With William Karoki

Our Eden Reveals series brings you insights, news and professional expertise from all corners of the real estate industry! In this edition, we dive into the ways that foreigners can own land in Kenya with William Karoki, managing partner of WKA ADVOCATES, who focuses on real estate law amongst other specialities. Read on for his insights, and learn more about William at the bottom of this article!

How can I own land I Kenya as a foreigner?
According to the Constitution of Kenya (2010), the Lands Act (2012) and the Land Registration Act (2012), foreigners are allowed to own land in Kenya, although with certain limitations. This is important to note as there has been a misconception that foreigners cannot own land in their own name in Kenya. In some cases, foreigners have entered into agreements with locals to purchase property on their behalf, leading to disputes. To avoid these issues, it is crucial that proper research and professional advice be sought before a foreigner purchases property in Kenya.

The Limitations of Property Ownership
The limitations of property ownership by foreigners in Kenya can be found in the Constitution and the Land Control Act. As per Article 65(1) of the Constitution, a foreign person may only hold land on a leasehold basis for a maximum of 99 years. Any lease exceeding 99 years will be considered as a 99-year lease. A company is considered a Kenyan company only if it is wholly owned by Kenyan citizens, meaning a company with foreign shareholders is considered a foreign company and cannot own freehold land. Trusts cannot be formed to bypass this requirement. Any freehold interest in land held by a non-Kenyan citizen shall revert to the Republic of Kenya, and the state will grant a 99-year leasehold with a peppercorn rent to that individual.

Agricultural Land
Transactions involving agricultural land and other lands gazetted by the Minister of Lands are defined as “controlled transactions” under the Land Control Act. These transactions are considered void unless the Land Control Board gives its consent. The Land Control Board cannot grant consent to a transaction involving a sale, transfer, lease, exchange, or partition to a person who is not a Kenyan citizen, a private company or cooperative society with only Kenyan citizens as members, a group representative incorporated under the Land (Group Representatives) Act, or a state corporation as per the State Corporation Act. This means that foreign investors and private companies owned by foreigners cannot hold agricultural land in Kenya, but they may apply for exemption through a notice in the Kenya Gazette by the President. Public companies with foreign members may acquire agricultural land.

Circumventing the law through dummy Companies and Nominees
Foreign investors may attempt to circumvent the limitations of property ownership by incorporating companies with local shareholders or using nominees to own property on their behalf. However, such arrangements can lead to legal disputes, and it is advisable to seek professional advice before entering into these arrangements.

In conclusion, while foreigners can own property in Kenya, they must do so within the limitations set out by the Constitution and relevant laws. Proper research and professional advice from practitioner such as WKA ADVOCATES should be sought to ensure a smooth and lawful property ownership process

To learn more about land ownership in Kenya and all your other real estate questions, contact Eden Heights! 

Land ownership in Kenya: This 1.1 acre plot in Lavington is currently for sale. See the full property listing here!


Get to Know William Karoki

Who is William Karoki?
I am a happy, energetic and understanding human being. I am a loving husband, brother and son. I am also a practicing lawyer in Nairobi, Kenya and the Managing Partner, WKA ADVOCATES.

What services do you render?
I mainly offer Corporate Commercial Law Services and Business Restructuring, Real Estate and Estate Planning/Succession, and Conveyancing, Immigration Law to assist foreigners to invest seamlessly by assisting in acquisition of work permits. I also offer services bordering on-Dispute Resolution, Debt Recovery and Regulatory Compliance –employment and labor relations advice, and general legal compliance, IT and IP Law (Intellectual Property Protection and Data Protection Compliance). I can say it’s a full course.

How long have you practiced as a real estate lawyer and what credentials and certifications do you hold?
I have practiced law for the last 7 years. As stated above, I am a lawyer, qualified Advocate of the High Court of Kenya, a Commissioner for Oaths, Notary Public and a member of the law society of Kenya. I have an L.L.B from the University of Nairobi, a Post Graduate Diploma from the Kenya School of Law. I have a certificate in FIDIC Construction Law Contracts. Further, I have been part of the Team that worked on reviewing of the JBCC Green Book Construction Contracts. I am the Managing Partner of WKA ADVOCATES.

How do you stay so positive and vibrant?
Prayers, Good sleep (when I can), exercise, daily intermittent fasting – OMAD (one meal a day), healthy eating, and a good laugh!