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Winners and Losers in Title Deed Conversion Drive

Title Deed Conversion

The Winners and the Losers

Ms. Karoney, The Cabinet Secretary for the Ministry of Lands and Physical Planning on December 31st 2020 published a notice in the Kenya Gazette, which stated that there was going to be a conversion of land reference numbers to new ones following the Digitization of the Registry in the Ministry. This has caused a lot of anxiety and critique from land owners.

One of the repealed laws is the Registration of Titles Act (Cap. 281), stated that parcels of land were registered using land reference numbers. Each title carried a deed plan, which showed only the subject parcel. All technical, legal and administrative processes for Registration of Titles Act (RTA) titles were carried out in Nairobi.

Leasehold Land

Majority of the land parcels in urban areas are leasehold and are registered under The Registration of Titles Act. All transactions require conveyancing lawyers; thus, making this process expensive.

In the Registered Land Act (Cap. 300) (repealed) parcels of land were grouped together into blocks, each showing all the pieces that have been surveyed and registered in a Registry Index Map.

There were two types of Registered Land Act registrations, differentiated by the method of survey and the accuracy of the resultant plans. The first is the RLA Fixed and the RLA General.

The RLA fixed boundary survey is more accurate and is derived from a properly geo-referenced survey plan.

The RLA general boundary survey, hedges, bushes, and similar features suffice as boundaries of each parcel.

The new generation titles do not require the services of a conveyancing lawyer, therefore, more convenient.

Section 15 of the Land Registration Act, (LRA, 2012) requires that a cadastral map be prepared for every registration unit.

The ministry’s gazette notice is; therefore, a commendable effort to migrate to this new registration regime. The conversion by the ministry is also an effort to reduce fraud, hasten service delivery, decentralize land services, hasten digitization, and reduce threats to property rights.

Previously, private land fraud has happened during the conversion process in which there was creation of double titles for the same piece of land.

The ministry should be weary of fraudsters who are ready to utilize this conversion process to legitimize illegally acquired documents; thus, should exercise care to ensure this conversion process is not facilitating wholesale fraud.

Community Lands

The digitization of land records cannot be complete without the connection of the data to the land parcel itself. Two-Thirds of this country is still community land.

These community lands play a vital role in hosting most of our infrastructure such as railways and highways. The theft of community lands for speculative purposes not only dispossesses the communities, but also increases the cost of development projects.

The burden of leasing of public lands in all urban areas is unnecessary. Neither the ministry, nor the commission should be leasing public land on behalf of both the national and county governments. The respective levels of government should be administering and managing public lands vested in them.

Majority of land parcels acquired by various public agencies are still in the hands of the compensated former land owners. Neither the commission nor the ministry has done anything to acquire those lands in the government, raising concern that the former owners could still use those lands in fraudulent ways.

More than five thousand titles that were revoked by the commission in 2013 to 2017 are yet to be removed or deleted from records with the possibility that they can camouflage under the new registration regime.

The Sectional Properties Act newly enacted, requires that all privately owned sectional properties must have their titles reviewed. Ardhi House, as crowded and non-compliant with Covid-19 as it is, should be able to carry out this massive undertaking of handing out the reviewed titles. The ministry must put appropriate infrastructure in place to deal with the anticipated gridlock and take care so as to avoid the risk of failure, or getting overwhelmed by taking on too many massive programmes all at once.

As much as there are political timelines to meet, proper planning, and distribution of works to relevant institutions and county governments should have preceded these multi-faceted, highly technical, and massive projects.

The political appointees should deploy abundance of caution as the sensitive undertakings that are rushed for political benefit have almost always ended in agony and loss as well as frustrations and tedious litigation to resolve disputes.

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Source: Nation Africa