The Kenyan National Assembly is currently deliberating a substantial amendment to the Land Act of 2012, introduced by Majority Leader Kimani Ichung’wah. If approved, this amendment would bring about a fundamental transformation in the financial framework for freehold landowners, especially those in urban areas and cities nationwide.
Positioned to be incorporated as a new sub-section (a) in Section 54 of the 2012 Lands Act, the amendment aims to harmonize the financial responsibilities of freehold landowners with those of leasehold property owners in urban zones. It proposes an annual land levy equivalent to the rent payable for a leasehold property of a similar size within the same area.
Presently, under the Land Act, freehold land grants indefinite ownership, with landowners obligated to pay annual land rates to the County government. This proposed amendment directly challenges this existing arrangement, potentially impacting numerous ancestral lands held under freehold ownership in Kenya.
The potential ramifications of this amendment would affect property and landowners in regions such as Syokimau, Kiambu, Thika, Mlolongo, and other areas neighboring Nairobi, as well as various urban centers nationwide. If enacted, landowners in these areas would be required to pay an annual fee in addition to their existing land rates.
Beyond the introduction of a new levy, the amendment seeks modifications to the Land Registration Act of 2012, aiming to prevent the registration of any land for which the newly mandated land rent has not been paid. This procedural change implies that legal registration of any transfer or sale of freehold land would be contingent on the fulfillment of the required land rent obligations.
In addition to proposed changes related to land rent, the amendment targets various aspects of land laws. It aims to eliminate time limits on reviewing grants and dispositions of public land, extending the period for historical land injustice claims beyond the previously established ten-year mark.
Furthermore, the bill proposes an expansion of the Lands Cabinet Secretary’s authority, granting them the power to approve compulsory land acquisitions for state projects. This authority was previously overseen by the National Land Commission. This shift would empower the Lands Cabinet Secretary to approve or reject acquisition requests based on specific criteria, leading to mapping, valuation, and public notice in the case of approved acquisitions.
The potential consequences of these changes are extensive and could significantly impact landowners, government operations, and the overall land administration landscape in Kenya if the bill is adopted and becomes law. Such changes would have substantial effects on citizens, particularly against the backdrop of existing economic strains in the country.