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Breaking down Land Survey Jargon; Amalgamation

Recently I had an encounter with a quantity surveyor who was trying to make sense of some title deeds and survey plans. Her concern was that a certain authority in charge of roads in urban areas was claiming access to her Client’s land.

The said authority had shown her some survey plans indicating that her client had grabbed a public road and wanted, in no uncertain terms, to reclaim back the road. Upon interrogating and investigating the matter it was clear as crystal that the authority was relying on survey plans from the “Stone Age” to make an assessment on this serious matter.

Unfortunately this is what happens with some institutions. Buying the latest survey plan from Survey of Kenya is not an expensive affair. However to save on costs some institutions create their own repository and refer to them year in year out without examining whether the survey plans have undergone further revisions and changes.

Pardon me for starting with a digression but I felt that this little anecdote could serve as a preamble for today’s topic.

In matters relating to land, most Kenyans are only aware of the term “Subdivision”. This is the process of partitioning and registering smaller parcels of land from a bigger parcel. It is easier when one wants to sell their land since finding a buyer for a large piece of land is a tall order as opposed to finding buyers for smaller units of the land.

In the case for subdivision the solitary title deed for the larger parcel of land makes way for several titles for the new smaller units. The original title deed for the larger parcel becomes null and void.

When a subdivision is done above board, the local lands office effects changes to the survey plans in their repository. This is done as a measure to inform the general public that the status of a certain parcel of land as they know it is not the same. This is an important step because survey plans are open to the general public and can be bought by anyone provided they have the requisite land reference number.

By the same breadth Amalgamation is the process of combining several adjoining sub-units of land into one unit. The keyword here is ‘adjoining’ which means that the sub-units of land need to be next to each other. It is an exercise in futility for an Amalgamation to be done between two distant parcels e.g. one in Nairobi and the other in Kakamega.

Just as a Subdivision renders the original title null and void, an Amalgamation renders the sub-title deeds for the various sub-units null and void by merging them into one new title deed.

This then brings my little anecdote into perspective. The said authority was not aware that an Amalgamation had taken place which rendered their “road” a foregone conclusion. Two adjoining parcels which included a road that the authority had been claiming had undergone an amalgamation process merging them into one parcel and subsequently into one new title deed.

Upon carrying out a search and identifying the requisite survey plan, it was clear that changes reflecting the Amalgamation had already been effected. Only the said Authority armed with an old survey plan thought otherwise.

Another important aspect of Amalgamation that is a potential deal breaker if not taken in stride is “Change of User” (or “Extension of User”). Whenever a Subdivision or Amalgamation is carried out a “Change of User” approval must be sought from the local county government. Once the approval has been acquired it must then be registered with the Ministry of Lands (Central government).

This is important because, say the original subtitles had been registered under Industrial use and once Amalgamation was done a developer brought forth a block of apartments without registering the “Change of User” to “residential” with the Ministry. The ministry will not register the new apartments under an industrial title. The User must always be reflected in your title. This potential oversight can cause projects to be stuck in a rut.

Therefore be informed of this Surveying or Planning terminology. It will help you avoid many pitfalls when dealing with land disputes. Have a dispute-less day, won’t you?

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