Every minute of every hour of every day, at least a land transaction is completed in Uganda. It is almost every person’s dream to own land at some point in their lifetime, as it’s a valuable asset that appreciates with time.
However, following a host of judicial decisions, land buyers have often been reminded of their duty to carry out sufficient due diligence to establish ownership as land cannot be bought from unknown vendors; it’s not like any other goods, for instance, vegetables.
The High Court of Uganda speaking through Justice Benard Namanya in MARY MONICA TENYWA KITEME V ROSELINE NIW AMANYA TWESIGYE and two others CIVIL SUIT NO. HCT-00-LD-CS-2212-2016 reviewed these long-standing principles of land law and expanded on land fraud and double titling.
The case involved the existence of two certificates of title for the same parcel of land, both verified by the Commissioner for Land Registration to be authentic -what at times described as double titling. The two certificates were issued at different times. Interestingly, when the 1st defendant was buying the land, she found rental units but didn’t bother to ask the tenants who the landlord was or to whom they paid rent. The first defendant stated that she relied on the seller to give her vacant possession and didn’t want to meddle with tenants.
The following are the key takeaways we obtained from the judgement.
1. Where two legal interests exist, the first in time prevails; the first of legal interests to be registered takes precedent; from the facts and evidence, the plaintiff registered her land in 1999, whereas the 1st defendant registered her interest in 2007( Paragraph 37 at page 10 of the judgement).
2. The land buyers must carry out sufficient due diligence, obtaining a land search report signed off by the registrar as being enough to prove ownership. The buyers are encouraged to go without the seller on land and ask the neighbours, ask the people at the main stage, engage bystanders, ask the Local council leaders, and don’t stop at the search statement.
3. Before buying such land, 3 visits must be done to avoid double titling, mistakes, or fraud.
The author Simon Nyakoojo is a Senior Legal Writer and Co-Founder at The Judicial Sound Exponent. If you think we can improve this article, please email us at [email protected], Twitter @soundexponent, Linkedln, The Judicial Sound Exponent.