I know you have heard of stories where Kenyans have lost their money from land-buying fraudulent schemes, others have been conned buying land in Kenya yet the land has been sold to 3 more people, so you are four legitimate owners of one piece of land. In other instances you buy land belonging to the government, public land, it’s seated in a road reserve or a riparian ground. Many Kenyans have shed tears losing their hard-earned money to these land con artists. Regrettably, these land fraudsters do not get to see the doors of the prison and in many cases, they vanish with your money. If you don’t want to be conned while buying land in Kenya then due diligence is a must-take exercise.
Land in Kenya is a very valuable asset to own. These days land can be compared to the value of precious minerals such as diamond and gold. Among the investments Kenyans consider worthy is owning land since it doesn’t depreciate and in any case, it keeps on appreciating day by day. The demand for land in Kenya has risen and so is the value and with such market forces, there have risen cases of fraudsters looking to make quick money. It is, for this reason, that one should be able to learn all the pitfalls and avoid being a victim of land fraudsters in Kenya who will have no mercy swindling you a few million. Here are things you need to do to avoid being a victim of land fraud in Kenya.
- Categorization of land
One thing to keep in mind is that land in Kenya is categorized into commercial, residential, agricultural, forest land, road reserves, riparian reserves, industrial, flight paths, industrial land, wildlife corridors, and historical sites among others. When land is categorized in this manner it’s usually referred to as zoning. Before going ahead and purchasing the land to develop it you should enquire about which zoning the land is categorized. Always enquire from the county government or the national government whether you can use the land you intended to buy for that purpose. Also one should take precautions when buying land that is too close to the highway, airports, national parks, forests, historical sites, or any public land.
2. Valuation Must Be Done
When buying land seek the services of a valuer. Valuation of land can protect you from exploitation by land brokers and sellers. Valuation determines the real market value of the land you intend to buy. Some land brokers may take advantage and sell triple the current market price if you aren’t careful.
3. The Seller Of The Land Should Appear In Person
Among the things we advise buyers of land in Kenya to do is, having a physical meeting with the owner of the land. I know you might say they are abroad but if that’s the case insist on meeting their family and also hire the services of an advocate. If truly the owner is abroad you might request to have a recorded virtual meeting, ask for copies of their national identity cards, and KRA PIN certificates, and if the seller is not an individual but a company ask for the PIN certificates of the directors, and their national card identities.
4. Talk to the Neighbors
When buying land among the things one should do, is gather information from neighbors. Neighbors should be a source of very good information since they have been there longer than you and they know much about the seller and the land in question. They can be able to tell you whether its family land, whether there have been any disputes before, family squabbles, boundary issues, whether it was a settlement scheme, it meant for public utilities, it’s community land, whether there have been other buyers and such kind of information. Carry photos of the sellers or the purported director of the land for purposes of showing the neighbors just to confirm if they are the real owners of the land. From the information, you will get you can be able to assess whether what you’re buying is genuine and whether the owners are the real owners.
5. Physical visit to the site
Before buying land in Kenya, my dear friends follow the golden rule of believing what you see and not what you have been told or read somewhere online. Physical visits are very crucial because they give you a clear view of whether the land meets your expectations. Sellers can promise you amenities, good fertile land, and very good weather. However, that might be true because it’s not in the rainy season and when the rainy season comes the area becomes inhabitable due to floods. Remember there is this Upmarket Green Park Estate which is located in Athi River and when it rains the whole estate floods with water. The buyers of this estate failed to take into account the Stoni Athi River and the land sits in a riparian land.
6. You Must Seek the Services of A Survey
In Kenya, some landowners usually are not honest with the actual size of the land. It’s always advisable to seek the services of a surveyor to confirm the integrity of the land beacons and the boundaries of the land. A surveyor usually comes with a survey map obtained from the national or county land offices which shows the actual location of the beacons and the boundaries of the land. One of the hardest things to forge is a survey map unlike a title deed or a search among other documents.
7. Do Due Diligence On The Title Deed
When buying land in Kenya you must search to ascertain the seller is the actual owner of the land you are about to buy. If the land is owned by a company then search for the company’s directors and other shareholders in the registry.
Why is a title deed search so important in Kenya?
1. One of the reasons for doing a title deed search is that you will know who is the real owner of the land you’re about to buy.
2. You will have an idea whether the land is owned by a company and if yes who are the directors and shareholders of that company selling the land.
3. If you fail to undertake a title deed search then you will never know if the land had an encumbrance such as a caveat, a bank charge, or a restriction.
4. If a dispute occurs in the future then you have a legal basis claiming for compensation since you did an official search and you followed the law.
5. If you undertake a title deed search then you will have an idea of the size of the land as captured in the land records.
6. A history of the land will be able to retrieve where you can be able to tell whether the land belongs to the Kenya national government, a lease from an export processing zone, or a county government, and how many years are remaining in the lease, or if at all it’s a freehold does it belong to the seller.
7. A title deed search also avails details regarding the amount of rent payable to the government if there is any in this case.
8. Crisscross The Legitimacy Of Documents Supplied
In Kenya land fraudsters forge wills, they forge letters of allotment, sales agreements share certificates, title deeds, and land transfer documents among other documents used in the land-buying process. In areas where you think it’s a rural area or it’s an agricultural land these land fraudsters can forge minutes of the Land Control Board, they can even draft a transfer consent letter from the land control board, as well as present to you with a subdivision consent letter. Be very keen and do due diligence on the legitimacy of the documents you are presented with. Here are a few things to do to verify the legitimacy of the documents for buying land in Kenya.
- You should ask the court registry to confirm the authenticity of the letters of probate (in a scenario where the real owner of the land is dead and the family is selling the land) letters of administration, the stamp, and seal of the court plus the signature of the judge.
- You must ask for the court file just to peruse the file in case there is a matter of succession.
- Do visit the county government and request to be served with copies of the minutes of the LCB and the minutes of the county meeting that approved the allotment. Also, you should ask them to verify the letters of allotment at hand.
- When buying land an advocate represents the buyer and the seller. Do check with the advocate whose name and address appear on the documents whether he or she indeed prepared and witnessed the sale of the land. If you cannot be able to trace their address just check on the Law Society of Kenya website https://online.lsk.or.ke/
- Do visit in person the Land Control Board and verify the authenticity of the documents and signatures you have.
Remember that it might appear to be tedious work, moving from office to office and verifying the authenticity of the documents but in the long run, it will pay off. Just imagine yourself losing millions of shillings you have worked for so long in a matter of a day.
9. Take Note Of The Land Rates And Land Rent
With the copies, you have of the title deed you can be able to check any outstanding land rent on the land you are about to buy by logging in to your eCitizen account and navigating to the ministry of lands section. In case the eCitizen doesn’t have such details you should proceed to Ardhi House in Nairobi with the land number as they can retrieve all the records of the land or the local county land registration office can shed more light on the rent. With this information, you can be able to tell what the land rate is, how much land rent should be paid to the National Government and the land rates to be paid to the county government.
Remember some landowners do not remit to the national government and the county government the land rent and the land rates. This leads to huge penalties imposed and if you aren’t careful this will stall the land buying process for a long time since the land registries cannot allow the transfer of land to take place without first settling the debt. This is where one is provided with rent and rates clearance certificates from the national and county governments.
10. Before Signing Of The Sale Agreement Do,
Sign the sale agreement after you have fulfilled the above matters and everything has checked out to be right. Do have a sale agreement that is in writing and if you can as well tape it and it should be signed by both parties and a witness such as an advocate should be present. Always engage a lawyer when buying land.
Put a Fence on the land
If you have already signed a sale agreement and you have already remitted a 10% deposit a clever way to catch a fraudster is by fencing the land and putting some stone blocks. This can be done pending the completion of the registration of the land and the issuance of a new title deed. When you do this if by any chance the land doesn’t belong to the seller then it’s just a matter of time before the real owner is notified of the new developments taking place. Fencing usually discourages encroachment and also unearths the untold stories.
Do not worry about losing the 10% deposit just in case something turns up, worry about losing 100% of your total investment.
11. Never Do This While Buying Land in Kenya
1. Never buy the land of a deceased person when the matters of succession haven’t been formally finalized.
2. Do not buy land that is too close to the road, schools, rivers, public utilities, lakes among other public amenities.
3. Buying land under leasehold which has just a few years before the lease has expired.
4. Paying for a commitment fee or a booking fee.
5. Paying a deposit before signing the sale agreement. Never pay a deposit before this crucial stage has been legally undertaken.
6. Never pay more than a 10% deposit of the purchase price and clear the 90% after the land has been transferred to your name and the title deed has been issued with your name appearing to the land registry.
12. Be Careful With Certificate of Land or Certificate of Ownership of Land or Certificate of Possession.
We have heard stories of people buying land in Kenya and being given a certificate of possession rather than a title deed.
Remember that even though a certificate of possession might mean the buyer paid for the land it really doesn’t prove they have legally owned the land. It’s only a title deed that proves ownership but anything reading certificate just avoids it and runs away.
Many land selling companies issue buyers with certificates of possession, but the reason they do this is because they purchase land which has a mother title and the land is subdivided into parcels. In many cases, this process is very controversial and many are the times you find one piece of land is owned by 5 or more individuals all claiming they have the certificate of possession.
Though there might be a genuine reason why the title deeds haven’t been issued and they will be issued later do enquire on the timeline when they are most likely going to be issued.
Buying land in Kenya is among the best investments one can undertake but also one of the riskiest. Always involve the services of a lawyer so that you as the buyer your interest are well protected. Follow the due process according to the law step by step and you will never worry about a dispute arising from the land you legally bought. The above is a complete guide of things you should know before buying land in Kenya.