Margaret Mitchell, an American novelist, once said that, “The land is the only thing in the world worth working for, worth fighting for, worth dying for, because it’s the only thing that lasts”.
The above quotation reflects the current socio-economic tensions revolving around land, not just in Uganda but across the globe. It is no surprise that the state has set up committees to investigate land grabbing and other injustices concerning land in the country today. The on-going land commission of inquiry headed by Lady Justice Catherine Bamugemereire, for one, has exposed many stories of people losing their land to land grabbers who hold influential positions in the government. The rage is high, and the people are now alert.
Amid all these tensions, seeking legal redress may not look like the best alternative considering the time and resources spent during trials. For many who cannot afford legal services at the established cost, seeking justice is a dream in Uganda. According to the Case Backlog Reduction Committee (CBRC) report, 2017, there are many odds that your case will be heard in time. But, how much money will you need to spend? However, you can safeguard your interests in land for as little as Shs.30,000/= (Ugandan Shillings Thirty Thousand) by simply lodging a caveat.
What is a caveat and how does it operate?
‘Caveat’ is a Latin phrase which means ‘let him know or beware’. A caveat works as an encumbrance on the Certificate of Title. An encumbrance literally means an obstacle. Therefore, once a caveat has been registered against the title, third parties cannot transact against your title/land. Any search on the title as kept in the Land Registry will show the applicant that someone else claims an interest in the land.
NB: A caveat operates in rem which means it is against the whole world therefore everyone is put on notice of that encumbrance.
Registering a caveat is as effective as notifying any person intending to transact on your title/land of their inability to do so without your expressly written consent. In addition, a caveat can also protect your equitable interest in land.
An equitable interest arises when you deposit part of the agreed sum with the intention of purchasing land. Imagine you have agreed to buy a house in Muyenga from a one Kato but due to financial constraints you cannot complete the purchase for another year. What if Kato decides to sell the land to Babirye who is offering to pay the full amount at once? How will you prevent this sale from happening? Or have the parties settle your finances (should you agree to let the subsequent sale proceed) before any transfer of interest occurs? You can lodge a caveat such that third parties like Babirye will be put on notice in case they want to buy that land.
What detail does a caveat require?
- It must have the names and address(es) of the person lodging it;
- The description of the land to be caveated (it is necessary that a search is conducted to ascertain the exact details of the land, more so the location, title, measurement and ownership);
- Particulars of the legal or equitable estate of interest (in a registered statutory declaration);
- Signature of the caveator and his/her lawyer;
- Attach two passport photographs of the caveator.
How much does it cost?
Like earlier noted, lodging a caveat is very affordable. According to the Ministry of Land, Housing & Urban Development Transactions Procedures Series 8, one is required to pay stamp duty of Ushs.20,000/= and Registration fees of Ushs.10,000/= bringing the total to only Ushs.30,000/=.
A caveat will protect an interest in land. However, before lodging a caveat, you need to find out whether you have an interest that can be protected by a caveat. Otherwise, you may be liable to paying compensation in form of damages to the people who have been affected by the caveat.
Ensure that you entrust a qualified lawyer to handle your transaction.