UGANDA, Kampala | Real Muloodi News | Cases of land fraud and double titling have become increasingly prevalent in Uganda. This alarming trend has prompted buyers to question what they can do to protect themselves from falling victim to this insidious disease that plagues land transactions.
Land transactions occur frequently in Uganda, with individuals aspiring to own land as a valuable asset that appreciates over time.
However, recent judicial decisions have emphasised the importance of conducting thorough due diligence to establish ownership, as land cannot be purchased from unknown vendors like ordinary goods.
The High Court of Uganda, specifically Justice Benard Namanya, shed light on these longstanding principles of land law and delved into the intricacies of land fraud and double titling in the case of MARY MONICA TENYWA KITEME V ROSELINE NIWAMANYA TWESIGYE and two others (Civil Suit No. HCT-00-LD-CS-2212-2016).
The case revolved around the existence of two certificates of title for the same parcel of land, both deemed authentic by the Commissioner for Land Registration. This scenario, often referred to as double titling, raised critical questions.
Notably, when the first defendant purchased the land, she found rental units on the property but failed to inquire about the landlord or rent payment details.
The first defendant claimed to have relied solely on the seller for vacant possession and avoided involvement with the tenants.
The judgment yielded significant takeaways for land buyers:
- The principle of “first in time prevails” applies when two legal interests exist. The first legal interest to be registered takes precedence. In this case, the plaintiff registered her land in 1999, while the first defendant registered her interest in 2007 (Paragraph 37, page 10 of the judgment).
- Land buyers must engage in thorough due diligence, including obtaining a land search report verified by the registrar to establish ownership. It is crucial for buyers to personally investigate the land, separate from the seller’s presence. They should inquire with neighbours, people on the main stage, bystanders, and local council leaders. Merely relying on a search statement is insufficient.
- To prevent double titling, mistakes, or fraud, prospective buyers should visit the land on three separate occasions before making a purchase. This diligent approach minimises the risk of encountering fraudulent or conflicting claims.
As land fraud and double titling continue to pose challenges in Uganda, these insights from the court ruling serve as essential guidelines for buyers to protect their interests and ensure secure land transactions.
READ MORE LIKE THIS: