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Property: How touts pose as real estate agents in FCT

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The activities of touts who pose as real estate agents in the sale or occupation of property in the Federal Capital territory (FCT) have been on the increase. ELEOJO IDACHABA in this piece takes a look at the ugly trend.

If the Senate does nothing about the activities of self-styled property agents who have in the recent past assumed the position of lords as far as acquisition of property and rents are concerned, the efforts by the upper chamber to regulate rents in Abuja and other major cities in the country may not be achieved after all.

Many Nigerians that reside in major cities like Abuja, Lagos, Port Harcourt, Kaduna, Ibadan and Enugu have had one or two unpleasant ordeals or suffered untold hardships in the hands of these agents whose activities had contributed largely in the rising cost of acquiring property or renting an apartment in the country.

This reporter gathered that they now operate like a cartel by which they are lords and their words are final. It is therefore now a norm that one cannot acquire any property directly from the owner until the processes pass through an agent whose burden of 10 percent commission must be borne by the prospective buyer. In any case, no property can be acquired without their involvement.

Unpleasant tales

While narrating his experience with this reporter in Abuja, a resident of one community called Obasanjo Road located along Bwari road, Musa Inuwa, said an agent who goes by the name Gabriel made life unbearable for him when he wanted to move into the community from Dakwa in Niger state.

Inuwa, who works with the FCT Water Board, said, “I saw a two-bedroom apartment under construction that I liked in Obasanjo Road when I was introduced to the place by a colleague. When I made inquiries, someone directed me to the owner whose house was not far away. Luckily, he was standing nearby with some people that day. When I approached and told him I wanted the place, we agreed on the price and he promised to complete the place for me to move in if I paid, but he never told me anything about the involvement of any agent and I was glad because I felt I had overcome the usual agency fee wahala.

A few days later, I paid the money into the man’s account. I didn’t know that there was an agent who had taken it upon himself to get a tenant into the house because of his own commission. When Gabriel was informed that someone had paid, unknown to me, he laid ambush in order to see the person.

“The same person who informed me about the landlord also informed him that I was around. That was my first time seeing him. When he came, he reminded me that I knew that I had to pay the agency fees of 10 percent. In surprise I asked to know who he was. He introduced himself as the agent in charge of the property.

“But you were not the one that brought me here; I brought myself here and was introduced to the landlord with whom I bargained and paid,” I said. “But you must pay the 10 per cent; that is the way it is. This property has been under my care and the landlord knows.

“I put a call through to the landlord, but could not get through. So, I left. When I spoke with him later that evening, he said he was in his home town Offa with a promise to get back to me. Up till now that the Ramadan has started, the man is still not back and I cannot enter the house because I’m yet to collect the keys and the young man is insisting that I must pay him N45,000 as 10 per cent of N450,000 otherwise I cannot enter.”

Mama Childera, a restaurant operator/agent, told Blueprint Weekend that whenever any property is being developed, owners of such property often ask agents to start canvassing for buyers or tenants, the reason why agents are not willing to overlook their commission.

“It is already a thing of business. The agents make phone calls, take clients to see property anywhere, liaise with owners to ensure that the property is rented out. That is why agency fees must be paid,” she said.

An estate developer’s take

However, according to a real estate developer, Moses Nnaji, all persons posing as agents are touts whose activities are completely illegal because they are not qualified to be called such and to that extent should be checked.

“These are people who are ready to reap from where they do not sow. How can you explain a situation whereby a property the owner puts on sale for two million, an agent would add his own 200,000 because he claimed helping to get a buyer. It is criminal and should be seen as such.

He said further, “Look at those new estates in Gwarimpa and Life Camp, for instance, for a four bedroom bungalow, it is estimated at N60 million, but because of the activities of these touts, many of them go for as far as N80 million and more.”

In a chat with this reporter, an estate developer, Deborah Attah, said the activities of agents often affect what registered property developers do.

“We are registered real estate developers with affiliation to Diya Fatimilehin and Co; therefore, have all the prerequisites to do real estate business, but oftentimes when we visit our sites, we see those encroachers. They once attacked our marketers in Jahi when our marketers asked them to produce their evidence of registration.

“It is the situation in real estate right now, but it is even worse with individual tenants seeking to own a house. I’m aware that there are touts everywhere, ranging from procuring flight tickets to international passports and drivers licence. Those ones do not operate with impunity like self-appointed property agents who feel that stopping them is like asking them to return to their villages,” Deborah said.

Adeyemi’s bill

There have been several attempts in the past to check arbitrary hike in rents, but all to no avail until Senator Smart Adeyemi who currently represents Kogi-west in the upper chamber proposed a bill to make the advanced payment of rent illegal in the Federal Capital Territory.

Senator Adeyemi in his lead debate on the general principles of the bill said it seeks to regulate the mode of payment of rent on residential apartments, office space, rooms and accommodation in the FCT.

According to him, the move by the upper chamber stems from the obligation of its constitutional responsibilities with the aim of impacting the lives of residents.

“If passed, this bill would improve the well-being and standard of living of residents and minimise corruption and immorality emanating from the oppressive tenancy system in the Federal Capital Territory. This bill would also make life less stressful and less painful for the majority of the down-trodden and low-income earners in the Federal Territory,” he said.

‘Deal with registered practitioners’

According to Daniel Shodamola, another real estate developer, agency fees for tenancy agreements are usually 10% of the tenancy rates.

“For instance, if the property is going for N500, 000 per annum, the agency fee would be 10% of N500, 000 which amounts to N50, 000 for one year and if the agent is collecting two years rent, that would be N50, 000 x 2 years which is N100, 000.”

He said, “For property sales, it is usually 5% of the total price paid (negotiable in some instances if you have a skilled lawyer that can point out the reasons it should be less than 5%). In addition, all agency fees are usually borne by the buyer or tenant and not the landlord or seller.”

To that extent, he said it is advisable for buyers and tenants to always ensure they deal with estate agents that are registered with the Nigerian Institution of Estate Surveyors and Valuers (NIESV) and Association of Estate Agents in Nigeria (AEAN) which is a body meant to regulate the activities of estate agents that are not members of the NIESV.

“AEAN is established to checkmate misconducts in estate agency practice in Nigeria now populated by quacks.”