Premium

Tips on due diligence before buying land

To prevent lengthy court cases and being defrauded when buying land, you have to go beyond a search at the lands registry. [iStockphoto]

Land remains one of the most emotive and contested issues in the making of modern Kenya.

For the business and political classes, it represents power, while for many others land is a source of pain due to dispossession resulting in poverty and squatter problems.

To prevent lengthy court cases and being defrauded when buying land, you have to go beyond a search at the lands registry.

Robert Kaniu Gitonga, a Senior Associate in the Real Estate Law, and Finance and Banking practice areas at Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr (CDH) shares some tips:

Online search

Focus on the online Kenya Law Reports. See if there are cases that have been reported concerning the land that you are purchasing or reported cases of land fraud by the seller. Check if there's been a claim by a third party.

You can also conduct a Google search to see if there are any adverse media reports about the land or the seller.

Ndung'u Land Report

This primarily focuses on public land ranging from forests, road reserves, public utilities, and cemeteries. There are certain properties that you have to use the report to verify these include including locations near forests or surrounding public utilities or locations in Nairobi such as Loresho.

Limitation: Ndungu Report probably refers to titles that existed as at 2004.

Kenya Gazette Notice

Here, you can check to see if there was a report on lost title deed on the land you are buying. The gazette notices are published weekly every Friday and are available online.

NB: There are shortcomings of desktop research as the records weren't digitised until a certain date.

Surveyor

This is the best possible way to verify the physical condition of the property. A surveyor will tell you even about reserves such as road or riparian land and whether the land is a public utility or has been set aside by the county or national government.

You need someone who'll actually go to the ground and look at the layout of the property.

They'll look at the layout of the property vis-a-vis the surroundings and confirm the actual size of the property and whether the boundaries correspond with details on the title.