How to buy land in Uganda: A step-by-step guide

Graphics/Michael Louboyera Musaasizi

What you need to know:

  • Experts call for due diligence, visiting the site and engaging all parties concerned in land transactions

Buying land before undertaking due diligence has been cited by experts and the government as the leading cause of land fraud.

 Experts say doing due diligence includes making background checks with the Lands ministry, visiting the site and engaging all parties and authorities concerned.

 But the experts say the majority of buyers are cheated because they always rush to conclude transactions with the sellers who sometimes turn out to be fraudsters.

 As a first step, the experts say anyone intending to buy land should, upon identifying the land, understand its tenure system, which can fall under any of these four categories of Uganda’s land holding system, namely Mailo, Freehold, Leasehold, and Customary.

 Acquisition of land under any of the above four categories also vary as the experts explain below.

 Mailo land system

The Mailo Land tenure system was introduced in the 1900 Buganda Agreement, where the Kabaka [king] of Buganda and other royals were given chunks of land.

 The Kabaka was given 350 square miles, with other square miles of more land given to the Namasole (king’s mother) 16 square miles, princesses, sisters, and relations of the Kabaka got 90 square miles, and all chiefs 160 square miles, the three regents 48 square miles, and 1,000 other chiefs and other private owners receiving 8,000 square miles in total.

 This land, which is occupied by bonafide tenants (bibanja holders), is majorly located in Buganda Sub-region and managed separately, with the Buganda Land Board (BLB) managing the Kabaka and the kingdom’s portions while private owners manage theirs.

How to get a piece on Kabaka’s land

The Kabaka’s land, which is managed by BLB on his behalf, is located across the kingdom with multiple bibanja holders.

 The Land Act, 1998, defines a kibanja holder as a person or persons who have settled on land in Buganda as customary tenants with the consent of the Mailo landowner under the Busuulu and Envujjo Law 1928. They hold an equitable interest in Mailo Land, which can be transferred with the consent of a registered owner.

 Mr Bashir Juma Kizito, the deputy executive director of Buganda Land Board (BLB) and head of corporate affairs, says anyone intending to buy land in Buganda should first understand its ownership to help them in the next process.

 “If one buys a kibanja land without the consent of the landowner, that transaction is illegal under the laws of Uganda. In the case of Kabaka’s land, BLB is the organization with the mandate to offer this consent on behalf of the Kabaka of Buganda,” he said.

 After getting the consent of the BLB, the buyer can then go through the other (general procedure of buying land) as outlined below.

 “If it’s untitled land. The person selling land must show proof of ownership (endagaano),” Mr Kizito said.

 Mr Kizito says no one can own a piece of land from Kabaka’s land in perpetuity as they may either become a kibanja occupant, and continue paying annual Busulu of between Shs5,000 to Shs50,000 to the Kingdom, or acquire the piece of land on Leasehold arrangement.

 Acquiring a piece on Private Mailo

 Unlike Kabaka’s land where no one can own land permanently, in Private Mailo, owners have full powers over their land but cannot carry out any transaction unless they fully consent with the bibanja holders.

 Mr Kizito says when buying land on this arrangement, the buyer should do due diligence to ensure that the person they are dealing with is the right one.

 He says an agreement, or endagaano, should be provided by the seller if it is untitled land. “This should be collaborated with the area leadership and neighbours. Then the person selling should introduce the buyer to the registered owner of that land who should offer consent before any transaction happens,” he said.

 Mr Kizito says this ensures the Landlord knows the next person who has come on their land or if possible they buy off the tenant’s rights permanently.

 For instance, in Bulenga, Wakiso District, Pastor Daniel Banja of Bulenga Healing Centre Church in Wakiso District is currently battling with businessman and proprietor of Das Barkliner Hotel-Bulenga John Kalemba, who acquired kibanja rights on Pr Banja’s land from his former tenants without Pastor Banja’s consent.

 Pastor Banja had bought the land located on Block 364 Plot 395 from his cousin James Ssembayita in November 2020 and registered it on April 13, 2023.

 The two tenants (bibanja holders) Grace Mutyaba and Isaac Ssemakula transferred their interests to Mr Kalemba without notifying Pastor Banja leading to the current crisis.

 In circumstances where the seller is the Landlord, proper processes (general procedure of buying land) as outlined below should be followed.

 The Landlord like the kibanja holder is also supposed to notify the tenant before selling the land off, in order to give first priority to them to buy.

Freehold Land System

The Land Act defines a Freehold Land Tenure as a system where owners of land have a deed/ title to their land, which allows them to hold the registered land forever and do whatever they want with it, in accordance with the law.

 It is the most commonly used land tenure system in the country, especially in Eastern, Western, and some parts of Central and Northern region.

 Owners of this type of land tenure system can use, sell, lease, transfer, subdivide, mortgage and give away the land as they see fit.

 It was also set up by the 1900 Buganda Agreement between Buganda and the British colonial government. Some of this land was issued to church missionaries and academic institutions as well as some individuals.

 Experts say acquiring land in this tenure system is the easiest one because it requires only two people (the seller and buyer) unlike in the Mailo Land System, which requires a third party.

 “The buyer just needs to visit the land, make a background check, hire a lawyer and satisfy himself or herself that the land is the one and later conclude the transaction,” says Mr Swaibu Kikomeko, a land lawyer.

 Customary Land System

Customary Land Tenure is a system of land ownership based on customary rules formed from norms and cultures of families, clans, or communities. The land holding is majorly practiced in Eastern and Northern Uganda, where land is owned by indigenous communities and managed in accordance with their customs and people on customary land do not usually have or own land titles.

 A senior land lawyer, Mr Elias Nalukoola of Nalukoola and Co. Advocates, says buying land in such settings is very difficult because different communities vary.

 “Here, land is owned and disposed of in accordance with customs, norms and practices of a specific community and applicable to a specific area of land and a specific class of people. For instance, the way a community in Lango manages their land is not the same way the community in Tororo, or West Nile will do” he says.

 He adds: “It is governed by rules and practices generally accepted as binding and authoritative by the class or group of people to which it applies but such rules and practices must not be discriminatory against women, children and persons with disability.”

Leasehold Land System

The Land Act, 1998, defines Leasehold Land Tenure as a system where one holds land for a given period from a specified date of commencement, on such terms and conditions as the lessor and lessee may agree upon.

 One can get a lease from an individual, a local authority, an organisation or company, an institution like Buganda Kingdom or from the government for a period usually 49 or 99 years or in between under agreed terms and conditions.

 For the government, the Uganda Land Commission (ULC) and District Land Boards (DLB) manage the land and for Buganda the BLB manages it.

 Under the Leasehold Land system, the landowner and the prospective tenant sign a contract that allows both parties to define the terms and conditions of access and usage in such a manner that suit both of them.

Section 28 of the Land Act states that the land that is leased to Ugandan citizens out of former public land and was subsisting on the coming into force of the Act can be converted into Freehold, so that the owners take its full ownership.

 Mr Nalukoola says whomever wishes to get such land must apply to BLB, ULC or the DLB and follow the requisite procedures.


Mr Brian Kayongo, a senior real estate dealer and CEO of Concept Real Estate, says every land buyer should first understand what they are buying to have the full knowledge of what exactly they are investing in.

Site visiting

Visiting the location of the land before committing anything is ta first step everyone intending to buy land should do.

   “If the buyer lives outside the country, they should appoint a family member to go with their lawyer and inspect the land and take photos and videos and send them to him as well,” Mr Kikomeko says.

   “But if the buyer is in Uganda, there is no reason why one does not go there and see what one is going to buy,” he adds.

Getting a lawyer

Mr Kikomeko advises one seeking to buy land to get a lawyer who will help them in the process, especially on issues that require legal assistance. This, he says, will help in avoiding future issues that may arise.

   “And don’t just get any ordinary lawyer, get someone who has knowledge about land issues and that is why you may require the services of a professional law firm who will allocate a competent lawyer in that field,” he says.

Land search

Mr Nalukoola says in addition to doing an on-ground research about the ownership of the land, the buyer should do a search from the Lands ministry.

   “The search helps you to know if the person selling the land is genuine,” he says. 

   “If the land is in an Estate of the deceased, you must also get consent from all beneficiaries to ensure that the portion of land you are buying belongs to the seller, in order to avoid future crisis,” Mr Nalukoola says.

     Mr Dennis Obbo, the spokesperson of the Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development, says a quick land search has now been nationalised and is now being used in all the Lands ministry’s 22 zonal offices across the country.

    “You can also make a search from a one-stop centre at the Uganda Registration Service Bureau (URSB) and Uganda Investment Authority (UIA) offices in Kampala and Hoima at Shs10,000 for Mailo and Freehold, and Shs5,000 for Customary-owned land,” he said.

    Mr Obbo says the Lands ministry has also modified the search system where the prospective buyer is now able to know if the land they intend to buy has an ongoing transaction or not.

     Mr Kikomeko further advises buyers to get the National Identification Numbers (NINs) of the sellers and go to the National Identification and Registration Authority (Nira) to ascertain if indeed the person they are dealing with is not a fraudster.

    Mr Kizito said the Buganda Land Board is the only organisation that is mandated to offer consent if it is Kabaka’s land.

Boundary opening

Using a professional surveyor, the buyer and seller should make proper boundary openings on the land.

     Mr Nalukoola says this will help to inform the residents living in the neighbourhood on the ongoing transactions, “and if there is any issue with the land, the buyer will know.”

     In Namayumba Sub-county, in Wakiso District, for example, a land surveyor, Ms Berna Nakato, without doing enough research, in 2022, acquired 200 acres, part of the disputed 1,000 acres, whose sellers did not notify the bibanja occupants settled on it.

    The surveyor, who tried using force to take over her stake, has since faced multiple resistances, attracting the attention of Lands minister Judith Nabakooba, who has since stopped any transaction on the land.

    The grandchildren of Gabudyeri Lubajja led by Mr Richard Semitala and Eustarious Ssegantebuka, who sold the land to Ms Nakato, have also failed to help her take over the land because some of their family members led by Josephine Mpamulungi and Teddy Namusoke dragged them to court in 2022, accusing them of not only processing letters of administrations (77 of 2010), but also bringing in Nakato without their consent as well as those of the bibanja holders.


After ascertaining the ownership of the land and ensuring that it does not have any issues and encumbrances, the experts say the two parties can now go ahead to negotiate the prices.

    “During negotiations, it is the real buyer who is supposed to discuss with the seller and even when they are outside the country, they must use social media platforms such as WhatsApp video calls, and Skype to ensure there is that face-to-face interaction.

Writing the agreements

Experts say the sales agreement should be prepared by the lawyer of the buyer and later presented to the seller’s counterpart, if they have one.

    When the two parties agree upon the terms, payments are then made on the buyer’s preferred account or in cash.

  “If the amount is small and the buyer is out, they can choose which account to deposit on but if it is a lump sum, it is advisable that they appear in person,” Mr Kikomeko says.

Stamp Duty payment

Since December 2021, all land transactions that exceed Shs10 million have been attracting a Stamp Duty Tax of 1.5 percent of the total value of the sale, which is paid by the buyer.

    The supervisor tax education at the Uganda Revenue Authority (URA), Mr Robert Wamala,    says these fees are paid to the government to authenticate documents and make them legally binding in courts of law.

     On that note, both the seller and the buyer are required to acquire a Tax Identification Number (TIN).

    Starting December 2021, a buyer and seller of land are required to each have a

TIN if the value of the land is Shs10 million and above.

     Mr Wamala said: “The process is very simple, the taxpayer declares the total value of the land on the URA portal They download and take the Declaration and Consent form to the Chief Government Valuer in the Lands ministry who signs and posts the amount to URA.’’

    The taxpayer obtains a Payment Registration Form (PRN) with a Payment Registration Number (PRN) from a URA officer by presenting the Declaration form, the Transfer form and the signed Consent form,” he added.

Registration of Transfer

After clearing with URA, then the transfer process is started and experts say vital documents are supposed to be available and these are; original title deed of the land, original stamp duty assessment forms and receipt, duly stamped transfer documents, original paid-up land rents receipts and clearance certificate, stamp duty valuation report, original land rates clearance certificate, consent to transfer plus application for registration.

    Mr Kizito says the Bibanja holders need an agreement since they don’t have the original title of the land.

     The experts say once the above process is fulfilled, the process is now legally accepted and ownership dully changed.



Step 1

The applicant must have in his or her possession fully completed Forms 8, 10, 18, 23, a set of 3 authentic deed plans, 3 Passport Photographs, Receipts of Payment and a forwarding letter requesting for a Leasehold title signed by the District Land Officer of the respective District where the land is located.

Step 2

The applicant presents the full set of original documents and a photocopy of the same, to the Department of Land Administration for Checking. The Photocopy is stamped ‘Received’ and returned to the Applicant. The Applicant checks with the Department of Land Administration after 10 working days to confirm their approval or rejection, and is given a letter advising him/her on the fees to be paid.

Step 3

Once approved, the documents are forwarded to the Department of Land Registration for preparation and issuance of Lease agreements.

    The applicant checks after 10 working days to pick up the Lease agreements for signing and sealing by the Chairperson and the Secretary of the respective District Land Board and to Pay Stamp Duty, which is 1% of the Premium and Ground Rent.

Step 4

The applicant presents fully signed and sealed lease documents by the District Land Board Chairperson and Secretary and lease agreements embossed by URA. The applicant is given a photocopy of the lease agreements stamped ‘Received’.

Step 5

The applicant presents the photocopy given to him/her by the Department of Land Registration stamped ‘Received’ and identification documents on collecting the Leasehold Title.            The applicant signs for the Title and the Photocopy is stamped ‘Returned’ on completion.

      Documents required are Form 8, 10, 18, 23, set of Deed Plans, set of Passport Photographs, General Receipts of Payment and a Requesting Letter.

       Fees paid at the URA are 1% of the Premium and Ground Rent

    Fees paid at the Ministry / District are Registration fees – Shs10,000; Assurance of Title – Shs20,000; issuance of the Title – Shs20,000; Preparation of Lease – Shs20,000.

Source: Ministry of Lands website