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Is Mr. & Mrs. valid in law as owners of real property?

Bamidele Kolawole

Under Nigerian jurisprudence, husband and wife have the right to jointly own a property. This has aptly been argued and, to my mind, been laid to rest by Prof. Sylvester Udemezue (UDEMS) in his article titled: “There is no Law in Nigeria that bars husband & wife from buying or selling land together or from joint ownership of real estate.

Olaleye Akintububo Esq

This question is a poser as to who has the legal capacity to purchase real property.

It should be noted that only those with legal capacity that can hold title to land in accordance with extant provisions of land law.

For you to have legal capacity to hold title to land, you must be a juristic person. Juristic person could be a natural person, that is human beings like me and you or a body corporate which could be a statutory body or corporate bodies registered under the Companies and Allied Matters Act, 2020 such as limited liability companies and incorporated trustees.

Now to the question whether the law recognizes the concept of Mr. and Mrs. as purchasers of real property. I will say with all sense of responsibility that it depends on the circumstances of each case.

The simple answer to the above poser is that no laws bars the purchase of real property by a couple as Mr. and Mrs.

For the purchasers to be addressed as Mr. and Mrs. entails that they are married. The pertinent question now is: under which law were they married? Is it Statutory marriage (which laymen call Court marriage)? Is it customary marriage i.e. marriage under various customs of the people? Is it Islamic marriage known as Nikai?

If the couple were joined together as husband and wife under the Marriage Act (Statutory Marriage), then they are seen in law as one indivisible entity. Therefore, in law they can safely buy real property as husband and wife.

If the marriage is under customary law or Islamic law, it is not advisable that couples should buy real property or any other properties whatsoever as Mr. and Mrs. because, they are not seen in law as one indivisible entity. The danger in buying real property as Mr. and Mrs. by those who were married under customary law or Islamic law is: what if the husband married more women or divorced the wife?

Even we may even look at it from this perspective that it is not advisable for any couple under any form of marriage to buy real properties as Mr. and Mrs. What if they divorced each other and the man later married another woman?

The solution is when you insist on buying such real property as Mr. and Mrs. try to mention their names in full.

For example don’t just write Mr. and Mrs. Sunday Ikuomenisan which is the reflection of the husband’s name alone but it is advisable to write Mr. Sunday Ikuomenisan and Mrs. Stella Ikuomenisan. By doing this, we will know the identity of the joint owner of the man married another wife in future.

All in all, my advice is that couples should buy their property in their individual names. If the wife has the money let her buy in her name. And ditto for the husband.

Benjamin Salami Esq

The title “Mr. and Mrs.” are used for a married couple before the surname or before the name of the husband. The Nigeria legal system permits married couples to jointly own, sell or transfer property. Thus, it is a rebuttable presumption of law, that property acquired during a subsisting marriage is a joint property of the couple unless proven otherwise.

It follows that in divorce proceedings, either couple could easily claim the properties acquired during the subsistence of the marriage as his or hers and same could be settled in favor of both parties particularly, if the other party is unable to prove sole ownership of the property.

 The issue as to whether “Mr and Mrs” constitute a legal personality that can sue or be sued was considered in the case of Lion of Africa Insurance Company Ltd. v Esan (1999) 8 NWLR (Pt.614) 197 at 201, where the Court of Appeal held that “the plaintiffs are Mr. & Mrs Esan husband and wife…the term ‘Mr. & Mrs.’ is a social expression and not a conferment of legal capacity…Mr & Mrs. combined do not create a legal term to sue and be sued in legal parlance they are two separate people and either of them can sue or be sued in his or her own name.

If there must be two plaintiffs the two different names must be specifically stated and not joined together as Mr. & Mrs. Mr. & Mrs. Esan is not a juristic person capable of suing and of being sued … I do not find it difficult to uphold this appeal and rule that the action is incompetent in its present format. No law expressly or impliedly confers the right to sue or be sued on Mr. & Mrs…”. It was further held that: “The terms ‘Mr’ and ‘Mrs.’ are purely for Social usage and application in a civilized society”.

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The above position could also apply to couples purchasing or disposing off a property jointly. Transactions made in the name of Mr. & Mrs are bound to be subject of litigation and where such description has created a confusion whatsoever, such transaction would be invalid.It is however, inappropriate and untidy to transact either by purchase or sale using “Mr. & Mrs. (followed by the husband’s name in full or his surname alone)”.

 Though, such transactions are protected under law of equity, but it’s risks are still enormous as marital status of the party can change and any woman either from previous or subsequent marriage to the husband can claim to be the “Mrs” in the subsequent transaction and thereby benefits from the transaction even though she was not envisaged during the transaction.

The proper way to enter the name of a married couple in a legal document is “Mr. Adam Jonny and Mrs. Eve Jonny” or “Mrs. Eve and Mr. Adam Jonny”; this is to prevent any eventuality and to secure the property as a joint property.

A draftsman should therefore consider the legal implications and importance of entering the rightful name and capacity of the couple must also ensure that the document captures the fact that the couple are purchasing or selling the property together.

In joint ownership, both parties have equal rights to keep or dispose off the jointly owned property not minding the weight/percentage of each person’s contribution. Also, they are afforded survivorship rights in the event of the death of either party.

When a spouse dies, the ownership of the property passes to the surviving spouse. This helps couples secure their properties for their immediate family in the event of intestate death.

Where a sale of joint property is solely made without the consent of the other party, such transaction is invalid and the title passed to the purchaser is incurably defective.

Olubunmi Akinseye Esq

Types of ownership of properties, either Realtor or other types of properties may not be specifically spell out or codified in a body of law, however there are authorities where types of ownership could be implied.
For instance ownership in common, joint ownership, corporate ownership etc, are known to be derivable from how they all came into existence one way or another.
Legal institutions such as partnership, marriage & family-hood, will surely produce a type of ownership that is different from the regular one-person ownership we are used to.
Under Western Marriage, after which our “White Wedding” concept is patterned, the couple is deemed to be in joint ownership of the Real properties, hence the reason why the surviving spouse is considered the heir apparent to the deceased partner’s estate, and except an aggrieved party can prove otherwise, when there is petition for dissolution, the properties will have to be settled during the Trial of the Petition.
Since there is no Law that forbids either Mr & Mrs “purchaser” or ” vendor” ,by implication borrowed Law such as the three I mentioned earlier, i.e, partnership, marriage and corporate Laws, surely supports it.
Only that, expectation has it that the extent of the contributions of each owner must be clearly spelt out. It may not be right to just presumed that, since A& B are married, they must automatically own properties jointly or commonly.
Again, the name of each joint owner must be clearly defined, particularly so, incase there is another Mrs or Mr elsewhere, who may want to claim under same arrangement without contributions previously. So, in my candid opinion, nothing in Law prevent a co-ownership, co-purchaser or co-vendor by Mr & Mrs. The Law will always recognize a well qualified and well define Ownership and Owners respectively.

Ilemobayo Akinbote Esq.

The concept of Mr. and Mrs in the modern world is a complete figment of the imagination of some people. This, in itself, has generated a lot of controversy. The phrase, for instance, Mr. and Mrs. Ade Caleb, has meaning to the extent of giving effect to the male in the phrase.

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The word, Mrs. carries no meaning at all especially in a polygamist home. Anybody else can be Mrs.

The wives have always made this mistake especially when they want to acquire property with their husbands.

When the documents of those properties are to be prepared, you see the wife saying that the lawyer should put Mr. and Mrs. as the title of the property owners.

 This is a misnomer which should be dispensed with. Our counsel has always been that the full names be written down in order to give full meaning to the phrase, Mr and Mrs in any where it may be used.

At death, the wife may not be able to share or inherit part of her husband’s estate because when a property is jointly acquired, the documents must specified the names of the joint owners. Mr. and Mrs does not mean the bearers are legal entities.

Adetiloye Victor

No because the prefix Mr and Mrs is not a name of person except where the full name of the parties were fully started like Mr. Ojo Dada and Mrs. Ojo Bisi those are the recognized and is valid, because mere saying Mr. And Mrs. Ojo Dada it is the man that will now determine who is the Mrs.

And that may be a great loss to the woman or if the name on the documents is also Mr and Mrs Bose Grace the woman will now determine who is the Mr. which may equally be bad for the man.

Oluwambe Adefehinti Esq

The titles “Mr” and “Mrs” are prefixes used for the names and/or surnames of married couple. These titles are predominantly used jointly in informal settings.

For instance, it is common to find an couple being addressed in a parcel as “Mrs & Mrs Abey Akande”. It is also common to find married couple, who are invitees to an occasion being described as “Mr and Mrs Abey Akande”

In the eyes of the law however, it is inappropriate and invalid to incorporate the names of a married couple in a legal document as “Mr & Mrs Abey Akande”.

Where such married couple are jointly described as “Mr & Mrs Abey Akande” either as Vendors/Landlords/Purchasers/Tenants in a document, such document is voidable. Although, a married couple can jointly acquire or transact either by selling or purchasing properties, yet they cannot be tagged as “Mrs and Mrs Akande” when transacting.

The reason is not far fetched. “Mr and Mrs Abey Akande” just like a firm Rotimi Ayenigba & Co is not a legal personality or a person know to law.

It is only natural persons for instance, Mr Abey Akande and Mrs Funmi Akande, who are known to law and with full legal capacity. By necessary implication, They can best be described in their individual names as “Mr Abey Akande and Mrs Funmi Akande”.

In discussing this topic further, the elementary knowledge of the concept of legal personality comes to play.

Legal personality borders on persons clothed with legal capacity to transact or can sue and be sued, and the law categorizes such persons to be either natural or artificial persons.

For the purpose of this discourse Mr Abey Akande is a separate natural person, whilst Mrs Funmi Akande is another natural person, and not “Mrs and Mrs Abey Akande” which is vague and untraceable to a particular person.

 Although the general rule, is that a married couple  can jointly acquire or dispose of a property, yet either party can not dispose of such property without the consent of the other party.

This is what the law regards as the concept of “survivorship” It has been well settled in plethora of decided cases, that where a property is jointly owned by a married couple, either party can’t dispose of the property or deal with the property without the consent of the other party.

In the case of Kobuwa & Anor v Lamudu & Anor (1998) LPELR-6364 (CA), It was held that: “where the property is jointly owned by more than one person, each of the joint owners does not own any part of the property which he can singly dispose of until the property is partitioned”.

By implication, no party can on his/her own sell the property jointly acquired by them rather each of the signatories must sign the documents.

A husband and wife are distinct individuals, each possessing complete legal capacity to independently or collaboratively own or acquire property based on their preferences. There is no Nigerian law prohibiting a husband and wife from jointly purchasing or owning property.

While a couple cannot engage in property transactions as “Mr. and Mrs. Bello Eze” (husband and wife), they can do so using their individual names, such as “Mr. Bello Eze and Mrs. Tola Eze” (husband and wife). This distinction arises because the former is not legally recognized as a singular entity with the capacity to hold property or enter into contracts.

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In the case of OSUJI v. EKEOCHA (2009) LPELR-2816(SC), the court determined that “the parties jointly owned the property.” Subsequent appeals seeking to overturn this court decision were dismissed by both the Court of Appeal (CA) and the Supreme Court (SC).

In the context of joint property ownership, there exists a unity of possession, title, and interest. This implies that the joint owners have the collective right to simultaneous enjoyment and use of the property.

Consequently, no party can assert ownership of a specific part of the property to the exclusion of others.

In joint property ownership, if one owner passes away, the property continues with the surviving owners.

Consequently, the rights in the property do not automatically transfer to the children or beneficiaries of the deceased party, unless mutually agreed upon by both parties. Instead, these rights pass to the surviving joint owner.

Furthermore, the alienation of rights in joint property requires the consent of all co-owners. Without obtaining such consent, any title transferred to a purchaser becomes legally defective.

Jerry Adeyogbe Esq

The titles “Mr” and “Mrs” are prefixes used for the names and/or surnames of married couple. These titles are predominantly used jointly in informal settings.

For instance, it is common to find an couple being addressed in a parcel as “Mrs & Mrs Abey Akande”. It is also common to find married couple, who are invitees to an occasion being described as “Mr and Mrs Abey Akande”

In the eyes of the law however, it is inappropriate and invalid to incorporate the names of a married couple in a legal document as “Mr & Mrs Abey Akande”.

Where such married couple are jointly described as “Mr & Mrs Abey Akande” either as Vendors/Landlords/Purchasers/Tenants in a document, such document is voidable. Although, a married couple can jointly acquire or transact either by selling or purchasing properties, yet they cannot be tagged as “Mrs and Mrs Akande” when transacting.

The reason is not far fetched. “Mr and Mrs Abey Akande” just like a firm Rotimi Ayenigba & Co is not a legal personality or a person know to law.

It is only natural persons for instance, Mr Abey Akande and Mrs Funmi Akande, who are known to law and with full legal capacity. By necessary implication, They can best be described in their individual names as “Mr Abey Akande and Mrs Funmi Akande”.

In discussing this topic further, the elementary knowledge of the concept of legal personality comes to play.

Legal personality borders on persons clothed with legal capacity to transact or can sue and be sued, and the law categorizes such persons to be either natural or artificial persons.

For the purpose of this discourse Mr Abey Akande is a separate natural person, whilst Mrs Funmi Akande is another natural person, and not “Mrs and Mrs Abey Akande” which is vague and untraceable to a particular person.

 Although the general rule, is that a married couple  can jointly acquire or dispose of a property, yet either party can not dispose of such property without the consent of the other party.

This is what the law regards as the concept of “survivorship” It has been well settled in plethora of decided cases, that where a property is jointly owned by a married couple, either party can’t dispose of the property or deal with the property without the consent of the other party.

In the case of Kobuwa & Anor v Lamudu & Anor (1998) LPELR-6364 (CA), It was held that: “where the property is jointly owned by more than one person, each of the joint owners does not own any part of the property which he can singly dispose of until the property is partitioned”.

By implication, no party can on his/her own sell the property jointly acquired by them rather each of the signatories must sign the documents.

David Ebriku Esq.

Under Nigerian jurisprudence, husband and wife have the right to jointly own a property. This has aptly been argued and, to my mind, been laid to rest by Prof. Sylvester Udemezue (UDEMS) in his article titled: “There is no Law in Nigeria that bars husband & wife from buying or selling land together or from joint ownership of real estate.

Ordinarily, a couple is to purchase, own or sell property as ”Mr. Ebriku David and Mrs. Mary Ebriku (husband & wife).” But what if they purchase or sell property as ”Mr. and Ebriku David” (husband & wife)? Would so doing render a contract of property sale or purchase void and therefore unenforceable?

There may be no need to argue this because the position on it has long been settled. In the case of Lion of Africa Insurance Company Ltd. v Esan (1999) 8 NWLR (Pt.614) 197 at 201, the issue before the court was: “Whether or not the plaintiffs suing as Mr. & Mrs. E.A. Esan constitute a legal personality of body corporate known to law and have the right to sue in the said name.”

The Court of Appeal answered in the negative and held as follows:

“In this case the plaintiffs are Mr. & Mrs Esan husband and wife. I agree with the submission of the Appellants’ counsel that the term ‘Mr. & Mrs.’ is a social expression and not a conferment of legal capacity. The term ‘MRS.’ has been described in WEBSTER’S Dictionary of the English Language as-

A courtesy title for any married woman not styled ‘Lady’ DR etc. used before her name or her husband’s name.’

” The same WEBSTER’S Dictionary has defined the term ‘MR.’ as a courtesy title for any male adult not styled ‘SIR’. DR etc. A form of address to the holder of any of certain offices e.g. Mr. Chairman.

“Mr & Mrs. combined do not create a legal term us such to confer upon MR. & MRS ESAN a legal right and capacity to sue and be sued. It is true Mr. & Mrs. Esan in this case are one in their marital status in the church and by social expression, but in legal parlance they are two separate people and either of them can sue or be sued in his or her own name.

If there must be two plaintiffs the two different names must be specifically stated and not joined together as Mr. & Mrs. ‘Mr. & Mrs. Esan is not a juristic person capable of suing and of being sued Eo nomine.

“I do not find it difficult to uphold this appeal and rule that the action is incompetent in its present format. No law expressly or impliedly confers the right to sue or be sued on Mr. & Mrs. but Mr. Or Mrs. has the right to sue and be sued.”

In his concurring judgment, PATS-ACHOLONU, J.C.A. held that: The terms ‘Mr’ and ‘Mrs.’ Are purely for Social usage and application in a civilized society. A man and wife may not take an action with such titles as to suggest that they are one and the same person and not two people. It is a misnomer to take action in that manner.”

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