As part of the Government’s efforts to enhance the ease of doing business, the Ministry of Lands and Physical Planning formulated the Land Registration (Electronic Transactions) Regulations, 2020 (“the Regulations”) early this year to provide an enabling framework for the roll out of a system for carrying out of electronic land transactions. The Regulations were gazetted on 14th July 2020 and apply to the Nairobi Land Registry.
The electronic land registry
The Regulations require the Chief Land Registrar to maintain an electronic land register which will enable land transactions to be carried out through the system. The Registrar may through the system:
- issue a notice, certificate or any document which is required to be issued by the Registrar under the Act;
- certify a form, document or extract of a document required to be certified by the Registrar under the Act; or
- send any document issued or certified by the Registrar to the electronic addresses provided by a user for that purpose.
To access any service on the Land Information Management System (LIMS), one must register, whether as a natural or legal person or community. The registration requirements differ for various categories of users. A user can access the system in their individual capacity or through an authorized representative or user, who must be a qualified advocate. An advocate may be an authorized user upon providing additional information including their advocates Number on the system. What is not clear is whether other persons such as guardians, persons holding powers of attorneys may be deemed as authorized users under the system.
Upon registration, a One Time Password (OTP) in the form of a text message shall be sent to the user’s telephone number to authenticate every log-in. Registration also makes one subject to various obligations of the users, meant to ensure safety and accuracy of the information provided or submitted when using the system.
Conduct of Searches and Valuation
A registered user may conduct official searches on the system after paying the requisite fees. He or she may also conduct a historical search over the property which will provide a list of all transactions in a chronological order together with the status and date of each entry. Valuation of documents for payment of stamp duty may also be done electronically. Once valuation is concluded, the amount of stamp duty payable shall be communicated via text message or email notification or other electronic means. The rules in the Land Registration Act as regards indemnity that apply to the physical Land Registry also apply to the Electronic Land Registry.
Users seeking to register interests in land will be required to submit the application, instruments or documents for registration in the system and pay the prescribed fee, where applicable. The regulations provide that the usual forms prescribed under the Land Registration Regulations will be used subject to such modifications as the Chief Land Registrar may make, to enable their use electronically.
Notably, the instrument presented for registration may be executed by use of advanced electronic signature of parties. Advanced electronic signatures range from a simple electronic signature represented in the form of a scanned signature of the person as an indication of a name of a sender (not encrypted), to a digital signature that is based on cryptographic authentication of a sender by technological means in the form of a coded message or an encrypted data.
Where it is not possible to execute the instruments or documents by way of an advanced electronic signature, the user may enter the required information in the applicable electronic form, print the duly filled form for execution and attestation, scan and upload the duly executed and attested form onto the system and attach the relevant supporting documents as may be required. Where it is an Advocate undertaking the registration process, they must first submit the client’s instructions through the relevant form which requires each client to sign the said form, personally.
- Tracking Numbers in the Registration process
The Regulations prescribe use of tracking numbers similar to booking numbers in manual registrations. The tracking number determines the priority of registration of the instrument. An instrument or document shall be deemed to be received for registration when the system generates a notice of electronic filing with a tracking number for the electronically filed application, instrument or document.
The Registrar may reject applications if they are substantially defective, or submitted without the relevant supporting documents. One can lodge afresh after making the necessary corrections or appeal the rejection as provided in the Regulations. The Registrar shall, for the purposes of processing the applications, rely on the documentation and data available within the system and may, where necessary, refer to the backup of manual records. The authorized user may also be called upon to present a document manually where production of an original is required.
Registration is completed upon the approval of the transaction and the making of corresponding entries into the register by the Registrar. Upon registration, there shall be an electronically generated notice to the effect that the document has been registered. The Registrar shall then issue an electronic certificate of title or lease in accordance with which shall contain unique serial numbers and security features which can be used to verify the authenticity of the certificate. The registered instruments and documents shall be made available for download by the authorized user or any person conducting a search electronically.
The publication of the enabling Regulations is just a step towards the welcome rolling up out of an electronic land registration system. It is hoped that with the enabling legal framework in place, steps towards the complete operationalization of the electronic system will be hastened to enhance the ease of doing business. It is also commendable that the Regulations have recognized the teething problems associated with transition to online platforms. In this regard, they have given room for transactions to be conducted manually where the electronic registration system cannot be used or through such other means as the Chief Land Registrar may determine. This would go a long way in easing the transition from the manual system to the electronic system.
By June Njoroge and Pauline Njau