By Prudence Minayo
From title deeds scam to off planning housing scams, homebuyers have shed tears over the loss of their hard-earned money. While real estate companies have been a blessing to many, the vice versa is also true. Over the years, a number of these companies have come under fire for failing to deliver on their promises.
Below are realtors who have been in the news for allegedly scamming homebuyers. While some promised to fix the issues, others went mum.
Founded in October 2015, the real estate firm gained the trust of thousands of Kenyans. They offered a cheaper way of getting homes for people who couldn’t afford exorbitant mortgage fees through their pay rent own home slogan. Their promised tailor made payment plans were also the icing on the cake. For example, those who paid a monthly rent of Sh40,000 were promised a plan that is in line with that amount. All one needed to do was pay a 5% deposit and the rest of the money as if you would pay normal rent.
Their promises seemed too good to be true and a number of people became weary. Despite the questions, some still went ahead with the investment.
Things took a drastic turn when a Facebook user questioned their validity.
“If you booked a property in Nambalee court in Embakasi, a project by Simple Homes, have your passport and visa ready for the site visit which will happen in South Africa,” posted Martin Tairo Maseghe.
The post led to a social media storm with people discovering most of the firm’s ‘finished project pictures’ were lifted from the internet. It was revealed they had sourced images from other real estate developers in South Africa, Turkey, and USA among other places.
Later, the company withdrew their presence from the internet and closed their physical address. The case went to the Directorate of Criminal Investigation (DCI) and in 2020 Nuzrat Shariff, a 31-year-old woman, was arrested as the alleged mastermind of the scam.
Gakuyo Real Estate
Gakuyo Real estate has been in operation for over two decades. In 2019, Gakuyo investment club Ekeza Sacco and Gakuyo Real estate were in the headlines after they were accused of conning Kenyans out of millions. Media reports indicated that hundreds of millions of clients’ money were transferred into private accounts of the CEO, Rev David Kariuki Ngari who was working alongside his wife Hannah. Those who had saved through Ekeza Sacco found themselves counting loses and were told to record statements with the DCI. It is said the reverend made out with over Sh1 billion from thousands of clients.
In 2020, they re-branded and continued with business as usual.
Diamond Property Merchants
Diamond Property owned a number of properties and investment projects. This included a Sh2.5 billion low-cost residential unit in Mlolongo. In 2017, they launched a mega agribusiness project on 150 acres of land in Kajiado. Investors were to buy 1/8 an acre where a greenhouse would be constructed. The properties went for Sh450k with a reported additional charge of Sh290,000 for greenhouse construction. They promised to provide farm management, agronomical support and market for farmers’ yields. A year later, investors were crying foul play.
Diamond Property was in the news again in 2021 over failing to provide buyers with title deeds years down the line. Citizen TV reported that over 500 investors who purchased more than 1000 plots at Konza greens were yet to receive title deeds. According to the RMS station, after doing some digging it was discovered that some directors including Tigania East MP Kabeabea Gichunge had secured a loan through the mother title of the 40 hectares of land to be subdivided. They reached out to the bank trying to come to an agreement and found out the loan had an accrued interest of Sh180 million. Diamond Property Merchants denied these scamming allegations.
Pete and Sue Muraya, the directors of Suraya, were that rich couple. She was the owner of Kenya Fashion Week who made clothes for a number of clients including Kenya Airways while Pete is a professional engineer with various business ventures to his name.
Suraya was an off-plan developer with a number of properties in its portfolio. They were advertised by various media houses prompting trust among many Kenyans. With this trust, they managed to acquire a huge clientele network. In a Nation Article, some clients gave tales of how they invested millions into the off plan properties and on top of that others have spent money on legal work to try and re-claim money from the real estate developer. A client said how after saving and spending money on an apartment, she got a terrible building with no street lights, no title deed and a swimming pool that would pass for a dirty pond.
In 2019, investors who said they were scammed formed various social media groups wanting their money back.
The DCI said it was following up the case to see whether it was a case of fraud or poor financial planking.
Dinara Properties founded in 2011 was accused in 2015 for swindling Yufnalis and Roseteller Okuba, the directors of Malcedian Properties limited. Key people linked to Dinara would also be accused in 2020 of failing to deliver on promises through Banda Homes. They sighted the Covid-19 pandemic as the cause for the failure to timely deliver on promises.
Urithi Housing Sacco
Founded in 2012, Urithi grew to have a clientele base of over 30,000. They delivered on their projects and were trusted by both banks and clients.
In 2016, they bought a Sh1 billion property named Panorama Gardens in Murang’a county. Clients bought into the property in doves and the company paid the bank Sh500million out of the Sh1 billion required. The company would fall into turbulent waters and blame an economic slowdown including the 2017 double elections for their predicament. They defaulted on over Sh300 million and even faced a possible auction.
Investors began to worry that they wouldn’t get their money back on this off plan project.
“My money is in panorama and two Joska properties. These are off plan projects that mean no titles unless all investors work towards clearing the remaining balance. I don’t know how else I can redeem my money,” said one of its investors named Daniel Kamotho.
The founder Samuel Maina in 2021 asked buyers to be patient as he finds a solution to the troubles.