Every young professional in Uganda today dreams of buying and owning land. It is sometimes considered as the epitome of success. The skeptics are many and to some the gruesome stories of the bad experiences in land transactions are a turn off. The fear of the unknown overcomes the benefit of the risk in buying and owning property.
The question on many people’s minds and the reason they part with hefty sums to lawyers is, WHAT DO I NEED TO KNOW BEFORE I BUY LAND?
Ian Mutibwa, an Advocate and Tax consultant, shared with us a few tips on what one should consider before parting with money and venturing into land transactions in Uganda.
Know what type of land you are purchasing
Many people do not differentiate titled from untitled land, mailo and freehold interest. Some people go ahead and part with money to buy untitled land and end up sometimes paying double for it. Most untitled land is customary land or Kibanja land. This means two things, first where it is customary land, it is usually communally owned and one needs to seek permission of the clan or village head before they sell off the community land. Where the land is a Kibanja, one needs to ask the Kibanja holder whether they have duly purchased the same from the registered owner and also request to meet the registered owner of the said property.
Carry out a search at the Lands registry where the land is registered
It is important that you carry out a formal search at the Lands registry. The location of the land determines which registry you carry out the search from. It is important at this stage to engage a lawyer who shall enable you carry out the search. You shall receive a search letter, which clearly shows the content of the title at the Lands registry. The search shall contain details of the registered land, names of the registered owner, size of the land, location, encumbrance (if any) for example, mortgage, lease, caveat etc.
Carry out a search at the land itself (Locus)
The search at the lands office is not conclusive, as it may not indicate what is physically on the land. The land may have plantations, graves, houses, and other tenants. It is therefore important that one visits that land in question before they make up their minds to fully purchase the land.
Visit the local council and police station
In addition to visiting the land itself, it is important to see the local council of the area where you are going to buy the land. The local council usually knows the people in the area and where the person is not the right person, the LC shall advise. Usually it is important to visit the local council with the intended sellers of the land and have a written confirmation from the LC that these are indeed the owners of the land you intend to buy.
There may be some disagreements on the land that may not be physical. These may be disagreement with siblings, parents and children and neighbors. These are usually reported to the police. The Police should have records of these disputes. It is important to know of these disputes because you do not want to be in a situation where you purchase land from one brother and are chased off the land by another brother who did not consent. The police shall provide ample evidence of these disputes.
Draft a land sale agreement
I would argue all persons buying land to engage the services of a lawyer to draft the land sale agreement. This is because there are many clauses that one may not envisage and may need to be protected in their purchase. A well-drafted agreement protects both the buyer and the seller.
After transfer of property, do something on the land.
Where the agreement is finalized and the purchase is done and the transfer has been finalized, most purchasers lay back and relax with their titled secured. This is one of the biggest mistakes many people make and consequently end up losing their land to squatters or find their land sold off.
Ian Mutibwa added “It is important that you protect your interests. Lodge a caveat on the land after registering a proprietor. This caveat helps in as far as one is notified when there is a transaction that is happening on the land.”