KENYAN SUPREME COURT HANDS DOWN A GROUND-BREAKING JUDGMENT ON DUE DILIGENCE PRIOR TO PURCHASING
On 21 April 2023, the Supreme Court of Kenya delivered a ground-breaking judgment in the case of
Dina Management Limited
vs The County Government of Mombasa & Others. The effects of this judgment will be felt widely,
particularly by future
landowners and any landowner who acquired or bought land without carrying out appropriate due
The case originated from a land dispute where the County Government of Mombasa demolished the entire
facing the beachfront of a property registered in the name of Dina Management Ltd.
Dina Management Ltd filed a suit in the High Court challenging the demolitions, while the County
Government filed a
separate case against Dina Management Ltd and other parties seeking declarations that the property
is public land. Both
cases were consolidated and heard together.
The High Court dismissed Dina Management Ltd’s case on, among other grounds, that the alienation of
the property was
unprocedural and that Dina Management Ltd could not be protected as an innocent purchaser.
On appeal, the Court of Appeal agreed with the High Court's judgment and held that Dina Management
Ltd could not enjoy
protection under the doctrine of the innocent purchaser. The appellate court further indicated that
where property is
acquired through a procedure against the law, the title cannot qualify as indefeasible.
The dispute was eventually brought before the Supreme Court, where Dina Management Ltd argued that
it was an innocent
purchaser because it had sought confirmation from the relevant government registry before purchasing
the property. Dina
Management Ltd also stated that it had periodically made payments of land rates to the then-local
In dealing with the issue of whether Dina Management Ltd was a bona fide purchaser for value without
notice, the Supreme
Court made the following findings:
- To establish whether a property owner is a bona fide purchaser for value, the court must first
go to the root of the
title, right from the first allotment by the government.
- The Court cannot sanction irregularities and illegalities in the allocation of public land on
the basis of
infeasibility of title.
- If the process that was followed prior to the issuance of the title did not comply with the law,
then such a title
cannot be held as indefeasible.
- If the first allocation was irregularly obtained, the first allottee cannot have a valid legal
interest that it could
pass to subsequent purchasers.
- If the root of the title to land is challenged, one cannot benefit from the doctrine of bona
Following the above findings, land buyers in Kenya are now expected to be extremely cautious when
buying land. They
should carry out thorough due diligence that goes beyond merely obtaining a certificate of search
from the land
It is clear that failure to carry out due diligence by buyers before purchasing land in Kenya may
lead to the
cancellation of the title by the court once it is found the title has rotten roots. As such, land
buyers should find the
best lawyers to assist them in carrying out due diligence to avoid falling prey to fraudsters who
use fake titles or
land with hidden encumbrances, or land that is subject to active litigation.
From the information above, it is evident that land buyers require more support from their lawyers
professionals in carrying out due diligence. Advocate Getter can recommend a lawyer to assist you in
carrying out the
necessary due diligence with just one phone call.