By Kingsley Adegboye
The end may have come for fraudsters in Lagos state who hide under the pretence of being estate agents thereby defrauding unsuspecting members of the public who are in dire need of residential accommodation.
This is because Lagos state government has renewed its efforts to nip in the bud, the notorious activities of the fake estate agents and their official collaborators.
Many residents who are in dire need of residential accommodation in the Centre of Excellence have, at one time or the other fallen victims of the untoward activities of these fraudsters who take advantage of accommodation seekers to swindle innocent Nigerians.
Besides, the antics of some shy-lock landlords whose activities are also at variance with the noble objective of state government which is to provide liveable environment to the citizenry, has also caught the attention of the state government.
Several interventions by the government in the past to correct the anomalies couldn’t yield the desired result. This prompted the Babajide Sanwoolu’s administration to address the menace with renewed vigour, after officials of government met again to deliberate on the issue last week, with the determination to prosecute fraudulent estate agents henceforth.
It was disclosed at the parley that hundreds of reported cases of alleged frauds involving those in real estate business were currently being addressed across the state.
Making the disclosure, Special Adviser to the Governor Babajide Sanwoolu on Housing, Mrs. Toke Benson-Awoyinka, warned while addressing newsmen at the Bagauda Kaltho Press Centre, Alausa, Ikeja, that henceforth, government will deal decisively with anybody caught in these untoward activities.
The Special Adviser noted that a department under the Ministry of Housing formerly known as Lagos State Real Estate Transaction Department LASRETRAD, has now been transformed to Lagos State Real Estate Regulatory Authority LASRERA, adding that the change in the name has also upgraded the erstwhile department to a full agency that would be supervised by her office.
While officially unveiling the Agency’s Logo and a Website/ Registration Portal database of credible real estate practitioners in the state , she said it was “To create, provide, develop, continuously capture and update a Unified Central Database of real estate practitioners and their activities within the state, among others”.
Mr Benson-Awoyika added that the idea was to enable residents be abreast of the importance of patronising registered real estate practitioners and property developers in the state.
According to her, the present administration under the leadership of Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu approved the transition of the department to an agency last February in its bid to transform Lagos into a 21st Century economy, saying the agency now has the mandate to prepare rules and regulation for the practice of estate agency and other connected matters in the state.
She maintained that the agency also has as part of its mandate to identify persons eligible to be licensed as estate agents and renew licenses annually, as well as maintain a register of licensed estate agents and sanction unlicensed estate agency practitioners in the state, among others.
The Special Adviser who stated that the agency equally has the mandate to organize monitoring teams and conduct inspections to ensure compliance with the Law as well as investigate complaints and petitions against licensed estate agency practitioners, pointed out that the initiative was put in place to sanitize the industry and “curb these fraudulent practices in this sector.”
According to her, “We are well aware of the trend of fraudulent practices of some real estate agents/property developers. This is reflected in the complaints received by the Agency in recent time of residents who had fallen victims to fake real estate practitioners/property developers while seeking accommodation, purchasing/selling of landed property.
“As you all know, Lagos State has been the commercial and economic nerve centre of Nigeria and Africa with investment opportunities hence the net migration to the state. The state government has worked tirelessly over the years to curb the increasing fraudulent practices in this sector and this explains the need to sanitize the industry.
“In line with the T.H.E.M.E.S Agenda of Mr. Governor on the improving Technology Infrastructure, we are today unveiling the Website, Social Media handles and Registration Portal for the effective management and communication among the stakeholders.
The interactive Website would enhance post COVID-19 compliance initiatives, promote transparency. It would become a one-stop shop to stakeholders and government”.
She, therefore, called on the residents to support the agency in its effort to curb fraudulent practices in the sector by ensuring that they patronize only registered real estate agents in the state, pointing out that the registration would protect accommodation seekers from falling prey to fraudulent practitioners and will also increase public confidence in genuine practitioners.
She, however, declared as illegal, practising real estate business in Lagos without a valid Lagos State Real Estate Regulatory Authority LASRERA, license.
The Special Adviser further noted that beyond the aforementioned reasons, the need to protect the lives and property of all residents of the state is a constitutional responsibility that the government cannot abdicate, insisting that the measure, has made it mandatory for the government to coordinate, regulate and register genuine practitioners in the real estate business.
“Let me emphasise that engaging in real estate transactions without registering with the state government or obtaining necessary approval is a punishable offence under the law”.
Explaining that several media had reported about people who have fallen victims of fraudulent real estate transactions, she said the state government can no longer allow fraudulent practices to thrive.
“Just recently, a physically challenged couple was duped in Mushin by a real estate agent while they were seeking accommodation.
This development which is becoming a daily occurrence in Lagos property market must be corrected and may not have happened at all if all parties involved were registered with the government”.
The forum, she said, became imperative to allow the government and all stakeholders in the sector interact and brainstorm on best to protect accommodation seekers from scanners.
“We must all join hands with this administration so that the unregistered practitioners and those with ulterior intentions would be identified and eliminated from the real estate business in Lagos,” said Benson-Awoyinka.
She, however, appreciated the support of the stakeholders to the state government since the establishment of Lagos State Real Estate Transaction Department which has now been upgraded to the Lagos State Real Estate Regulatory Authority LASRERA.
She noted that under the LASRERA law, dissatisfied residents now have the right to forward their complaints to the agency, and if the agency discovers that their rights have been violated, legal proceedings would be instituted against such practitioners according to the provisions of the law.
It would be recalled that the law approved in 2015 establishes the state’s Estate Agency Regulatory Authority, currently managed by the Real Estate Transaction Department LASRETRAD, under the Ministry of Housing, prepares rules and regulation for the practice of estate agency in the state.