LAA warns on property fraud and disputes

 

MABELEME MOKETE

Maseru – The real estate sector is experiencing an increasing number of cases where people claiming to be property sellers do not have the necessary documentation to prove ownership. Public Eye conducted a survey with a number of estate agencies in Maseru who invariably expressed concern at the growing number of cases involving suspected attempts to fraudulently sell sites or properties, both residential and commercial.

Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Leruo Holdings PTY Ltd, Matšeliso Nthabane, said she has encountered several challenges of that nature since she joined the sector. For instance, one chief she was working with claimed that the lend was his whereas it was not and then a few days later after selling the site to someone else, the real owner came with the original lease proving that the land was theirs.

“I consult with the chiefs when doing marketing for my business since I regard them as trustworthy. Two days later after confirming that the land belonged to the chief, the original owners of the land showed up with their documentation to prove that the land really belongs to them,” she said. At Ha Matala, this reporter met an interesting case of a dispute over land within one family in which the grandfather sold land belonging to his two grandchildren.

The family had a meeting a few years back and unanimously agreed to give two youngest family members ownership of a residential site. The siblings will not be identified since the case is ongoing. After the agreement at the family meeting their grandfather Nicodemously went behind everyone’s back (including the grandmother) to the Land Administration Authority (LAA) to register the land back in his names under a new lease. Soon after that he quietly sold the site.

“My grandfather after making a new lease sold that land without even consulting us as the family including my grandmother,” he said. Nthabane said after encountering several cases of dishonesty in selling sites her company is now only helping to sell sites with leases only. The increase in such cases, she said, is affecting their businesses as real estate agents since they have to work even harder to protect the image of their companies so that they can maintain customers’ trust.

“When we meet these kinds of cases, we refund the client to keep good relations between us. Even when the person wants us to sell their sites on their behalf with a Form C but without a lease, we always take time to make sure that the Form C is legit since most of them are forged, Nthabane said. Nthabane urged other real estate agents to do deeper researches with LAA and community councils before selling any piece of land to avoid such problems. LAA blames complete lack of understanding among Basotho about how property rights and laws operate.

LAA Public Outreach Manager, Refiloe ‘Mateboho Makote, said according to LAA’s 2020 report, there are more than 20 cases of people involved in disputes over residential sites and housing. Makote said any Mosotho who is above 18 years of age has the power to sell land as long as that land legally belongs to them.

“Our LAA offices are always open for Basotho to come and get any information regarding land before they can buy it. We urge Basotho to come to our offices and find out whether the land they wish to buy has no conflicts so that there won’t be any complications.

“Again, people should always make sure before buying any land from anyone the person selling that land is the rightful owner and, in the case of estate agencies, people should always verify that the estate agent has the power of attorney, which means that they have the power to sell land,” Makote said.

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