Land fraud, document forgery will now attract heavy fines and jail time

Cases of culprits arraigned in court over fraudulent transfer of property are increasingly keeping away prospective buyers. Many first-time buyers of homes and popular one-eight-acre plots in the outskirts of Nairobi are the most affected. Majority of buyers of plots in the outskirts of the capital city are middle-income earners who can’t afford skyrocketing prices of houses in the wake of unrealistic mortgages. Therefore, it is tormenting when a buyer pays for land after an official search at the Ministry of Lands only to be told later that the transaction was either illegal or irregular.

Eric, Nairobi

It is an open secret that even some of the best conveyancers (property lawyers) have fallen victim to dubious transactions even after performing due diligence on the transactions.

It is for similar reasons that some senior lands officials have over the recent past been arraigned in court for either aiding or as accomplices to fraudulent transfers.

Some unlucky fraudulent brokers who laugh to the bank as prospective investors lose fortunes over omissions and commissions of corn artists are also being frog-marched to court.

In Nairobi, reported cases of forgery and fraudulent property transactions are part of life. A while 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 two who were out on a Sh300,000 bond also faced two other counts of making and uttering the same document with intent to defraud. Recently, leaders in Kisumu raised a red flag over conmen masquerading as county officials and fraudulently selling land to private developers.

As fraudulent property transaction cases scramble for hearing in courts, convictions in line with the new Land Registration Act 2012 may tame the vice. Those found guilty pay fines of up to Sh5 million, imprisonment not exceeding five years or both.

It is an offence to make a false statement either orally or in writing in property deals. It is also an offence to fraudulently procure the registration or issue any certificate of ownership or document relating to the property.

Others 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 liable upon conviction to pay a fine not exceeding Sh500,000 and an additional Sh100 daily when the offence continues.

- Ayodo is an advocate of the High Court 

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