Columnists

The conversion of title deeds timely and long overdue

land (1)
mwathane

Summary

  • A gazette notice last December, anchored on a Land Registration order of November 2017, kick-started the process of converting Kenya’s title deeds.

A gazette notice last December, anchored on a Land Registration order of November 2017, kick-started the process of converting Kenya’s title deeds, previously issued under multiple legal regimes, to a single regime under the Land Registration Act of 2012.

When the notice hit public space early this month, there was anxiety and confusion about what the conversion was about, and whether it doesn’t provide an opportunity for the dispossession of landowners. There was concern that it may open a window for mischief by unscrupulous officials, middlemen and quacks who have muddled up our land administration system for long.

These concerns were valid. Until then, there was a big information gap, and hardly any public sensitisation on the matter.

But the coordinating state Ministry of Land and Physical Planning moved with speed to mitigate these gaps. Cabinet secretary Farida Karoney issued a prompt and comprehensive public statement whose content was widely covered in the local media. It also circulated widely on social media. The statement, along with extra information, including FAQs, was quickly posted on the ministry’s website (www.lands.go.ke) to help debunk pertinent public concerns. This makes it easy to establish that the exercise will be countrywide, is phased and commences with Nairobi County, and is intended to end in December.

The process requires landowners holding title deeds or leases not issued under the Land Registration Act to apply for migration of such documents for conformity. Applicants will not be required to pay any statutory fees. The ownership details, size and any registered interests on the land won’t be changed and will remain as on the old titles.

But what’s the background and justification to this? Kenya’s 2010 Constitution required that the existing land laws be revised, consolidated or rationalised. This was because the laws were many, and some were inconsistent and incompatible. Subsequently, substantive land law was collapsed into the Land Act for public and private land. Substantive law on community land is now anchored in the Community Land Act. The various land registration laws which had been used in parallel since formal law was applied to our jurisdiction were repealed under the Land Registration Act. This law now provides for the registration of all rights to land in Kenya.

Furthermore, this law provided for the use of a cadastral map to be maintained for each registration unit. The ministry’s statement clarifies that the Registry Index Map will now be used as the cadastral map to support registration of title under the Land Registration Act.

Therefore, a situation where we would continue to have some ownership documents issued under the repealed Indian Transfer of Property Act, Land Titles Act, Registration of Titles Act, Government Lands Act or Registered Land Act, some with deed plans as the supporting map, in routine use, would be anomalous. Indeed, this migration was long overdue. There’ll be challenges too. But it behoves the ministry, stakeholders and titleholders to resolve these as they emerge.