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WHAT ARE THE LEGAL STEPS TO ACQUIRE LAND IN KENYA?

1. Land Identification

This is where aspiring landowners identify a piece of land that meets their criteria such as location, size, and soil type, which are the key factors to consider when buying land in Kenya.

2. Search at the Lands Registry

After identifying a piece of land that meets the desired standards, a prospective buyer should obtain a copy of the land title deed from the seller to facilitate the search.

Normally, it takes about two hours to get search results after filing a search application form (and attaching a copy of the title). This process costs Sh500.

Search results show details of the land including the registered owner of the land, acreage as well as any caveats registered against the title deed.

A valid search should not be more than six months old.

3. Search at the County Office

This helps to unearth any unpaid land rates which should be factored in the purchase price. A certificate of clearance from Nairobi costs Sh10,000, but this varies in other counties.

Payment of land rates is a legal duty of every landowner and it is compulsory for them to clear any pending rates and penalties (if any) before disposing of their property.

4. Obtain Land Rent Clearance Certificate

The seller’s lawyer will obtain a land rent clearance certificate from the office of the Commissioner of Lands at no cost. This process usually takes up to 19 days.

5. Obtain Maps of the Land

The maps can be acquired from either the Ministry of Lands or a surveyor at a cost of Sh300 each. One map is usually drawn to scale and the other is an overview of the land.

After obtaining the maps, the buyer and the surveyor should visit the land to verify the dimensions. Once this is done, the buyer must erect beacons to avoid future disputes.

This marks the end of the rigorous due diligence process when buying land in Kenya.

6. Offers and Price Discussions

Once the buyer is certain that all the details of the land are satisfactory, they will then ask their advocate to prepare a purchase offer.

The letter of offer should include details of the buyer and the seller, a clear description of the land on offer, the proposed buying price, and the method of payment.

7. Sale Agreement

The sale agreement, which is prepared by the seller’s advocate, indicates the terms of sale including the names of the buyer and seller, the price, mode of payment, and documents to be supplied by the seller to facilitate registration of the transfer of land to the buyer.

The buyer’s advocate should be present during the signing of the sale agreement.

At this point, the seller may ask the buyer to pay a 10% deposit, but it is advisable not to part with a penny until you get clearance from the Land Control Board.

8. Land Control Board Clearance

The LCB is a forum that comprises area elders and county commissioners and its duty is to ensure that land transactions are conducted in a transparent manner – e.g. stopping a husband from selling family land without the wife’s consent. This costs Sh1,000.

RELATED: Guide to Buying Land in Kenya as a Foreigner

However, instead of waiting for the main LCB meeting, the parties can schedule a special meeting involving only the assistant county commissioner at a cost of Sh5,000.

9. Transfer Documents and Consent to Transfer

Once the deposit payment has been made, the seller’s advocate prepares the land transfer forms that are signed by both the buyer and the seller.

The buyer then moves to the National Land Commission (NLC) – armed with a booking form, consent from LCB, land search, rates clearance from county, land rent certificate, KRA pin, transfer instrument, sale agreement and old title deed – to apply for consent to transfer.

The consent was previously granted by the Commissioner of Lands.

This process usually takes nine days at the cost of Sh1,000.                               

The buyer’s advocate will then initiate the draft transfer at the NLC office.

The transfer document must be approved by the seller’s advocate before it is taken to the land’s office for stamp duty assessment.

This process takes four days at a cost of Sh500.

10. Valuation and Payment of Stamp Duty

The buyer is required to apply for valuation of the land by the government valuer using the valuation form filled by the seller.

The lands office will use these documents to compute the stamp duty payable.

The valuer is expected to issue a valuation report in three days.

The stamp duty, which should be paid to the Commissioner of Domestic Taxes, is 4% of the land value for urban areas 2% for rural areas.

It takes four days for the Kenya Revenue Authority to confirm receipt of payment.

In January 2021, the government amended Section 10A of the Stamp Duty Act, Cap 480 to allow private valuers to undertake valuation for stamp duty.

Editor’s note: The government does not charge any fees for valuation for stamp duty but those who elect private valuers incur valuation costs as provided in the Valuers Act.

10. Registration of Transfer

After the payment of stamp duty, the buyer is required to settle the balance of the agreed payment in order to finalize the registration of the documents.

At this point, all the stamped documents are submitted for registration at the Lands office. These documents include the consent transfer, land rent clearance certificate, rate clearance certificate, and the original title deed.

This process usually takes up to 12 days to complete, after which the ownership of the land in question is considered to have legally changed hands.

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