If you own a piece of land in Nairobi, including an interest in land situated within Nairobi County (and eventually across the country) then you need to be appraised on the recent development of title conversions.
Context: What Necessitated The Title Conversions?
Despite the seeming suddenness of the title conversion process, it is deeply rooted in the land management and administrative reforms that have happened in Kenya prior to and since the enactment of the Constitution of Kenya 2010.
The title conversion process will be implemented in phases (batches) across all land registries in the country as an integral component of the social and administrative reforms that were envisaged by the enactment of the Constitution of Kenya 2010 which saw the introduction of new legislation designed to establish more efficient administration and management of land, curb the incidences of land fraud and introduce greater efficiency in the conduct of property transactions.
The Government of Kenya took the decision to implement these reforms as a key aspect of the country’s Vision 2030 agenda which is implemented through five-year Medium Term Sector Plans. Among the reforms include the modernization, expansion and increase of land registries, the development of a National Land Information Management System, the establishment of a Land Records Conversion Centre (LRCC) for the digitization of land records, the land adjudication and titling programme which is a social reform measure which bequeaths especially small landholders greater autonomy and benefits of land ownership, preparation of a National Spatial Plan and County Spatial Plans, land cover and land use mapping – which includes the revision of topographical and thematic maps, the review of physical and land tenure profiles, the establishment of Special Economic Zones and a myriad other reforms.
Title Conversion was the natural progression from the consolidation of land laws in the country and was envisioned as an integral activity of the flagship project to establish a National Land Title Register under the Vision 2030 Sector MTP of 2013-2017, in accordance with the Land Registration Act, 2012.
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The National Land Title Register would be established to contain all land records in the country with the conversion of existing land under various land registration statutes to the Land Registration Act, 2012 being one of the activities that would be implemented.
The conversion would also facilitate the transfer of the converted land records to the county land registries for improved service delivery, planning and efficiency and the issuance of both manual and digital certificates of title, as well as providing a more efficient mechanism for the resolution of land fraud and disputes.
Title Conversion: The Rollout Process
Prior to the Land Registration Act, 2012, land registration was done under several legislations that included the Registered Land Act (RLA), the Registration of Titles Act (RTA), the Land Titles Act (LTA), and the Government Lands Act (GLA), all of which have since been repealed by the enactment of the Land Registration Act, 2012.
As of the date of publishing this blog piece, there are already four Gazette notices (No. 11348 issued on 31 December 2020, No. 520 issued on 26 January 2021, No. 1706 issued on 23 February 2021 and No. 1707 also issued on 23 February 2021) issued pursuant to regulation 4 (4) of the Land Registration (Registration Units) Order, 2017, by the Cabinet Secretary for Lands and Physical Planning, notifying the general public that land reference numbers within the jurisdiction of the Nairobi Land Registration Unit have been converted to new parcel numbers.
The implication is that all transactions or dealings relating to the parcels with converted registration details shall from April 1, 2021, be carried out in the new registers. Currently, the batches against which conversion lists and cadastral maps have been issued to date only affect land held under the Nairobi Land Registration Unit.
What Will the Effect of Title Conversion be on Current Land Ownership?
In essence, the effect of the conversion will be the issuance of new title deeds under different/new registration numbers with the purposed of unifying and consolidating the registers under these hitherto laws which have since been repealed and then place the registration under a unitary law—the Land Registration Act, 2012.
It is noteworthy to mention that the conversion of titles is deemed to be purely an administrative change and is not expected to occasion the alteration of land sizes, nor to interfere with the ownership rights or in any way take away any obligations or interest thereon.
The administrative goals of the conversion are many but it is envisaged that the title conversion will reduce the complexity of land registration in the country not only in the hopes that land fraud can be reduced, but to also introduce greater efficiency at the registries.
The conversion process will eventually be rolled out all across the country and will, with each batch, involve the preparation of cadastral maps alongside a corresponding conversion schedule detailing both the old and new title numbers for all the parcels of land within the registration unit/section/or block with the corresponding sizes of each of the units on that cadastral map. The Cadastral maps will be detailed and will include information on ownership, size of the parcel and any changes that have occurred in the proprietorship of the property.
Title Conversion: What Happens To Title Documents Issued As Security?
The registered owner (proprietor) of the land is required to liaise with the parties that have a secured interest in the property to apply for the replacement which shall nonetheless have any prior registered interests noted in the registry.
Title Conversion: What Should You Do If Your Property is on a Title Conversion List?
- Note the new title registration number and keep a record of it.
- Compare the record of the new title registration number to the property details in the cadastral map with the record of your current title to ensure that they match. Note that ownership, size, and any interests registered against an old title will not be affected.
- In the event that there are discrepancies noted, you may proceed to lodge a complaint with the Registrar of Lands. Upon the issuance of a gazette notice for title conversion, any person with an interest in land within the registration unit who is aggrieved by the information in the conversion list or the cadastral maps has 90 days from the date of the gazette notice to make a complaint in the prescribed format to the Registrar or to apply to the Registrar in the prescribed format for the registration of a caution pending the clarification or resolution of any complaint. The Registrar is required to resolve the complaint within 30 days of the same.
It is important when a gazette notice is issued to effect title conversion, that the proprietor or anyone with interest in the property, ensure the details of their land are correct.
However, a landowner or any person with an interest in a parcel of land listed for conversion, who may feel aggrieved by the changes to the land reference numbers, has the right to make a complaint to the Registrar of Lands.
Title Conversion: What Process Shall You Follow To Receive Your New Title
After lapse of the 90 day notice period, you will be required to surrender your current title using the prescribed procedure (provided for in the Gazette Notice specific to the conversion list in which your property appears) in order to receive your new title deed with the new title number. The notice and procedure for the surrender their current titles will be issued by the Ministry of Lands will
As a proprietor of the land you will be required to submit to the Registrar of Lands a completed Form LRA 97 with the original title deed alongside certified copies of your identification (individuals) or certified copies of the certificate of incorporation and identification documents of the directors or partners if the property is registered in the name of a corporate entity.
Due to the large number of fraud cases associated with land transactions in the country, the move to introduce the reforms and to effect the administrative changes occasioned by the changes in law was always going to be met with some degree of suspicion. However, the Ministry of Lands has gone to great lengths to assuage these fears and even offer clarifications on what the changes actually mean, and how they will be effected
In line with the land registration process now being managed and administered under a unitary legislative framework, the Land Registration Act, 2012, deed plans (Survey Maps) will effectively be replaced by what will called Registry Index Maps. Currently, you can buy survey maps from the Department of Surveys under the Ministry of Lands and Physical Planning. The same will be true for the Registry Index Maps. The key distinction between the two will be that with the Registry Index Maps, all land parcels within an area will be displayed on the map unlike deed plans which only display the records of a single parcel.
Each proprietor and anyone with an interest in land affected by the changes, as they occur, needs to inform themselves about the changes and how those changes will affect them. This means that in due course, as more and more registration units across the country are folded into the title conversion process, the general public will need to be aware of the process and to ensure that they eventually secure their rightful ownership documents.
While the title conversion process has already rolled out in Nairobi County, it is expected to take 2 years to migrate from the old system of land registration to the new process across the entire country, with all the registration units across the country completing their conversion lists and cadastral maps for the same by December 2022.