There is no limit to how much land you can own

Until Kenya enacts a law on the minimum and maximum land sizes, individuals are free to own as much land as they want. [Photo: Eric Abuga/Standard]

I want to buy a parcel of land on which I plan to put up about 12 maisonettes and also set aside two acres for a recreational park and playground. Negotiations with the seller are at an advanced stage but I wanted to know whether there is either a maximum or minimum size of land that an individual can constitutionally own.

Mario, Mombasa.

Currently, there is no law in the country that provides for either the minimum or maximum parcel of land an individual can own.

Article 68(i) of the Constitution empowers Parliament to prescribe minimum and maximum private land holding acreages.

Ownership sizes will, therefore, become applicable after the law is formulated and implemented.

The Land Act stipulates that a scientific study on the economic viability of minimum and maximum land sizes was to be commissioned.

The findings of the study were to be subjected to public comments in line with the constitution before debate and adoption in Parliament.

Rules prescribing the acreages — based on the scientific study report — were then to be published by the Cabinet Secretary for Lands.

According to the Land Act, the scientific study is mainly to determine the economic viability of private land acreages in various zones countrywide. The Cabinet Secretary for Lands is required to table the final report to Parliament for debate and adoption within three months after its publication.

The law bars the registrar from registering property that breaches the prescribed guidelines on minimum and maximum acreages.

Until 2009, the country never had a National Land Policy. There were also several land laws, some of which were incompatible resulting into a complex land management and administration system.

Since independence, the emotive land question has manifested itself in many ways such as fragmentation, breakdown in land administration, disparities in ownership and poverty.

Other related complications arose, including environmental, social, economic and political problems.

Others are deterioration in land quality, squatting and landlessness, disinheritance, urban squalor, under-utilisation and abandonment of agricultural land, tenure insecurity and conflicts.

Currently, freehold land makes up slightly over 20 per cent of land held countrywide either individually or collectively.

Majority of the high-value agricultural land that has been adjudicated is registered as freehold after colonial settlers demanded land individualisation before investment.

Even as the minimum and maximum ownership acreage waits to be set, land questions remain culturally, ethnically and economically charged as pressure on land increases with growing population.

The Land Reform Review Group in Scotland has also made proposals that there should be an upper limit on the total amount of land that can be held by a private landowner or single beneficial interest. According to the group, ministers should be urged to develop proposals to establish the legal limit and councils given the right to force the sale of vacant or abandoned plots.

The review group, which was set up by Scottish ministers in 2012, urged the government to be “radical in its thinking and bold in its action”.

The report makes a total of 62 recommendations, which it says are reforms in the public interest which promote the common good.

— The writer is an advocate of the High Court.