Posters with the announcement “This Plot is not for Sale” are a common sight in Nairobi and its outskirts. A rather more interesting poster that announces/declares “THIS LAND BELONGS TO LANGATA PRIMARY SCHOOL” stands so tall just next to the road, near the sports field of Langata primary School.
But what is the purpose of these posters? Do they even serve any purpose?
It is important to understand the history of an issue before attempting to dissect it, or even to understand it at its current state. Why do people label their land as “not for sale”?
Like in most countries, land in Kenya and is a controversial topic. Everyone struggles to own a piece of land, however small. It is another common sight to find a storeyed building with about 20 apartments built on an eighth of an acre of land; and of course, having sectional titles their apartments. Land is a must have in Kenya.
And when something is a must have, there are people who play with their power to rob others of their land. Since it is a matter of land, we may not use the word “robbery” but “land grabbing”.
Land grabbing is one of the challenges the land sector faces in Kenya. It is important to remember/to know that Charity Ngilu the former Lands Minister, the Chief Land Registrar, the Deputy Chief Land Registrar, the Senior Deputy Director of Survey and the Registrar of Titles were suspended from office sometime in March 2015 following an accusation of being involved in the misallocation of city prime land worth 8 billion shillings.
Even the big and tall poster along Langata Road declaring that “THIS LAND BELONGS TO LANGATA PRIMARY SCHOOL” is a form of “affirmative action” to address the wrong that was done to the school and to pre-emptively warn anyone else who may want to convert the land that comprises the school sports field into their private property. The poster was actually erected following the world-wide publication of Kenya’s land grabbing issues sometime in January 2015. A hotel that is next to the school’s sports field fenced off the sports field and intended to use it as part of their land, something that prompted a demonstration from the civil society and from the school pupils.
Had it not been for the highhandedness with which the police handled the demonstration, then the sports field, may be, and would not have been saved. The use of unnecessary and un-proportionate force to crack down the protest received a lot of media attention and international outrage that forced the government to look into the issue that led to a conclusion that the land indeed belonged to Langata primary school and not the fancy hotel.
Whereas the posters may serve the purpose of giving actual notice to a potential buyer that the land is not for sale, it is not enough to protect your land simply with a poster saying “this plot is not for sale” there are many con-artists who know how to go around such “small challenges” and can still acquire your property despite the size of the poster, the font size of the words on the poster and the colour in which the words on the poster are depicted.
There are better ways you can use to protect your land from being grabbed, from being disposed of fraudulently.
The first and sure way to safeguard your property is by registering it with the land registry. It must go without saying that this does not protect your land one hundred present. However, the government guarantees the safety of your land if it is registered. This is done through the issuance of a land title that is good and enforceable against the whole world. Just make sure to register your title through a trusted attorney at law and avoid quick schemes at getting the title, to avoid falling in a conman’s trap. A fake land title cannot be enforceable against anyone.
Soon after registration, you can lodge a caution on the property if you have suspicions that someone may want to fraudulently dispose of your property. A caution is meant to warn anyone who would carry out a search at the registry, regarding your land that you have not consented to such transfer/disposal. Anyone who would go ahead to purchase the land or even to claim it as theirs despite your caution on the property would not be regarded as a bonafide purchaser for value in good faith. The danger of not being regarded as a bonafide purchaser for good value in good faith is that it defeats your title and therefore your title is not good and enforceable against the whole world.
If you are already a victim of a fraudulent transfer, please call your attorney as soon as you read this. Your attorney will be able to advise you on the best way forward, including the chances of petitioning court for a prohibition to be lodged on the land. A prohibition essentially prohibits the registrar of land from issuing title to the property to any other person until the suit is disposed of.
So, do not be constrained to pre-emptively warn passers-by that your “plot is not sale”. Chances are that they are not so interested in your property. There are better legal ways to do it, ways that protect your land better than the posters can do.
What are you waiting for?
This article appears in our weekly law digital magazine, The Deuteronomy Vol 7, Issue 3 of October 21st, 2016
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