A title deed is a signed agreement that proves ownership of land and legal rights to it
A title deed is a document that proves ownership and legal right over a piece of land. It is the most fundamental document required during a land transaction and its details are usually changed from the vendor to the purchaser after a land transaction has taken place to show the transfer of ownership.
Let us explore the different types of title deeds and what you need to take during the title transfer process, how long it takes, and all the costs associated with the title deed transfer process.
When looking to invest in a piece of land, the first thing you will need to do as a buyer is to conduct an official title deed search at the local land registry. This is often done in the county office in which the land is located.
In Kenya there existed different types of title deeds as per the different types of land Acts that have been in existence from colonial times up to the post-independence era. Include the following
1. Indenture: a title under the Government Lands Act Cap 280 (repealed)
2. Grant: Government grant under Registration of Titles Act Cap 281 (repealed) and a county council grant under Trust Land Act Cap 288.
3. Certificate of title: grant issued as a result of a subdivision without change of user.
4. Certificate of lease: title under the Registered Lands Act Cap 300 (repealed) for leasehold land.
5. Absolute title deed: title under the Registered Lands Act Cap 300 (repealed) for freehold land.
6. Sectional title: title for a unit within a building, for example, a flat or apartment.
The Land Registration Act, 2012 consolidates the above several titles into the “Certificate of Title” or Certificate of the lease. A Certificate of title is issued for freehold land while a Certificate of the lease is for leasehold land.
7. Leasehold: is a form of land tenure where a lessee holds rights to land for a specific period and subject to conditions imposed on land rights by the lessor.
Examples in Kenya include 33, 50, 66, 99-year government leases for urban plots. 999-year leases were all converted to 99-year leases with effect, from 1st September 2009 when the current constitution was promulgated.
Freehold land ownership: Is a form of land tenure in which the landowner has the maximum rights to land without restrictions in terms of a period of ownership and rights exercisable on the land.
Documents required to conduct a land search include;
A copy of your identification document, A copy of your KRA pin certificate, and A four-page copy of the land title deed. You will then need to fill a search request form, in most cases, this will take not more than three working days.
The importance of a search is to help ascertain:
The legal owner of the land;
Whether there are cautions put on the title deeds due to disputes on the land or pending court cases regarding the land;
Whether there is a charge on the land, in cases where the title deed has been used as collateral for securing a credit facility/ loan with a financial institution like a bank, etc
Depending on the size and the intended use of the land, you may also be required to get a registry index map (RIM) from the Survey of Kenya offices and to have a surveyor physically ascertain that the measurement on the ground matches those on the map.
The Requirements of Land Search in Kenya
Once satisfied with the finding of an official title deed/land search, you will then need to obtain consent to transfer. In cases where you are buying from an individual, it is important to have a lawyer involved, he or she will help with obtaining and notarizing the document. This is rarely required when buying from a real estate company.
The process of transferring a land title deed from one person to the other often takes not more than 90 days. In order to do that. The following are the document required to transfer title deed in Kenya:
A copy of the valuation report
Obtain Consent to transfer from the commissioner of Land
Stump duty assessment form and payment proof
Rent clearance certificate
Copies of ID and KRA PIN certificates
2 copies of colored passport size photos for each party
Transfer consent from the commissioner of lands or the land control board
The title deed
Land rent clearance certificate
The procedure for transferring a title deed in Kenya
The process of transferring a title deed is as follows:
the purchaser obtains a land rent clearance certificate. This is often at no cost, done at the office of the commissioner of land and takes not more than 20 days
The seller then needs to apply, pay and obtain a rates clearance certificate from the county office in which the land is located. The certificate cost around Kshs 10,000.
Apply for a search on the title deed which takes not more than 3 working days at a cost of Kshs 500.
The seller then needs to apply for and obtain the consent to transfer from the National land commission. The document costs about Kshs 1,000 and takes not more than 2 weeks.
Valuation of the land by government valuer to ascertain the amount to be paid as stamp duty.
Paying the stamp duty, the amount indicated on the valuation report is then to be paid to the commissioner for Domestic taxes (KRA) and the payment receipt presented as proof.
The final step of the transfer is to lodge stamped transfer documents for registration at the local land office. This process takes no more than 2 weeks.
The process of transferring a land title deed in Kenya is elaborate and can be confusing if you are not familiar with it. So, in this post, I will break it down into its components. I will explain what each step entails, what you need to do, the documents you require, time duration, cost until you get the final title.
In fact, after reading this post, you should be able to transfer a title on your own. But even if you decide to outsource the work to an agent, you will do so from the point of knowledge — you know what they are doing and why.
So, without much ado, let’s get started on the steps you need to follow to get your name on a title deed.
Searching is your first step. There are two ways to conduct a land search in Kenya. You can do an online search or by physically visiting a Land Registry office. But, for purposes of land title transfer, you need to visit the local registry in the County where the property is located.
The title search is essential in three significant ways. First, the search will enable you to compare the details on the title deed with those on the ground. Are the names on the title the same as those in the land registry record? How about the size and location of the plot? These details should match.
Secondly, a search will show you if the plot has unpaid land rates. Since these rates must be paid before you the title is transferred, you can negotiate with the seller and factor them in the purchase price.
And lastly but not least, a search helps you to find out if there is a charge, caveat or caution on the land. Well, these three words are legalese, but I will briefly explain what they mean in simple terms.
Let’s start with the word “charge.” And this is the most common way in which land is charged. Let’s say, a titleholder takes a bank loan, and uses the plot as security. The bank will place a charge on the land, which means that the bank has the monetary right to that piece of property, and the plot can be sold after the titleholder pays the loan.
Next is a caveat. “Caveat” is a Latin word that means “let him or her beware”. It is a warning or a legal restriction that prevents any dealings on the property such as selling, buying or registering a mortgage. A caveat tells you that there is someone already who claims an estate or priority interest on the property. Nothing can be done on the land until the person who placed the caveat accents or through an order of a court of law.
A caution is a notice placed in the register, and it specifies an action that cannot be taken on the land unless the person who gave the notice is informed.
So, the rule of thumb is, if you find a charge, caveat or caution on the land, ask the seller to have them removed before you continue with any transaction. Often they are removed through a court process.
In summary, a search is necessary to affirm that the land you want to buy has no encumbrances.
Get a search application form at the land registry and enter the details about the land as recorded on the title deed. Also, attach one copy each of the title deed, your identification card (ID) and Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) PIN number.
The land registration officer will fill, on the search form, the details on the status of the land after completing the search.
The search fee costs Kshs. 500 and the search takes about three days.
If the details match and the land is free for sale, then you can continue to the next step which is to enter into a formal agreement with the seller.
Sometimes called a Sales and Purchase Agreement, the land sale agreement is a legal contract between a buyer and a seller. The agreement obligates the buyer to buy the land and the seller to sell at their mutually agreed terms.
The seller’s lawyer will often draw this sale agreement, but you should also appoint a lawyer to represent your interest. Details on the contract include your name and that of the seller, the agreed price of the land, the mode of payment, and all the documents that the seller will supply to enable you register and transfer the title to your name.
Both you and the seller will have to sign the agreement, and the lawyer will stamp it to make it legally binding.
Lawyers charge advocate fees which depend on the value of the land, but the minimum charge is Kshs. 35,000 for land whose value is between Kshs. 1 to Kshs. 5,000,000.
After getting the land sale agreement, the next step is to seek consent to transfer land. According to the Land Act, you should ask for approval within 60 days of drawing the agreement.
The County Land Control Board (LCB) gives the consent to transfer land. The LCB comprises the county commissioner, lands officer and area elders. They meet once in a month to deliberate on requests for consent to transfer land.
So, this step takes about 30 days. But you can ask for a special LCB meeting to hasten your case which will take seven days or less. You will pay Kshs. 1,000 if your consent is decided in a regular monthly meeting. On the other hand, a special meeting will set you back by up to Kshs. 20,000.
Both the seller and buyer must attend the LCB meeting to assure the LCB that the sale/purchase is above board, mutually agreed, and accented to by the seller’s family.
So, the seller must be accompanied by a family member when attending the LCB meeting. If married, the seller should be accompanied by the spouse. If widowed, one or more children will be required to attend. And where the seller is unmarried, he/she has to swear a “non-married affidavit” before the meeting commences.
Land control boards insist on the presence of a seller’s family member to confirm that the family has an alternative place to settle and will not be landless after selling this land. The local elders in the committee are often familiar with the area and help to corroborate or contradict the seller’s information.
As you attend the meeting, bear in mind that the LCB can deny the consent to transfer the land. And according to the Land Control Act Chapter 302 (Revised 2017), the LCB’s decision is final, conclusive and cannot be questioned in any court. Of course, this is subject to your right of appeal.
I have seen on some occasions where the LCB refused consent because it feels that the seller’s dependents will suffer after selling the land. Other reasons for refusal are if the buyer is not a Kenya Citizen, or does not prove the capacity to develop or use the land profitably.
In some cases, the LCB might ask for documents from you or the seller. You need to have an open mind and provide any information and materials to help the LCB reach a decision faster.
Hoping that all goes well and you get the nod from the LCB, the next step is to apply for the valuation of your land.
Land valuation for purposes of transfer must be done by a Government Valuer who will visit your land, inspect it, and estimate its value in Kenya shillings. You can get a valuer at the Valuation and Land Administration Division of the County Lands office.
To enable the valuation, you need a valuation form, duly filled by the seller, and two land maps. The first is a general map of your plot and the adjacent parcels. The second map is called mutation. It is a map drawn to scale showing the exact dimensions of your land. The mutation can help you to erect beacons on your plot’s boundaries if they don’t exist.
You will get the maps from the survey department of the Ministry of Land, Housing and Urban Development. They are available at the regional offices of the ministry, that is, Mombasa, Nairobi, Kisumu, Nakuru, Kakamega, Embu, and Nyeri.
For land in Mtwapa, and its environs, you can purchase the maps at the Lands Ministry’s Mombasa regional office located at Bima Towers 11th Floor. Each map costs Kshs.500.
Help the valuer to reach your plot easily for the inspection by attaching a drawn sketch showing the directions to your land.
This step can take a long time depending on the Government Valuer’s availability. But, you can fast-track the process if you arrange to pick the valuer from their office and drive them to your property.
Once you get your valuation report, it’s now time to go for an assessment of stamp duty at the land registry.
To know how much stamp duty you must pay, take your valuation report to the Land Registry office where an officer will calculate the stamp duty payable.
Stamp duty is a tax levied on the transfer of land. It is assessed at two percent of the value of the land in rural areas and four percent in municipalities. The tax is paid to the Ministry of Land. However, the ministry does not collect the tax directly. It seconded the function to KRA. And, KRA on its part contracts banks to collect on its behalf.
So, you can pay stamp duty at the KRA office or any authorized commercial bank. After payment, you need to get a certificate from KRA confirming your payment.
If you have paid through a bank, take the payment slip to a Huduma Centre or the KRA office to get the KRA certificate of payment. You can also get the certificate online. The stamp duty certificate costs about Kshs.400.
The stamp duty act, requires the purchaser to pay the stamp duty within 30 days of the valuation, without which another valuation will be required.
County governments levy land rates on all parcels of land within their areas of jurisdiction. The rates are based on the market value of the land and differ among counties.
Here you will take your valuation report and consent to transfer documents to the County office where the property is located for assessment of land rates. The county officer will instruct you on which bank to pay the rates.
Pay at the authorized commercial bank and take back the pay-in-slip to the county office as evidence of payment.
The County issues a clearance certificate to confirm that it has agreed to the property exchanging hands. In Kilifi County, you will be required to pay Kshs. 5,000 for this certificate. The charge may be different in other counties.
With a clearance certificate, you are now ready for the last step.
By this time you have a sizeable bundle of paperwork. The bunch is legally known as the transfer documents. They are the legal instruments that the Land Ministry will use to change the land ownership in your favor.
Confirm that you have the following documents:
Change of land ownership takes around two weeks, and the registration fee payable to the Land Ministry is Kshs. 1,500.
After successful registration, you will now get the title in your name.
This is the final step you could take to re-confirm that the property is indeed formally registered in your details. Conduct a land search one or two weeks after getting your title.
Have you ever tried to transfer a land title? How did you find the process of transferring a land title deed in Kenya? Did you do it yourself or you outsourced it? Share your experience in the comments section below.
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