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Safety First| Invaluable Institutions, Offices to Consult When Conducting Real Estate Due Diligence in Zimbabwe

ByETimes

May 2, 2024 #real estate

Introduction: Know where to find answers and whom to enlist for assistance:

 

“Be sober, be vigilant…”(1 Peter 5vs8; New King James)

“See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise,”(Ephesians 5vs15; New King James)

Seeking to invest in some sort of land and buildings (real estate) in Zimbabwe is no trifling issue; as such, thorough due diligence is a non-negotiable. To this end, here are key offices and institutions one must consult in their quest for truth, as well as organizations with which they may ally for assistance to that end.

Section 1 of 2: Key Offices and Institutions to consult when conducting real estate due diligence:

  • Law Society of Zimbabwe: No running away from this one, as invariably, the services of a legal practitioner will be required when investing in real estate. As such, take no chances, and seek the services of a conscientious, reliable, genuine, proven legal practitioner. Enter Law Society of Zimbabwe. Loosely speaking, the organization monitors and regulates the conduct of legal practitioners within the borders of Zimbabwe; ergo, to make sure one is dealing with, “the real McCoy” and not some spurious “fly-by-night” entity, please check in with them.

 

Jurists will assist with a myriad of vital, real estate related issues, such as, inter-alia, conveyancing, drafting of notarial deeds, conducting of due diligence on behalf of a client (if requested to do so), cancellation of mortgage bonds, notarising a special power of attorney for a local proxy or assignee (if the freeholder is based in the diaspora), writing to the Registrar General’s office if one is not confident as to the authenticity of the identity documents of a prima facie freeholder, helping one decipher what is written on title deeds and agreements of sale if such wade too deep into the waters of “legalese”, writing to the office of the High Court for consent to sell on behalf of a minor (if the freehold interest of the real estate under consideration is registered in the name of a minor, as the State is deemed the guardian of all registered freeholders who are minors), et cetera.

 

Phew…weighty duties to say the least; therefore, please acquaint oneself with the Law Society of Zimbabwe. At the very least, please report to their offices situate at: 5th Floor, Law Society House, 46 Kwame Nkrumah Avenue, Harare

 

When there, request the latest edition of their directory of registered, vetted legal practitioners. A stitch in time saves nine.

 

  • Office of the Surveyor General: All genuine real and personal rights to private land and buildings (real estate) in Zimbabwe, have their genesis at the Surveyor General’s This point must register, thus, it warrants repetition…all private real estate in the land of Zimbabwe must have some sort of cadastral data. If there is no cadastral data, there is definitely no title deed, and one is dealing with State land, which is typically under the aegis of the Ministry of Local Government and Public Works.

 

Even when dealing with the issue of personal private property rights via cessionary agreement (be it property developer cession, council cession or local government cession), the slated layout plans of the property developer (or subdivision of a freeholder) must be approved by the office of the Surveyor General by way of a dispensation certificate, and/or enroute to the obtaining of a subdivision permit.

 

If there is no traceable cadastral data with regard to the land and buildings under consideration, then one is cautioned to take the funds they have earmarked for transaction, and run with them to safety. When it comes to real estate, the number one rule – the only rule – is the dictum of, “Safety first.”

Become familiar with the office of the surveyor general, and report to: Department of Surveyor General, 5th Floor, Trust Towers, 56 Samora Machel Avenue, Harare.

 

  • Deeds Registry: This office contains a comprehensive registry of all the holders of real rights (freehold interest) to private land and buildings (real estate) in Zimbabwe. After payment of a nominal fee, armed with the relevant deed number, one may obtain all the publicly available data on a landed property (e.g. Details of any caveats, miscellaneous agreements, mortgage bonds, endorsements such as a sale in progress, et cetera). If the details tally with the cadastral data (in the form of a survey diagram) at the surveyor general’s office, corroborate the personal copy of the deed held by the ostensible freeholder, and the apparent freeholder has been positively identified….not to mention that they also have a genuine serious intent to sell and contract, then, for all intents and purposes, a solid foundation has been laid to enter into a clean, clear property transaction. However, if there is a discrepancy somewhere, and things just are not tallying or “fitting”, please think twice and have mercy on the hefty funds one has on hand. Remember…prior to signing an agreement of sale, walking away is a viable option.

The office of the title deeds registry may be located at: Ground Floor, Century House, 38 Nelson Mandela Avenue, Harare.

 

  • Companies Registry: Crucial to consult when a real or personal muniment (e.g deed of transfer or agreement of sale) is held by a juristic person (e.g. a company). Salient details such as names of directors, whether or not said company is up to date with its’ returns, memorandum and articles of association, etc, may all be ascertained from this.

 

Due diligence with this office is especially key if one is dealing with the mode of ownership of share-block transfer. If the company in question is in poor legal and financial shape, it may be best to pass up transacting.

 

Report to the companies registry at:

 

Ground Floor,

Century House,

38 Nelson Mandela Avenue, Harare.

  • Local Government House (Headquarters of the Ministry of Local Government and Public Works): Generally speaking, all land not registered in the deeds registry is State land, which is vested in the president of Zimbabwe, and under the aegis of the ministry of local government and public works. All government buildings are managed and maintained by the ministry of local government and public works.

 

When State land is transferred to private entities, this typically occurs via the agency of the ministry of local government and public works (e.g. Be it an offer letter from said ministry; the land being ceded to councils, who then sell to private individuals, property developers, etc). Given this pivotal role, one will likely not go wrong in consulting said ministry. An ideal port of call, would be to request to consult a town planner and/or property valuer under the employ of the ministry, as they will likely possess the expertise and acumen to assist one with their real estate due diligence query.

 

By extension, below is a chart of all the councils, local boards and municipalities which fall under the ambit of the ministry of local government and public works (circa October 2023). Depending on the district one resides in, they may then visit the relevant local council, to help verify a given piece of real estate.

 

Urban Centers under the ambit of the Ministry of Local Government and Public Works (circa, October 2023, Zimbabwe)

 

City Councils Municipalities Town Councils Local Boards Town Boards Upcoming Town Boards:
Harare Marondera Karoi Chirundu Mvuma Murewa
Bulawayo Chinhoyi Norton Ruwa Gutu Mutoko
Mutare Chegutu Zvishavane Binga Chivhu Mount Darwin
Gweru Gwanda Shurugwi Epworth Banket Caledonia
Kwekwe Bindura Mvurwi Hwange Nyanga Murambinda
Masvingo Redcliff Rusape Lupane   Glendale
Kadoma Beitbridge Gokwe     Concession
Victoria Falls Chitungwiza Chipinge     Mazowe
  Kariba Chiredzi     Macheke
    Plumtree     Turf
          Triangle
          Chimanimani
          Shamva
          Domboshava

 

(Source: An affable member of the Valuers Council of Zimbabwe )

 

The headquarters of the ministry of local government and public works, is found at:

 

Local Government House,

Makombe Building,

Corner, Leopold Takawira and Herbert Chitepo Streets, Harare.

 

  • Cleveland Building, City of Harare (Department of Works): When a survey title has been approved by the office of the surveyor general, Harare City Council’s

Cleveland Building (namely, their spatial planning department), will gazette the proposed development in both the government gazette, as well as the relevant local newspaper(s). Sans demurral, a subdivision will be issued. Thus, within Harare, if one is presented with a copy of a subdivision permit, and/or a coveted certificate of compliance, the authenticity of such documents may be verified at the council’s Cleveland building. Elsewhere in the land, one may approach the valuation department of the relevant local council.

 

Cleveland Building, City of Harare, is found at: Corner, Speke Avenue and Leopold Takawira Street, 92 Leopold Takawira Street, Harare.

 

  • Civil Registry Department: This is where the registration, issuance and

authentication of births, deaths, travel and identification documents of natural persons (chiefly, citizens) of Zimbabwe, takes place.

One may request a notary public in good standing with Law Society of Zimbabwe (remember them?) and/or a director or senior official of a registered company to write to the office of the registrar general of Zimbabwe, to ascertain the verity of identity documents of a supposed freeholder, if something just seems off, amiss or awry. It is most never a bad call to err on the side of caution.

The civil registry department of Zimbabwe is situated at:

Makombe Building,

Corner, Herbert Chitepo Avenue and Leopold Takawira Street, Harare.

 

  • Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development: Sans townships, more oft than not, when it comes to the purchase and sale of rural and agricultural land in Zimbabwe, the State has a statutory right of first refusal; thus, prior to rural and/or agricultural land and buildings being sold to a third party, the real estate in question must first be offered for sale to the State. If the State is not interested, the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development must issue a document known as a certificate of no present interest. Only after said document has been issued, may a third party purchase the agricultural or rural real estate in question, with confidence.

 

For assistance in obtaining the certificate of no present interest, one must report to the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development, which, in Harare, is located at: Ngungunyana Building, 1 Borrowdale Road, Harare.

 

The said ministry may also assist one verify a certificate of no present interest in question.

 

  • Office of the Master of High Court: When one is purchasing real estate mandated for sale under the auspices of the executor (or executrix) of a deceased estate (probate), one may verify the bonafides of the professed executor/executrix, as well as their letters of administration, with the Office of the Master of High Court, by writing to said master, whose office is situate at: Office of the Master of High Court: Corner Second Street and Herbert Chitepo Avenue, Harare.

 

  • Ministry of Women Affairs, Community, Small and Medium Enterprises Development: If one is interested in acquiring some rights over real estate via a

housing co-operative, then, pretty please, make sure that the very first port of call, is to report to the Ministry of Women Affairs, Community, Small and Medium

Enterprises Development. They will be found at: Office 129, Block 4, Makombe Building, Herbert Chitepo Street, Harare.

 

When there, please check if the housing co-operative in question, is registered with the ministry; if not, please protect and respect the funds one has set aside to transact, and run for the hills. Short of this, please bury the money in the ground…at least that way, it is recoverable.

 

Section 2 of 2: Professional Bodies and other institutions to consult and ally with, as and when one is carrying out real estate due diligence in Zimbabwe:

 

 

If one requires assistance with the hefty legwork of real estate due diligence (for instance, they need a second, dispassionate pair of eyes, have run out of time, and/or need some emotional distance, such that judgment is unclouded), consider the following offices and institutions:

 

  • Estate Agents Council of Zimbabwe (E.A.C.Z): The organization is a statutory body, whose remit is to register, deregister and regulate estate agents, such that the profession of estate agency is carried out honorably. Said organization will either assist one directly with due diligence, or, at the very least, point one to reputable estate agents who may assist, and do so in good faith and with

 

Find the E.A.C.Z. at: 18 McChlery Avenue, Harare.

 

  • Real Estate Institute of Zimbabwe (R.E.I.Z): Though a non-statutory body, the organization exists to unite all practitioners of the different facets and disciplines found in the local real estate industry, and galvanize them to ethics and high standards. One may seek their assistance at: Office 17, Mon Repos Building, South Wing, Newlands Shopping Center, Enterprise Road, Harare.

 

  • Valuers Council of Zimbabwe: A relatively nascent statutory body set up at the behest of the Ministry of Local Government and Public Works, its mandate is to formally register and regulate local property valuers in particular. Again, said body should be able to assist one with the knowledge, guidance and support needed, or, at the very least, point them in the direction of effectual Seek an audience with the Valuers Council of Zimbabwe, by reporting to: Office Y122, Bay 3, Zimbabwe National Sports Stadium, Harare.

 

  • Honorable Mentions: As a bonus in honor of the audience’ commendable powers of concentration and attentiveness, would recommend that one considers consulting the Zimbabwe Republic Polic Criminal Investigation Department (ZRP C.I.D), as well as the mortgage finance division of reputable local banking corporations and building societies (probably best sifted out from the Bankers Association of Zimbabwe).

 

The Z.R.P C.I.D will assist one to monitor their levels of objectivity and temper their emotions and bias, such that they enter into a potential property transaction with their eyes open. Furthermore, they may conduct background checks on people and organizations to ensure that they have no rap-sheet or criminal record. They will also likely have a database of known land barons, crooks, fraudsters, shady housing co- operatives, as well as have a general knowledge of the playbooks employed by such malevolent actors.

 

Reputable banking corporations and building societies with longstanding mortgage finance divisions, have strict standard operating procedures they adhere to, prior to disbursing mortgage finance, and close due diligence is one such procedure. Such expertise and experience could be consulted.

 

One may find the locales of the Z.R.P C.I.D , as well as the Bankers Association of Zimbabwe respectively, at: Police General Headquarters: Corner 7th Street and Josiah Chinamano Avenue, Harare. And, Bankers Association of Zimbabwe, 14177 Gunhill Avenue, Gunhill, Harare.

 

Conclusion:

 

 

Manifold thanks for taking the topic of real estate due diligence in Zimbabwe, seriously. Immoveable property transactions are mega-deals, serious money is invariably on the table, and the stakes are colossal, to say the least.

Good-speed.

 

Tatenda Kangwende is honored and proud to be a real estate professional. To engage him for serious business (and serious business only), feel at liberty to: Call, sms or instant-message: +263 714 729 043 Email: linkedinprofile.triatoma@aleeas.com

By ETimes

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