Types of Title Deeds in Kenya and how they are acquired

Posted on: March 7, 2017

A title deed is a signed agreement that proves ownership of land and legal rights to it. There exists different types of title deeds as per the various types of Land Acts that have been in existence. They include;

  1. Indenture Title: This was a title under the Government Lands Act Cap 280. It has since been repealed.
  2. Grant Title: This was a government grant under the Registration of Titles Act Cap 281 and a county council grant under Trust Land Act Cap 288. Both have been repealed.
  3. Certificate of Title: This is under Cap 281 issued due to subdivision without change of user. Change of user happens when one shifts from, for instance, agriculture to residential.
  4. Certificate of Lease: This is a title under the Registered Lands Act Cap 300 (repealed) for leasehold land. Leasehold is a form of land tenure where a lessee (occupant) holds rights to land for a specific period and subject to conditions imposed on land rights by the lessor (landowner). The period can be 33, 50, 66 or 99 years for all urban plots.
  5. Absolute Title: This is a title under the Registered Lands Act Cap 300 (repealed) for freehold land. This is a form of ownership in which the land owner has the maximum rights in terms of period of ownership and use of the land.
  6. Sectional Title: This is a title for a unit within a building, for example a flat. It emanates from the Sectional Properties Act of 1987 and the title is deemed to be registered under the Registered Lands Act Cap 300. It is important to note that the Land Registration Act, 2012 in Section 26 consolidates the above several titles into the Certificate of Title. The aim is to rationalize and reduce confusion brought about by previous Land Acts, which resulted in various types of titles existing concurrently.


The Land Act, 2012 under Section 7 outlines seven ways one can use to acquire a title. They are as follows:

  1. Allocation: This is where public land is transferred by the government to individuals usually for a specified time and for a specific use with stated conditions. Allocation can be through a public auction, tender, drawing of lots or balloting or by confining allocation to a disadvantaged group. For land to be allocated, it must first be planned, surveyed and serviced.
  2. Land adjudication: This is when rights and interests to land are ascertained and recorded in areas of community land (formally known as the trust land areas).
  3. Compulsory acquisition: This is the acquisition of land by the government for a public purpose but subject to fair and prompt compensation. Publication of the intention to acquire is done through the Kenya Gazette and County Gazette.
  4. Prescription: This is also known as adverse possession and occurs when one gains title to real property through occupation of land without opposition for 12 years. It involves a court process and the adverse possessor must prove that she actually occupied the land continuously without interruption for the above specified time.
  5. Settlement programmes: This is when the government provides access to land for squatters, persons displaced by natural courses like floods, development projects, conservation or internal conflicts by use of the Land Settlement Fund administered by the National Land Commission. Formerly it was known as Settlement Fund Trustees.
  6. Transmissions: This is when ownership passes to another party whose powers over the land are restricted as in cases of death, bankruptcy and on liquidation of a company. In case of death, a personal representative will be registered as the proprietor of the land, for bankruptcy a trustee becomes the registered proprietor while a liquidator shall be registered as the proprietor in cases of liquidation of companies, all by order of the court.
  7. Transfers: This is the transfer of rights to land through sale. A transfer is done after acquiring consent from the relevant County Land Management Boards in (all 47 counties). Stamp duty of 2 per cent of the value of the land is payable to the government in townships and rural areas while a duty of 4 per cent is charged on land in  municipalities and cities. The transfer document with the original title are then booked for registration in favour of the buyer.

National Land Commission, Directorate of Research and Advocacy, info@nlc.or.ke

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