An eviction threat facing more than 200 home buyers in Athi River’s Sunset Boulevard Estate following a dispute between the developer and I&M Bank is a wake-up call to expedite a proposed law allowing for issuance of title deeds for apartment unit owners.
The 204 home buyers are caught in an uncertain situation as the developer fights off a Sh400 million debt claim by the bank, which still holds the title to the entire state.
Without discussing the merits of the dispute that is before court, home buyers who have fully paid for their houses deserve protection in situations such as this one.
Inadequacies in the land laws expose property buyers to risk of loss whenever a developer fails to settle obligations set out by their financiers. The law in its current form states prevents the creation of sectional titles in relation to land previously registered under a developer. Sectional titles can only be listed or created in respect of land itemised under the Registered Land Act, Cap 300.
It means that a developer often retains ownership of the title deed or has it transferred to the company in which the home buyers are shareholders.
This is limiting in many ways including fermenting disputes among property buyers because of the vagueness of ownership and management of common areas such as garbage collection points and children playgrounds.
It also denies apartment buyers the right to block any undesired constructions on the land hosting their property.
Large swathes of urban locations, which are popular with apartment housing, such as Mombasa and Nairobi are greatly affected by the legal hitches because the land in these regions are registered under the Registration of Titles Act Cap 281, which doesn’t allow for creation of sectional titles.
The repeal of this law is therefore long overdue in the interest of home buyers who need to be protected whenever disputes arose between property developers and their project financiers.
Parliament and the Land ministry should co-operate and facilitate a repeal of the law to restore confidence in the property market.
Housing is critical part of the development agenda and the law should adequately safeguard the interests of property buyers.