Kenya enacted its first sectional property law in 1987, which came into effect in 1990. Its main purpose was to provide for the division of buildings into units that would be owned by individual owners.
Under this law, apartment owners were required to obtain title deeds, as opposed to long-term leases. However, since the statute did not apply to the exclusion of others pertaining to land, most developers have structured their projects in such a way that buyers get registered long-term leases as property documents, and this has become the norm over time. the years.
About 30 years later, Parliament passed the Sectional Properties Act 2020 (Act), which repealed the 1987 statute.
With the introduction of new land statutes and repeal of others under the provisions of the Constitution, 2010, the 1987 statute was no longer in line with the new land statutes, including the Land Registry Act and the Land Act passed in 2012, an issue that has been addressed by the 2020 legislation.
The Section Property Act is practical for apartments near Abilene buyers as it requires them to be involved in the day-to-day running of the development. This must be done through a management company whose members own the units in the development.
Unlike long-term leases where some developers can retain control of the units indefinitely, the Sectional Property Act requires a developer to convene a meeting of the corporation at which a board of directors must be elected within 90 days from the day 50 percent of the the units are sold or 180 days from the day the first unit is taken, whichever is earlier.
Under the law, all existing ground leases must be converted into section titles within two years from December 2020, the date on which the law came into effect.
With less than five months to go before the two-year period expires, the properties involved have yet to be geo-referenced, which is a prerequisite for the conversion of long-term leases to section titles.
Given the large number of long-term leases to be converted, it would be difficult to geo-reference them in such a short time. Several factors may have contributed to the delay in the implementation of this law.
First, while the law came into effect in December 2020 and the two-year deadline for implementation began immediately, the regulations intended to guide the implementation of the law were published and entered into force in December 2021, almost a year from the date the law came into effect.
This means that the term within which existing ground leases must be converted into section titles has been reduced from two years referred to in the law to one year.
Second, the law came into effect when the Covid-19 pandemic in Kenya was at its peak. As a result of the pandemic, the employees of the Ministry of Landsdeel could not function optimally.
Third, the digitization of the land registry was prioritized, which may have kept ministry staff busy, leaving little room for them to focus on implementing the Section Property Act.
There is a race against time in the implementation of the law and regulations, and it would be helpful if the next parliament amended the law and extended the time to allow for the conversion of ground leases into section titles.
All interested stakeholders, including unit owners, developers, management companies and legal practitioners, are looking closely at the timelines under the law that are fast approaching.