Take action against fraudulent land dealers

Lands, Housing, and Urban Development Cabinet Secretary Zacharia Njeru.

Lands, Housing, and Urban Development Cabinet Secretary Zacharia Njeru. The ministry of Lands must assert its authority and take robust action against fraudulent land dealers.

Photo credit: Dennis Onsongo | Nation Media Group

The acquisition of property in Kenya has been a perilous journey for unsuspecting buyers as they traverse a treacherous landscape of deceit and fraud laid by nefarious developers who seek to swindle, dwindle and exploit.

A recent example of this is the case of a Thika-based real estate firm that has left potential landowners and homeowners in a state of financial ruin, having sold non-existent plots in Juja, Kiambu, and Nakuru.

This serves as a poignant reminder of the paramount importance of due diligence and the need to seek the counsel of professionals such as qualified advocates of the High Court and surveyors when engaging in property transactions.

With the advent of social media, the advertising landscape has undergone a paradigm shift with media influencers assuming the mantle of the new age of advertising.

However, the trust placed in these influencers, particularly those in vernacular radio stations, self-branded pastors, renowned television and radio presenters, has often been misplaced as many fail to perform the necessary due diligence on the companies they are promoting, leaving consumers vulnerable to fraud. 

It is crucial that media influencers take responsibility for their actions and are held accountable for any misinformation they propagate. 

Legal implications

The legal implications of the agency relationship between developers and media influencers should also be taken into consideration, considering the legal position that courts cannot re-write a contract between the developer and the buyer.

The parties are bound by the terms of their contract unless coercion, fraud, or undue influence are pleaded and proved. However, our courts have also taken the position that a strong party in a contractual relationship should not be allowed to steamroll over the weaker party, in this case, the buyer.

As such, the Ministry of Lands, now helmed by a new Cabinet Secretary, must assert its authority and take robust action against fraudulent land dealers. Regulations must be put in place to ensure that all companies and directors selling land are registered and vetted by the DCI.

Perhaps the most crucial step buyers can take to protect themselves is to conduct due diligence through qualified advocates of the High Court, which includes historical property searches, commonly referred to as green card searches, checking for litigation history, holding funds in escrow, and drafting proper agreements.

Tragically, most Kenyans opt to bypass the use of professional advice, resulting in the loss of funds and tears of sorrow.

It is said that a stitch in time saves nine, and it is in the best interests of the aggrieved parties to act swiftly. The courts have also opened their doors wide to accommodate any legal action against any rogue developer.

William Karoki, Nairobi

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