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What does it take to acquire land in Uganda?

Owning a piece of land is almost everyone’s dream and goal however, for so many people the process has not been so pleasant due to the complexities surrounding land acquisition that range from fraud, dishonesty to land wrangles, etc. What so many of us have not yet realized is that buying land is a legal step by step process.


Site Visit: - the first step in purchasing land is conducting an independent tour to the site, visiting the land enables you know whether it’s a viable option or not since you get to study the developments in the surrounding. It’s from here you get to understand the tenure system of the land, its ownership, the neighborhood, etc. This is information we can never get from the Registry of Lands hence why a physical inspection is very important. For the case of law-lying land or areas that look swampy, contact the National Environment Management Authority - NEMA for report regarding the use of the property.


Get legal support (services): - Hire a competent lawyer familiar with land laws, don’t just use any one or who is available, an experienced advocate is necessary at every stage of the process of a land purchase. Based on experience and type of purchase, they shall guide you on the technicalities, cushion you against any legal related risks


Always conduct a land search: - Use your lawyer to verify the authenticity of title of ownership through the land office. To perform a correct search, you need a duplicate copy of the land title deed from the seller. To prove ownership, the land search report from the Lands Office he Lands office must show the names of the owner in question along with the corresponding details indicated on the title. Depending on the bulk of work at the Lands Office, this normally takes 3 working days.


In situations where the seller is a company or an organization, you need to do a similar company registry search thought at the Registrar of Companies i.e. Uganda Registration Services Bureau - URSB to verify the gaminess of the company. From the company search report, you will ascertain who the directors and shareholders selling the land are. Conducting a Search enables you as the buyer verify the rightful owners, its genuineness, get background history of the land and understanding the land status in cases of caveats, unpaid fees or encumbrances on the title.


Always conduct a land search: - Once the above is in place, all further negotiations must be with the owner(s) in person or any persons with the Powers of Attorney in cases of their absence which must be proven prior to the meeting. Through this meeting you can finally agree on a final price, payment terms and when to do a land survey.


Have a direct face to face with the owner(s): - Use your lawyer to verify the authenticity of title of ownership through the land office. To perform a correct search, you need a duplicate copy of the land title deed from the seller. To prove ownership, the land search report from the Lands Office he Lands office must show the names of the owner in question along with the corresponding details indicated on the title. Depending on the bulk of work at the Lands Office, this normally takes 3 working days.


Verify the size of land: - It’s important to double check the land you are buying thus get a professional surveyor to carry out a topographic survey. This survey is very important in confirming the actual size and shape indicated on the title. Through the same process, the surveyor will also determine the boundaries and mark stones of the land through a Survey Report.


Have a direct face to face with the owner(s): - At this point you and the seller have met, agreed on the price, terms and also confirmed the size of land; you can then go ahead and include all this is a binding agreement. In normal practice the seller’s advocate is always the one that drafts the agreement and forwards it to the buyer’s advocate of buyer for review and consent. Both advocates must ensure each party understands and complies with the Sale Agreement.


Draft a Sale Agreement: - Use your lawyer to verify the authenticity of title of ownership through the land office. To perform a correct search, you need a duplicate copy of the land title deed from the seller. To prove ownership, the land search report from the Lands Office he Lands office must show the names of the owner in question along with the corresponding details indicated on the title. Depending on the bulk of work at the Lands Office, this normally takes 3 working days.


Offset land rates: - Anyone buying land must be abreast with the payment of rates on land which is a legitimate requirement of all land owners. The seller thus should clear any pendent balances on the land before transaction can be completed. The seller should present a clearance certificate of the land rates payment before it is transferred to the buyer.


Ensure there are Transfer Documents and Consent to transfer: -The seller’s advocate is normally the one who organizes the transfer documents to be signed by both parties. A consent to transfer by the commissioner of lands is required for this process to be affected (complete).


Valuation of the Land: You must apply for valuation with the government valuer, whose key role is to make a site visit to facilitate the drafting of the requisite valuation report all for purposes of Stamp Duty. The Stamp Duty is important because it determines the registration fee for the land. The Stamp Duty is determined by a professional government valuer while the valuation determines the true open market value of the land as at the date of transfer.


Stamp Duty Payment: - The buyer is obliged to pay the Stamp Duty, a corresponding tax levied on land transactions for registration and transfer purposes. It is paramount to know that the registration of transfer at the land’s office cannot be executed not until the Stamp Duty has been cleared with a proof of receipt.


Registration of Transfer: - Upon completion of the registration process, possession of the land shall have legally moved from the seller to the buyer. Where required to expedite registration of transfer, the following documents have to be available:


  • The original Title Deed of the land

  • Original Stamp Duty Assessment Forms with corresponding receipt

  • Duly Stamped Transfer Documents

  • Original paid-up land rents receipts and clearance certificate

  • Stamp Duty Valuation Report

  • Original land rates clearance certificate

  • Consent to transfer

  • Application for registration.

Payment completion and document exchange: - Upon receipt of the completion documents from the seller, the buyer has an obligation of paying the seller the total balance on the purchase price through the seller’s lawyer to complete the registration of the documents upon payment of the obligatory Stamp Duty. Documents from the lawyers of the seller include:


  • The original Title Deed for the land

  • Transfer Documents which must be signed and witnessed in the names of the buyer

  • Receipts showing fully paid up land rents plus

  • A clearance certificate with the Consent to transfer.


Conclusion: - For one to successfully purchase land without encountering the common complexities, Canaansites strongly recommends that these steps are followed to the dot. This however doesn’t mean that these are the only procedures to follow, the above-mentioned steps enable you safeguard yourself from common pitfalls and smoothen the transaction exercise. For more advice and insight on acquiring land leave us a message in the form below.


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