need to Know about the Certificate of Occupancy

A Certificate of Occupancy, also popularly mentioned as the C of O is a document issued by state governments in Nigeria to landowners and property buyers as the legitimate owner of the land or property. This document also spells out what the land can be used for; residential, commercial, or mixed development.

What you need to know about the certificate of occupancy is that the government constitutionally mandated to issue the Certificate of Occupancy because all lands in the state are vested in the Governor of the State and this is spelled out in the Land Use Act 1978.

The Land Use Act in 1978 standardized land administration in Nigeria by vesting all urban land within a state, the land use act gave state governors the power to grant “statutory rights of occupancy” as they deemed appropriate. Also, this act introduced the concept of land use (residential, commercial, mixed-use, etc.).

So, with this act came the abolishment of all existing freehold systems, in favor of a leasehold system. These leases are usually granted for a maximum period of 99 years – after which one must apply for renewal. i.e a land with a Certificate of Occupancy has a period of 99years and can be renewed.

2.      A Land Cannot have 2 Certificate of Occupancy attached as document

Another thing you need to know about a certificate of occupancy is that it must be emphasized without equivocation that no land can have two Certificates of Occupancy. If there exist two on a single land, one must be a fake document or issued in error due to deception of the government.

3.      Which Land Can a Certificate of Occupancy be Issued?

A land that can be issued a Certificate of Occupancy should be a land that has not been registered before whether developed, brownfield, or green field. i.e there is no document on the land traceable to the land registry.

But, such land must be charted at the office of the Surveyor-General of the state and Surveyor General of the federation to determine that it is free from Government Acquisition and If it is under acquisition is it committed or ratifiable?

If the land is free from the acquisition or falls under ratifiable land, the beneficiary of the land/applicant for the Certificate of Occupancy can then apply formally to the state Government, submitting requisite documents, and pay government fees for the issuance of the C of O on the unregistered land.

If the land is under government acquisition and also committed (non-ratifiable) such applicant will not be issued a C of O

You need to know that a plot of land or property without a C of O can be confiscated at any time without any compensation paid.

Also Read: What is Land Excision: Understand what excision means?

4.      Can Certificate of Occupancy Be Revoked?

Another thing you need to know about a certificate of occupancy is that land or property with certificate of occupancy can be revoked. The Land Use Act that states how the Certificate of Occupancy can be granted also provides grounds under which the C of O can be revoked. The Certificate of Occupancy clearly states the terms and conditions of the grant and where the holder of such certificate of occupancy fails to comply with the stated terms, the certificate of occupancy could be revoked or the holder penalized. Under Section 28 of the Land Use Act, the power of revocation of a right of occupancy is provided

There is a caveat in the C of O about the root of the title. If after issuing the C of O, the root of the title is found to be defective, the C of O can become null and void.

5.      If After 99 Years The Certificate of Occupancy Leases Expires?

This is one of the facts you need to know about the certificate of occupancy, that the incumbent governor at the time of expiration can either renew the lease for another 99 years in consideration for payment or decide not to.

6.      Benefits of Having a Certificate of Occupancy for your Land

I will be using the following benefits to conclude what you need to know about the certificate of Occupancy

The C of O makes the person named on the title or document the exclusive owner of the land

  1. Very crucial document during mortgage transactions
  2. Gives and increases the value of your land
  3. Prevents a situation where a single property is claimed by multiple owners
  4. Prevents the government from repossessing the land or property
  5. It is acceptable as collateral for loans from banks and other financial institutions
  6. It can be used to resolve land disputes between two land ownership

Also Read: What You Need to Know About Land Gazette?

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