Owning a Piece of Kenya

Tips for acquiring your family land safely.

Recently my colleague Gitau paid three million Kenya Shillings to purchase a two acre piece of land in Kitengela on which he planned to build his family home. Gitau undertook the necessary site visit and negotiations with the seller and obtained all the necessary documents before he paid the purchase price. However when he went to have the property transferred to his name, the land registrar informed him that the copy of ID provided to him by the seller was fake therefore the land could not be transferred to him. Gitau lost his three million shillings and is now left with mortgage repayments to make and no land.

Majority of us, like Gitau, aspire to own a piece of Kenya in which to settle our families and have them live out their dreams. It is important that we know the three main steps to a fool proof land transaction so that we do not get conned and lose our family inheritance.

First, visit the land without the seller or their agent and make your independent research. A site visit will enable you to acquaint yourself with the physical characteristics of the site. During this site visit keenly observe the physical details including the size and shape of the plot, the soil type, the topography and the neighborhood. You may find that the plot you desire to relocate your family to is located on a cliff, a hill, or a valley or was previously a quarry.

A site visit will also give you an opportunity to make enquiries on the ownership details. While at the site speak to the area residents as they have local knowledge and would have information on land parcels that have long standing disputes or those whose owners have passed away and the land matters are unresolved.

Recently as well a Sacco bought land from an elderly woman in Kajiado as an investment property on behalf of its members. The members were buying the plots to build their family homes. The Sacco entered into the necessary agreements and paid the purchase price. However on the date appointed for showing the members their land parcels, the buyers were met by a hostile reception from the family members together with administration police and the local chief. The family alleged ignorance of the whole transaction and claimed the Sacco was grabbing their land. It later emerged that the registered owner of the land was deceased and the family had not yet obtained letters of administration. The Sacco has now lost credibility in the face of their members and their members have to pay back sacco loans for nonexistent land crippling their family finances.

Secondly, make enquires on the status of the land from the land registry. Enquiries are made to confirm the property details such as ownership, location, size, permitted use and encumbrances such as loans and other interests registered against the property.

Usually the first enquiry is an official title search which is simply an application to the land registrar for the land details of a particular property. However, a title search is not enough. Most of us when in excitement to own our family land and have something in our names end at just the Title Search. Please take the next step! Proof of ownership, the physical plan and survey map of the plot also need to be inspected. It is also VERY important to inspect the original physical plan that was prepared for the property to be certain that the property was not reserved for public use.

You may recall the intended demolition in May last year of homes in South B which were developed on land initially reserved for the Kenya Veterinary Vaccines Production Institute. The homeowners in that instance were lucky because the demolition exercise was stopped by the local Senator through the personal intervention of his Excellency. If the property owners had conducted proper due diligence, they would have found that the land was originally reserved for a public purpose. Please do not lose your family inheritance, check check check.

Thirdly and finally, use credible professionals throughout the transaction. These professionals include an Estate Agent, Physical Planner, Surveyor, Valuer and a Lawyer.
An estate agent will advise you if this is the best deal you can get in the market. A physical planner will advise you of the legally permitted use for the property while a surveyor will advise on you whether the location and size of the land is the same as what is indicated in the title documents. A property valuer will assess for you the market value of the property as a guide for negotiation of the purchase price and a lawyer will act on your behalf to ensure that the legal documentation is completed to enable you to transfer the land into your own name.

You must confirm that the professional is registered with the relevant professional society and statutory registration board as these institutions can take disciplinary action their member should the professional con you. However a Registration Board cannot take action against non members – like in the case of Mugo wa Wairimu the rogue obs/gynae who was not registered with the Kenya Medical Practioners and Dentists Board, his victims couldn’t institute legal recourse.

Professional fees generally comprise approximately 5% of the total transaction costs. However, it is cheaper to use professionals than to risk losing the entire purchase price in a fraudulent transaction in the same way that my colleague Gitau lost three million shillings. You can imagine having to face your devastated family whose lives will have been ruined.
For the sake of your family, please take your time to plan and check and you will then surely be the proud owner of a piece of Kenya.

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