Illegal operations exposed in real estate sector

By Wellington Makonese

THE double allocation of stands has cast the spotlight on the illegal operations that have rocked the real estate sector.

This comes after yet another Harare family was left homeless 20 years after building a family home on a disputed property.

Barnabas Chirenje casts a lonely figure outside the house he built from scratch in Harare’s Westlea suburb.

All he has to show are his belongings piled up next to the property he was evicted from in March.

Chirenje had been sucked into a legal battle over the residential stand since 2013, a battle he has since lost in yet another case of double allocation of stands.

“I responded to a newspaper advertisement in 2012 and purchased this stand, engaged lawyers to purchase this place. We did everything which these papers (agreement of sale) have. We then engaged the council to facilitate the change of ownership, but they told me to construct a structure before they can grant it. I sold my two cars and sadly one of my houses that I got as a pension,” he said.

Despite being in possession of documents that seemingly justify his claims, horror struck after completing the structure when another individual appeared with documents claiming ownership of the land.

“We showed each other papers and he agreed to pay me for my developments. However, I reported the matter to the police, but was then referred to one Bishop Chipunza. I tried to give them alternative space but they refused compensation. They just wanted the structure. I paid the rates since 1998 all the bills because I had purchased the property,” said Chirenje.

The law has no room for sentiment and all he hopes for is a miracle.

He laments, “I have since sent my family to neighbours. I feel the law let me down. I am sleeping outside the place that I built all alone. My plea now is for a human face because I don’t know what to do, my sweat, my money is all there.”

Chirenje’s case is a tip of an iceberg as many have lost their life savings through irregular property sales and double allocation of stands.

Legal experts are of the view that the general public is oblivious to some of the basics in terms of acquiring property.

It is important that people understand cases of this magnitude because mostly home seekers go it alone without due diligence, but there are legal remedies which sometimes fail. Authenticity of papers has become a problem, but for this case compensation is the way to go. The first and second purchaser are all innocent and the courts need to deal with the original perpetrator,” said Mr Conwell Muzhanye, a Legal Expert.

The issue of title deeds remains critical with legal experts advising that transactions should only be completed in exchange for the key documents.

“Double sales arise when two different people dealing with fraudsters purchase residential stands. When purchasing a residential stand, one has to do thorough investigations. It’s not that easy, a number of people get prejudiced because the first person to move in is the likely beneficiary. Remedies are contractual and one has to sue when it’s inconvenient, but the lesson is, do not part with money before getting title deeds,” said Mr Arthur Marara, a Real Estate Legal Expert.

The Estate Agents Council of Zimbabwe has been calling upon home seekers to deal with reputable estate agents to avoid losing their hard-earned cash to fraudsters.