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Friday, December 24, 2010

Always question a good deal

Purchasing a house occasionally may turn sour for innocent buyers who are unaware of hidden legal facts on the property.

Most of such transactions cloud the view of prospective homeowners following enticing deals that would include a low selling price. For instance, a foreigner with property in Runda may wish to sell his home for Sh20 million instead of the market price of Sh53 million.

Most buyers seldom think twice after engaging services of a registered valuer to confirm that the selling price is less than half the market rate. Most of the foreigners sell at throwaway prices arguing they are in a hurry to re-settle back to their home country.

On the flip side, buyers who count their blessings for the God-sent property fail to probe whether the seller has legal authority to sell. Therefore, prospective homeowners should be cautious when purchasing property from foreigners in a ‘hurry’ to fly back home.

Take the case of Seleiman Rahemtulla Omar and his wife who bought a house in Spring Valley from the former Somali ambassador to Kenya, Ahmed Mohamud.

The couple spent Sh15 million for the property whose value has appreciated to Sh500 million today, according to registered valuers. The former Somali envoy flew to the United Kingdom after the transaction of the house that sits on two and a half acres.

Fifteen years down the line, it has emerged that the sale of the property by the former ambassador was fraudulent. Furthermore, High Court Judge Justice Mbogholi Msagha last week ordered that the house was the property of the Embassy of the Somali Government and should not have been sold.

In a landmark judgment, Justice Msagha quashed the sale of the official house and land on which it stands and reverted it to the Somali Embassy.

Diplomatic ties

According to records in court, the Somali Government acquired the property in 1972 and registered it at the Ministry of Lands in 1973.

However, the former envoy took the opportunity to dispose off the embassy after the collapse of the regime of President Said Barre in 1991. Civil strife engulfed the country and diplomatic ties with several foreign governments ceased.

According to Justice Msagha, Omar, Mohamud and lawyer Stephen Kibunja who acted for the embassy ought to have known the status of the property.

Legally, the embassy property was protected under the Vienna Convention meaning it could not be sold until normalcy returned to the war torn Somalia.

Consequently, the High Court declared the sale illegal and ordered that the purchaser be refunded the Sh15 million by the embassy.

Furthermore, the former envoy had no legal authority to sell the property that has since reverted to the Republic of Somalia.

To effect the court order, Somali ambassador to Kenya Mohammed Nur, lawyer Fred Athuok and other embassy officials drove to Kitisuru to take over the property.

This story of the house located at the junction of Brookeside Drive and Lower Kabete Road fits the saying that when the deal is too good, think twice.

-The writer is an Advocate of the High Court of Kenya.

Source: The Standard

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