New law will nail land cheats in Kenya

Rising cases of fraudulent transfer of property are keeping away prospective buyers, with potential first time homebuyers and buyers of plots in the outskirts of Nairobi being the most affected.

The majority of buyers of plots in the capital’s suburbs are middle-income earners who cannot afford the skyrocketing prices of houses and high mortgage charges.

It is therefore tormenting for them to pay for land after conducting an official search at the Ministry of Lands only to be told after building that the transaction was illegal or irregular. Even the best conveyance lawyers have fallen victim to the dubious transactions even after undertaking due diligence on the transactions.

In the past, we have seen some senior lands officials being arraigned in court for being accomplices or aiding fraudulent transfers.


The affected civil servants often deny charges of corruption, fraud and abuse of office before courts release them on bond and sureties.

In Nairobi, reported cases of forgery and fraudulent property transactions are part of everyday life. A fortnight ago, two men were charged in a Mombasa court with forgery of documents containing judicial proceedings of a piece of land in dispute for over 37 years.

The suspects, who are out on a Sh300,000 bond, also face two other counts of making and altering the documents with an intent to defraud.

Recently, Kisumu Governor Jack Ranguma raised a red flag over conmen masquerading as county government officials, fraudulently selling land to private developers.

In Nandi County, the county executive in charge of lands and environment, John Chumo, accused a former lands official of alleged issuance of titles without following legal procedures. Dr Chumo spoke as over 100 title deeds suspected to be fake were seized in the county after allegedly being issued to unsuspecting landowners.

As the increasing fraudulent property transaction cases scramble for hearing in courts, convictions in line with the Land Registration Act may contain the vice.

According to the law, guilty culprits should be slapped with fines of up to Sh5 million, imprisonment of up to five years, or both.

The law provides that it is an offence to make a false statement either orally or in writing in property transactions.

It is also an offence to fraudulently procure the registration or issue any certificate of ownership or document relating to a property.

Other offences include making an entry or endorsement of a matter on a document involving property transactions. The law also forbids fraudulently altering, adding, erasing, mutilating or destroying documents relating to land.

Even investors who illegally develop property on public land are offenders liable, upon conviction, to pay a fine not exceeding Sh500,000 and an additional Sh100 daily when the offence continues.

—The writer is an advocate of the High Court.