How to Avoid Purchasing Riparian Land


It is estimated that over 4,000 buildings in Nairobi County have been marked for demolition in an exercise to clear structures that have been put up in river banks and road reserves.  The Institute of Surveyors of Kenya approximates the total cost of the buildings to be Kshs 40Billion. Once demolished the owners will suffer losses considering that some were put up through loans. Businesses in these premises created employment to Kenyans who may be rendered jobless upon demolitions. While in some cases investors are to blame for investing in riparian zones, it is notable that some of the building received approvals from rogue officials within governments agencies.

What is Riparian land?

Riparian land is defined by Kenyan laws as being a minimum of 6 meters and up to a maximum of 30 meters on either side of a river bank from the highest water mark. These areas occur along watercourses and water bodies. They are distinctly different from surrounding lands because of unique soil and vegetation, these characteristics are strongly influenced by the presence of water according to the United States Department of Agriculture.

Who owns riparian land?

This land is purely public land under Article 67 of the Kenyan Constitution and should not be allocated to anyone. Public land is owned by the government. These includes land owned by state organs, institutions or land which no known owner exists, minerals, rivers and lakes, forests, game parks and national reserves.

The power to allocate public land is vested in the National Land Commission(NLC) on behalf of national or county governments. NLC is in charge of recommending a National Land Policy to the National Government.

Current and potential investors may have been worried by the demolitions and they may opt to shun investing out of fear, however, below are notable ways of avoiding purchasing riparian land:

  1. Confirm your property boundaries – Buy land that has been thoroughly surveyed and demarcated. You can visit a local surveyor who can issue you with a survey map of the area you are interested in investing. He will help you in identifying the exact location and the size of the property according to the map and help you located ascertain the existence of any rivers either seasonal or permanent next to your potential land investment. This information will be useful before you decide to invest in such land.
  2. Laws and Regulations – National and county rules regulate the building, construction and development of real estate properties in their urban areas. Get to know whether these laws allow you to put up certain structures in a certain area. This is made possible through engaging a lawyer and asking questions regarding the land you are interested in purchasing. The information is helpful in safeguarding your interests in the property and mitigating any risks that may directly affect your investment in future.
  3. Conduct a Title Deed Search at the Lands Ministry – The details of every property in Kenya is contained in the Lands Registry. Conducting a title deed search is helpful in determining the kind of property you are interested in. To conduct the search, you visit the Lands Registry fill in a search form, attach copies of your KRA PIN, ID and a copy of the title deed you are conducting a search on. This process takes a single working day and it will establish the true landowners and the nature of the property and whether the vendor has all the necessary rights to transfer ownership of the property to you.

In conclusion it is important to be equipped with all the necessary information helpful in safeguarding your land investment in Kenya to avoid demolition of your investment in future.


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