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Personal Finance

Finally, a Bill to curtail public land grabbing

The current state of non-registration makes such land susceptible to grabbing.
The current state of non-registration makes such land susceptible to grabbing. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

Paul Mutiso is an ambitious entrepreneur in the technology sector. As part of his five- year investment plan, Paul sought to buy a half acre property in Syokimau to build a family home. He began searching online for properties for sale and indeed landed on one that appealed to him.

The sale price was unbelievably low and on inquiry he was told that the price was low because it was an introductory offer. His half acre was part of a 50 acre parcel which the developer was selling in subdivided half acres. The seller was a powerful individual.

He viewed the property and made a decision to buy. He signed a transfer and was issued with a title deed within one month. As part of the value addition services, the seller took up the burden of transferring the title to Paul’s name.

Paul had just received the architect’s drawings and was getting ready to construct his mansion when he received a notice to the effect that the land was illegally acquired. A baffled Paul decided to contact the seller’s agent who did not pick up the calls. Paul then decided to conduct independent investigations.

From his investigations, he found out that the 50 acres had been illegally hived off from land that had been allocated to a nearby public school. He was surprised that the land he paid for was actually public land.

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Paul’s hopes for a family home were dashed as all he had to show for his investment was a worthless piece of paper.

Cases of land fraud are common in Kenya especially where land buying companies are involved. Not all land buying companies are fraudulent however. The state of land fraud is so dire that in 2017 an estimated loss of Sh60 billion was attributed to land fraud. There were also 7,052 reported cases of land fraud as that year.

Land grabbing is also a common occurrence. According to dictionary definition, land grabbing is a swift property acquisition which is fraudulent. Most of the grabbed parcels include spaces meant for public purposes.

Such land is acquired without due process being followed. Often the owners of such properties are not able to prove the legitimacy of acquisition. There are also no historical records to back the acquisition.

This is why it is important to conduct thorough investigations and due diligence before purchasing land. Avoid transactions where the due legal process is not followed. Professionals such as lawyers can assist in the due diligence.

The Land Amendment Bill, 2019 seeks to amend the main land law by providing for issuance of certificates of title for land allocated by third parties for public good. The Registrar of Land is required to register land that has been allocated for public good.

The current state of non-registration makes such land susceptible to grabbing.

Paul’s quest for legal redress was a difficult one, as the best he could do was file a case based on fraud. His quest to have the land transferred to him legitimately was difficult as his lawyer advised him that the courts cannot enforce an illegality.

If the Bill is passed, it means that land allocated for public purposes will be easier to identify and therefore the unsuspecting public will be better informed. Furthermore, it will be easier for the institution which has been allocated such land to claim legitimate ownership.

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