What to do when you lose a title deed

I lost a folder with documents including my original title deeds when travelling in a matatu from Kerugoya town to Nairobi last weekend. I have spent sleepless nights over the loss as it is the only ownership document I have. My worry is that someone may transfer the title to his or her name before selling it off to unsuspecting third parties. I also imagine that a fraudster may fake my national identity card and use it with the title deed to apply for a bank loan. Are there any legal steps I can take to protect my legal ownership or get a duplicate title deed from the Lands ministry?

Mary Gathoni, Kerugoya

Yes, it is possible to apply to the Registrar for a duplicate title deed or certificate of lease after proving that you indeed lost the original title.
As a starting point, it is important to report the loss to the nearest police station and obtain a police abstract.
However, it would be easier to seek the services of a duly-registered lawyer who will move fast to protect your property from illegal transactions by placing a caveat/caution at the Ministry of Lands.

The caveat is to ensure any fraudster who may come across the lost documents cannot undertake transactions of the property.
The lawyer will also assist in several other processes including filing required legal documents like a statutory declaration before presentation to the Registrar.
The declaration forms, which detail how the documents were lost or destroyed, must be completed by the registered plot owner (you).

If the Registrar is satisfied with the evidence proving the loss of the original documents, he or she will publish your name in the Kenya Gazette.
Your name will also be published in two mainstream newspapers with national circulation before you are issued with duplicate title deeds or certificates of lease after 60 days.

It is worth repeating that no magic is required to prove loss of a title deed or certificate of lease other than reporting to the police and acquiring an abstract.

The other details to be included in the affidavit or a statutory declaration detailing when the document was lost would be the circumstances, searches and efforts made to find them.

A fee is paid to the Government printer for publishing the notice of loss in the Kenya Gazette.

And in cases where a lost title deed or certificate of lease is found, it should be delivered to the Registrar for cancellation.
However, the Registrar also has powers to reinstate any lost or destroyed document in the land register after making inquiries and issue a 60-day notice in the Kenya Gazette.