How to protect your property from fraudsters

Stanley Keter at his farm in Kenya Mpya settlement  in the Mau Forest Complex on July 3,2014.He claims strangers have visited his farm severally saying they have bought the land and he should prepare to vacate.He has no title deed and fears he would soon lose the land.[PHOTO:KIPSANG JOSEPH/STANDARD]

Kenya: Imagine yourself armed with a title deed after working to acquire a prime piece of land only to find a perimeter wall built around it and a security guard who treats you like a trespasser. You lodge complaints, attend court hearings and make ceaseless visits to the lands office but don’t go far. However, prevention is always better than cure. Before embarking on a sale, it is important to do due diligence. Do not resort to quick fixes or shortcuts. Short-circuiting procedures can only go the wrong way. After identifying the piece of land that meets your needs in terms of size, location and budget, you should get a copy of the title deed to do a search at the lands registry.

It takes 24 hours to get search results after filling a search application form attached to the title deed and paying a fee of Sh500. Search results show details of the land, including the registered owner, acreage, as well as any encumbrances registered against the title deed such as court orders and caveats. You should also have a sale agreement. Appoint a lawyer to represent you in the signing of the agreement, which is normally drawn by the sellers’ lawyer. It indicates terms of sale, name of the buyer and seller, the price of land, mode of payment, and documents to facilitate registration of the transfer of land to buyer.

After payment of the agreed amount, mostly a ten per cent deposit which must be held under a stakeholder basis, the agreement is signed and stamped to make it legally binding. The rest of the money is paid within 90 days. The buyer is required to pay for the valuation of the land by the State valuer and finally the registration transfer is done in favour of the buyer.

Documents

After procuring your piece of land and having the proper documentation, protect it by all means. How safe is your property if it is just lying around without a hint of possession? Fraudsters could pounce on it.

There are a number of ways to secure your property. It is advisable to build a perimeter wall, but in case of budget constraints, a chain link protected with barbed wire fence can serve the purpose.

Employ a caretaker or a security guard. Also conduct regular searches at the Lands office to ensure that changes have not happened without your knowledge. This kind of vigilance will ensure that you know the state of your land at all times.

You could also mortgage or charge your property to the bank. The advantage of this is that when a property search is carried out and a partnership with a name of note is next to it, that property automatically demands respect. Not to mention that you can use it as security for loans to develop your land and get overdrafts for other contingencies.

Putting up a signboard written ‘NOT FOR SALE’ in bold is another preventive measure. Where applicable, a number may be added. It is necessary to know your neighbour. They will give you the ins and outs of the area where your property is.

Finally, know your documents. It is easy to get duped if you do not have sufficient knowledge of the documents you should have. Some of the key documents one should have include a title deed, a deed plan (a sketch showing the exact location, shape, and measurement of a plot or piece of land), and a sales agreement.

You also need to engage an established and registered property agent when buying your property, and also get a good lawyer to carry out due diligence and transactions for you.

—The writer is the CEO, Financial and Property Consultants Ltd

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