Don’t be conned: Legal procedure for buying land in Kenya

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Land buying follows the basic principles of law of contract. The seller is supposed to disclose any defects on the title, e.g. if it’s being used as a security against a bank loan. Land buying requires that all legal and contractual procedures are followed to avoid future conflicts, which may lead to double loss. Before investing your money on any piece of land, follow the following steps:

Search at Ministry of Lands

Search with Ministry of Lands at district or county headquarters to ascertain the true land owners and establish the presence of brokers and if the title has been charged or has a caveat, for instance, when it has been used to secure a loan, or there is a court order barring any transaction on the land.

A search costs Ksh520 and should be ready within two hours. A valid search should be no more than six months old.

Land rates

Visit the Local Council (municipal or county) to confirm any unpaid land rates which you will need to factor in when deciding the purchase price. Cost varies from county to county. In Nairobi, you will be required to have a certificate of clearance from the Nairobi City County, which costs Ksh7,500 and should be ready normally within two hours.

If there are prevailing unpaid land rates you would need to agree with the seller on who will settle them as the land cannot be sold (transferred) with outstanding land rates.

When buying land follow the right steps to avoid losing your money.

Land Map

Visit the local surveyor and purchase maps of the place, normally two, one drawn to scale (informally known as tracing or mutation) and another showing the neighbouring farms, costing Ksh300 per map. You can buy these at the Lands Ministry but a surveyor is better and faster.

Ground Verification

Armed with the map, the surveyor and the seller visit the land on the ground. Have a tape measure to confirm the dimension from the map drawn to scale. Make sure you see the beacons or replace the lost ones. Surveyors charge about Ksh1,000 per beacon. Make sure the bordering neighbours are in agreement with the boundaries.

Agreement

The law requires any land transaction to be in writing. It is very advisable to have a lawyer (though not a must). According to the tariff provided by Law Society of Kenya the lawyer should charge Ksh3000 if land cost is Ksh1,000,000 and below and Ksh8,000 if land value is above Ksh1,000,000. Lawyer’s cost is normally shared equally between buyer and seller.

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Ensure that the spouse to the seller is present at this stage or at least the spouse is aware and agrees with the transaction to avoid later complications.

Post Agreement Transaction

According to the agreement, you may be pay in cash or installment. Ensure by the time you make the initial payment the title deed and other legal documents are in the custody of the lawyers. This is because the seller still owns the piece of land and may involve other transactions using the title deed, which may harm you financially.

Land Control Board

Book the Land Control Board (LCB) meeting. The LCB is a forum made of the Assistant County Commissioners (Previously called DOs) and the local village elders which meets once a month. They are the ones who give the final consent for the land to be sold. Their role is to protect the seller from self-destruction e.g. where a man is selling land without wife’s knowledge and they don’t have anywhere else to go or the land being sold is clan/community land. LCB costs Ksh1000.

However, there is a special Land Control Bond (SCLB), which involves only the Assistant County Commissioner and the two transacting parties instead of waiting for the main LCB that meets once per month. SCLB costs Ksh5,000 and may take two hours depending with availability of the Assistant County Commissioner.

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Land Transfer

After all payments, the seller signs Land Transfer Forms which together with Consent from LCB, land search, clearance from county/ municipal council, passport photos, KRA PIN, agreement and old title deed are taken to the Ministry of Lands to change ownership. It costs Ksh5,000 to process new title which should be ready within two weeks.

Stamp Duty and Transfer Fees

You will need to pay stamp duty based on the value of land, i.e four per cent for municipalities and two per cent for reserve.

Post Purchase Activity

After one week, the buyer should do another search with the Ministry of Lands to confirm that the land now reads his/her details.