Over the years a lot of people have been duped by bogus landowners who sell land that does not belong to them. Whole groups of people are roped into stand schemes that turn out to be money-grabbing schemes leaving people without their money or the stands they wanted.

To help would-be buyers, Harare City Council has just issued a helpful guide that you can use to tell the difference between real and bogus land sellers.

Guidance on Buying Urban Land

When buying stands the first thing is that you must ask for the relevant papers from the seller.

These should then be verified with relevant authorities which may be Council, Registrar of Deeds, Surveyor General or Urban Stateland Office

Ask for the following documents and information (The Proof):
1. For Private land Proof of ownership in the form of a Title Deed
a).For Government or Council land Valid Offer/Allocation letter and Agreement of sale between Government or Council and the Seller (in their name).

b) On private land Approved Subdivision permit- issued by the relevant authority.

c) On State or Council land approved layout plans have been approved.
2. Approved Survey Diagrams from the Surveyor General whether on Private, Government or Council land.

3.Approved Engineering Designs for water, sewer and roads which would have been approved by Council Engineering Department.

4. Approved infrastructure successfully implemented and approved on the site in the form of water, sewer and roads signed for by Council.

5.Certificate of Compliance- issued by council certifying that 1- 5 above has been done to Council’s satisfaction.

The title deed of the property gives the legal name of the property which can be verified from the Registrar of Deeds after paying a very small fee, including the person who owns the property or stand. The offer letter can be verified with the Ministry of Local Government, Public Works & National Housing, through the Department of Stateland or Department of Physical Planning or relevant Local Authority.

If someone holds an offer letter from Ministry of Lands, be suspicious because he/she needs to get a change of use permit from say agriculture to residential/housing, then layout has to be approved by Department of Physical Planning. Besides in Zimbabwe, State Agricultural land is not supposed to be sold by individuals.

NB. In Zimbabwe only two Local Authorities are allowed to give subdivision permits (at this point in time) without passing through the Ministry of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing, that is Harare and Bulawayo City Councils.

If he/she fails to produce these when you request them, put a big question mark. It is most likely that their project or development is not compliant and you might be duped. Even if he/she tries to persuade you that they will be done with all the paperwork soon, just walk away.

Many people have been told that before and there are areas which still have no compliance as far back as 1998.

Because the Council will not approve your plans to build for you to build if the listed papers are not in place and you will also not get title to the stand you would have bought.

We all know that investment in Real Estate (Buildings) is one of the best investments one can ever make in life. But if you are not careful you will be duped. So be observant and analytical. Do not be given a contact person by the developers for enquiries. Visit and call the government and local authorities offices. Visit their websites. Most councils are now online, even Deeds Office has an online portal for enquiries about deeds. However, you have to know the name of the property as it is on the title deed.

The Government or Council offices can only be able to help you if you produce papers, so you need to ask for the above listed papers from the seller which you then take to the relevant offices for verification.

If you ask for these papers and the seller turns hostile and threatens to sell it to someone else it tells you they do not have the papers and you were about to be duped, so walk away happily with your money. If you want social justice, report to the responsible authority about this experience with the seller.

Those who are genuine sellers would not deny you your right to verify the stand before you part with your hard earned cash.

In fact they should be happy to assist you to verify whatever you need before you pay.

Please do not Let them rush you to pay property is a lifetime investment.

Take your time to visit the site first and see if you like the stand and the neighborhood, verify the papers and then enter into an agreement with the assistance of lawyers

Text of the guidance