Landowners in Kenya can now breath a sigh with relief following the passing of a new law, The Land Registration Act 2012, that gives provision for plot owners to apply for a duplicate copy of a title deed or certificate of lease in the event of the loss of the original documents.
A title deed is a crucial document that proves ownership of property and in a country where land is highly valued, like Kenya, land ownership has been a leading cause of inter-tribal conflicts as well as family wrangles hence the loss of such crucial documents often spells doom to the proprietor.
KILLING FOR LAND
Cases of a brother killing his fellow brother because of a land wrangle, children orchestrating deaths of their old father in order to get their inheritance, are not new in the country. A most recent chilling story is that of the disgruntled woman who arranged for her husband to be murdered in order for her to keep ownership of a land whose commercial value had risen to new heights but fortunately he survived the ordeal to tell the story.
Land grabbing has also been rife in the country hence possessing a title deed is imperative when it comes to proving ownership in the event of a court battle. Even though banks have the provision of safeguarding important documents for individuals, most people keep their documents in ‘safe’ places of their choice inside their homes, a practice that has often seen the much treasured documents ending up in the wrong hands and the perpetrators have sold properties to the shock of the actual owners.
In the event of the loss of the original title deeds, a property owner is advised to engage a lawyer so that that a Caveat is placed on the plot at the Lands Registry, this in theory ensures that fraudsters cannot make any legal transactions on the property at hand.
THE NEW LAW
According to the new law, investors only need to produce evidence of loss or destruction of their ownership document and fill in the required legal documents. If the registrar is satisfied with the evidence he will gazette the names of the registered owners which will also be published in two mainstream newspapers that boast a national circulation and after 60 days issue a duplicate title deed, or certificate of lease.
However, the news is not all good given the now frequent demolitions witnessed in the country. Scores of Kenyans have lost their lifetime investments in homes despite having legal title deeds as fraudsters keep working in cahoots with officials at the Lands Ministry to issue fake title deeds to unsuspecting victims. The aftermath has been massive demolitions as was witnessed two years ago in Syokimau, and just recently the Langata demolitions on claims that the houses were build on road reserves.
WILL IT WORK?
The big question now is whether the new system that allows for duplicated title deeds will benefit the actual property owners or if the system will just open a new front for fraudsters and the criminals in the Lands Ministry to fleece law abiding citizens of their hard earned investments.