Land Title Systems in Uganda.

The issue of land in Uganda is often taken with extra precaution due to the legal issues that surround it. With the increased scramble for land in this country, one is safer having sufficient knowledge about the legal processes of registering and transferring land titles.


  •  Always search for the title in the lands ministry or regional offices ( District Land Offices)  before paying for land.
  • Ask people in the neighborhood if there are any disputes over the land.
  • Make sure the land you are interested in has a valid title.
  •  Avoid making payments before meeting and discussing with the Owner.
  •  If it is family land, ensure that all members consent to the sale of land before paying. If possible, they should all sign on the sale agreement.

Untitled Land / Public Land.

Most land in Uganda is owned under ‘customary tenure’. The law recognises customary ownership as being equal to ownership with freehold title, and the landowners are entitled to the same compensation, whichever system of ownership they hold their land under.

However, people trying to acquire land for development need to understand that there are differences between titled (or registered) land and customary (or unregistered) land.

  1. a) Customary land usually does not have any formal papers of ownership.

When land is titled, it should be fairly simple to establish the legal ownership, since the owner or owners should have their names on the title, and this can be verified at the Land Registry.

(This is sometimes true in theory, but in practice, some titles are often in the names of persons who have passed away, and the titles have not been updated with the names of those who inherited the land. Always ensure updates are made before purchase.)

Customary Land owners usually don’t have any papers at all. Even if they bought land with a written sales agreement, signed by an LC official, this is not a formal State document proving ownership. When buying untitled land, the buyer has to check that the person selling the land is really the owner, and exercise what is called ‘due diligence’. (This is a legal phrase meaning that you must do your best to check up that everything is being done properly.)

This will entail going to the community to check who is considered to have the right to sell the land. The LCs in the village may not be aware of all of the complications of ownership in the history of the land, so it is best to check with

  • Local Councils
  • Local Land Committees
  • Local customary authority / Elders
  • Land Neighbors

There are four land tenure systems in Uganda. These are Mailo, Freehold, customary and Leasehold. Mailo, Freehold and Leasehold all have Titles that should be easily verified at the Land Registry.


What is a road reserve?

In Uganda, a road reserve is 15m from the centerline on either sides of the road. The recommended building line is 3m for urban/town centers and 6m for rural areas from the edge of the road reserve.

A road reserve is a legally described area within which facilities such as roads, footpaths, and associated features may be constructed for public travel. The situation of people setting up buildings in Uganda is quite serious because it is threatening not only current but future road expansion as well.

An announcement from the Uganda National Roads Authority states that,.
Setting up any form of infrastructure or business in the road reserve is illegal:
• Do not construct in road reserves
• Do not plant crops in road reserves
• Do not purchase land in road reserves
• Do not erect billboards/signs in the road reserve without UNRA authorization.
Properties and businesses built in the road reserve will be demolished

What is a Wayleave corridor?

The laws of Uganda criminalise encroachment within the high voltage installations way leaves corridors, which is punishable by imprisonment and a fine.”

A Wayleave is a right of way granted by the land or property owner for development. This may include erection and laying of power lines, rail line, highway roads, water mains, sewers, telephone cables or digging a footpath.

Thus, a Wayleave corridor is the radius from the centre of high voltage transmission power lines and is supposed to be clear of any activities.