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Meaning and Importance Of Certificate of Occupancy- C of O in Nigeria

Meaning and Importance Of Certificate of Occupancy- C of O in Nigeria

Hello dear readers, our article today will be centered around a term that many first time Real Estate Investors often here about but might not know its meaning or importance, and it is the much talked about C of O. A Certificate of Occupancy (C of O) is an important land title document in Nigeria. This piece of document along with others like the survey plan and the deed of assignment, are very vital in the process of land acquisition and transfer of ownership. It also serves a fundamental purpose, which is to help to prove the rightful ownership of a land. In this article, we’ll try to expand on this in detail.



What is a Certificate of Occupancy?

A Certificate of Occupancy (C of O) is basically a land title document that is issued by the government to land owners. It serves primarily as a legal proof of land ownership in Nigeria. Without the possession of the C of O, a person/landlord can have their land confiscated or property demolished (i.e During road construction) without any form of compensation from the government.

The C of O in Nigeria has been a very vital document that every landlord must possess ever since the Land Use Act 1978 was introduced and it helped to standardized land administration in Nigeria, by vesting all urban land within a state, in the state governor (rural land is administrated by the local governments in which they are found). This legislation gave the state governors the power to grant “statutory rights of occupancy” as they deemed appropriate. In addition, this act introduced the concept of land use (residential, commercial, mixed use etc.).

With the introduction of this act, came the abolishment of all existing freehold systems, which was replaced with a lease hold system. These leases are usually granted for a maximum period of 99 years – after which the landlord must apply for renewal.


Things usually contained in the C of O includes:

  • Certificate of Occupancy no.
  • File no.
  • Plot no.
  • Location (district details and cadastral zone)
  • Plot size
  • Survey plan or graphic (plot shape)
  • Date of issue
  • Lease term
  • Initial annual ground rent fees
  • Land use purpose
  • Terms and conditions


What is the Difference between Right of Occupancy and Certificate of Occupancy?

A Right of Occupancy (R of O) document is basically an offer to a said plot of land, while a Certificate of Occupancy (C of O) is the better recognized official right of ownership over that parcel of land.

The R of O is actually good but a weaker title when compared to the C of O — as with the former, you can be stripped off your title even without any form of compensation, whereas in the case of the C of O, which is by far a superior title, compensation must be paid for any compulsory government acquisitions or demolition. This is the reason behind lands/properties with C of Os having a higher market value than those without it.

To put it in plain terms, it is important that Right of Occupancy holders perfect the title on their land  to Certificate of Occupancy as soon as possible.




Who needs a Certificate of Occupancy?

Below are a number of reasons why you should strive to get a Certificate of Occupancy:


During Property development

It is important to note that, in order to get approval for building construction projects, a Certificate of Occupancy is one of the title documents needed.


Converting a property

This is not a common knowledge amongst many out there. That when you want to change the primary use of a property, a C of O is usually required. For example, a commercial warehouse being converted to blocks of flats for residential purposes.


Change of ownership

Whenever you intend to change the ownership of a property; either one given to you as a gift or an inheritance pass down to you. Regardless of the type of property involved. A new certificate of occupancy may sometimes be required.

Having said all this, some cities in Nigeria such as Abuja do not readily give out new certificates. But as an alternative, raising and registering something like a power of attorney — in favor of the new land or property buyer, also serves the same purpose.

Finally, if you had the patience to read to this point, it’s probably because you’re in the process of acquiring a property. And you felt you needed to equip yourself with the right knowledge that could be needed as a Real Estate investor.

You need not to worry as We @ Topland Realties Limited, a trusted Real Estate company.  with its operational head office in Lagos, Nigeria, have helped many people fulfill their lifelong dreams of owning their own properties. We offer services ranging from Real Estate Agency, Property and Facility Management, and Consultancy services etc. We currently have various types of properties for sale across Nigeria and we’ll be more than excited to speak with you, so as to schedule an appointment.

To get started, please Call or Whatsapp- +234 811 443 1525 today.

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