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Have you found a property you are interested to acquire? When Buying Property in Kenya, it will be important to take some time to understand the process of transfer and registration of property.  This guide seeks to do just that. Property”, as used in this blog, refers to land and any improvements made thereon. While “transfer” refers to the passing of ownership of property from a seller to a buyer.

Buying Property in Kenya

The first part of this two-part series provides information on several key aspects you need to be aware of before engaging in a property transaction and it answers the questions below:

  • What are the land regimes in Kenya?
  • What are the land tenure systems under which private land is held?
  • Which key state actors are engaged in the course of the property transfer?
  • Will you require to engage professionals to undertake the transfer, which ones?
  • What laws govern land (property) in Kenya?
Buying Property in Kenya

Why is it Necessary?

Buying Property in Kenya involves a process of registration and transfer which can take a substantial period of time. Some basic knowledge of the different aspects of the transfer process shall give you clarity during the process. It will also help you ascertain:

  • The nature of the title you are acquiring (tenure)
  • The incidental rights, privileges, and responsibilities attaching to the property.
  • Whether you are qualified to hold or acquire such property as defined by the laws of the land.
  • The different stages involved in the transfer process.

Securing your interest and protecting your rights to ownership of the property is an integral component of the transfer process.

Land Regimes

Land in Kenya is administered under three regimes:

  • Public lands – Land reserved for public use or environmental protection is administered and managed by National Land Commission as mandated under the Constitution of Kenya, 2010. Some examples of public land include forests, national parks and reserves, protected wetlands and riparian reserves.
  • Community land – These are lands held in trust by communities on basis of ethnicity, culture or similar community interest.
  • Private land – Land held by natural or legal persons. The Department of Land Registration under the Ministry of Lands and Physical Planning is mandated with the task of registration of any interest in private land.

To state the obvious, neither public land nor community land can be held privately.

Private Land Tenure Systems

  • Freehold land tenure system – which gives the holder absolute, lifetime interest in the ownership of the land. Freehold title generally gives unrestricted use and occupation over private land with the exception of some conditional freeholds which may restrict the use of land for agricultural uses only.
  • Leasehold land tenure system – this is the interest in land for a specific period of time subject to payment of land rent to the National government and land rates to the county governments. Once a lease expires the land reverts back to the owner or the leaseholder can apply for a renewal or extension of the lease.

Non-citizens are entitled to hold leasehold land only for 99 years.

State Actors & Professional Services

In the course of Buying Property in Kenya, it is essential to undertake due diligence to verify details of the property under acquisition and to register the transfer of the property. A purchaser and/or their lawyer or estate agent representing them in the transaction will inevitably have to interact with several government departments. These will invariably include The Department of Surveys and The Department of Land Registration. Additionally, it is important to establish the land registry under whose jurisdiction the property shall be transacted. Get a list of all land registries in Kenya.

The assistance of professionals to assist you with the property transfer before and during the process cannot be overstated. Ideally, the services of a knowledgeable property agent, land surveyor and a conveyancing lawyer would be invaluable. You can get a recommendation through professional bodies such as The Law Society of Kenya (Lawyers) and Institute of Surveyors of Kenya ( Estate Agents, Valuers and Surveyors).

Buying Property in Kenya: What are the Property Laws in Kenya Governing The Transfer of Property?

The prolific real estate investor would obviously benefit from being familiar with the laws regulating land in the country. Chapter 5 of The Constitution of Kenya 2010, lays out the principles of land policy for the country and speaks authoritatively to all matters concerning land in Kenya. Additionally, other key laws include:

  1. Land_Act_No_6_of_2012
  2. Land_Registration_Act_No_3_of_2012
  3. Land_Control_Act_Cap_302_(Revised_2012)
  4. National_Land_Commission_Act_No_5_of_2012
  5. Community_Land_Act_No_27_of_2016

More information on the management and administration of land in Kenya can be obtained from The National Land Commission and the Ministry of Lands and Physical Planning. So would you describe your real estate holdings as acquisitions or as investments? Whichever the case, real estate holdings are some of the most lucrative paths to growing capital and earning an income. If you would you like to continue receiving more updates like this please contact us.

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