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Owners of idle land to lose titles in new leasing rules

Monday December 11 2017

National Land Commission chairman Muhammad Swazuri. FILE PHOTO | ANTHONY OMUYA | NMG

National Land Commission chairman Muhammad Swazuri. FILE PHOTO | ANTHONY OMUYA | NMG 

GEORGE OMONDI
By GEORGE OMONDI
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Firms and individuals who own idle land risk losing the properties upon the expiry of their lease terms.

This follows the publication of new regulations that seek to tighten the noose on speculators who drive up prices.

The Land (Extension and Renewal of Leases) Rules 2017 published last week has stopped automatic renewal of leases and now ties it to economic output of the land that must be beneficial to the economy.

These rules will apply to all land irrespective of size in a fresh push to free up parcels concentrated in the hands of a few individuals and corporations that are held for speculative purposes.

Absentee landowners

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This is also an attempt to deal with absentee landowners.

“The commission shall, in consultation with the national or county government ensure that the renewal is beneficial to the economy and the country as a whole,” National Land Commission chairman Muhammad Swazuri said in the new rules.

“The investment purpose is in accordance with the national or regional or county policies and plans and the renewal is in public interest, public safety, public order, public morality, public health and land use planning.”

This means landlords could still forfeit their land to the State if the use they are making of land in a specific area is out of sync with the official policy.

The lease extension is to be granted by the Cabinet secretary or the county executive committee member in case of a local parcel of land.

To determine whether a firm deserves an extension, the rules state, the minister must consider the names of the directors and their citizenship status, its record of paying rates and rents and any existing charges.

This will clamp down on individuals who hide behind companies to own land under questionable ways.

Review compliance

The minister also has to review compliance with the terms and conditions of the existing lease before making a decision on the extension.

Landowners who successfully apply for the extension of their leases face higher charges and fresh contractual terms.

The applicants are required to sign new tenure terms and have their rent and other applicable levies readjusted after revaluation of the land.

The government is expected to notify owners of land about expiry of their leases five years before the tenancy period ends via registered mail and newspaper notices as well as make physical contact to advise on the renewal should they fail to respond.