Many Kenyans prefer to seal deals to buy a home or land in December and fraudsters are aware of this. Take for instance last Christmas season when more than 200 investors lost more than Sh44 million to swindlers in Mavoko and Athi River.
To look real, the con artists pose as companies that sell houses or land at affordable rates to attract the middle class. The fraudsters are so courageous they advertise the properties in the media.
One such company placed colourful quarter-page advertisements in two leading dailies before buyers rushed to acquire the 150 houses at the Tropical Green Estate. Since the houses were selling off-plan, the buyers were required to pay a pre-construction deposit of Sh210,000 per unit and the balance in installments.
To make the deal sweeter, the homes were to be three-bedroom bungalows, master en-suite, sitting on eighth-acre plots for only Sh2.1 million. The attractive homes on Mombasa Road were to have modern architectural designs and be in a secure gated community. They would have ceramic floor finishes, fitted kitchens, landscaped gardens, cabro-paved driveways and one access gate with boundary wall.
However, scrutiny of a copy of the title deed of the land where the houses were to be constructed shows it was 48.56 acres registered as 36542/4. However, according to the agreement for sale in our possession, the firm said the Tropical Green Estate had title number LR/12581/7/8.
As part of the well-choreographed plot, the swindlers hired an office on the ninth floor of Hazina Towers in Nairobi where they met clients. Unfortunately, more than 200 innocent buyers paid in their deposits to a bank in Nairobi as directed by the company.
Come mid-January when the ground breaking of the housing project was to take off, and the company had closed shop and disappeared into thin air.
The last time I checked, the conned home buyers were making statements at the Criminal Investigations Department headquarters on Kiambu Road. Therefore, prospective homeowners, be cautious this festive season.
It is for similar reasons that lawyers often insist on establishing the authenticity of companies that purport to sell houses. The details of such companies can be obtained from Companies Registry at Sheria House. The results show when the company was registered, its official postal and physical address. It also provides a list of the directors and the shares they hold.
Prudent conveyancers (property lawyers) should also go ahead to peruse the company files and read between the lines of their memorandum/articles of association.
The writer is an advocate of the High Court of Kenya.