Real Estate Info

Uganda Real Estate Information


What is MAILO LAND.?

The term is used in Uganda to describe a land tenure system that came into effect when the Buganda Kingdom signed the 1900 agreement. The Mailo system is predominantly in Buganda region and in some parts of Mbale, Bunyoro, and Toro. The basic unit of the mailo system is a square mile, hence the derivation of mailo, which is also equivalent to 640 acres.

Two categories of mailo were introduced; official Mailo and private Mailo whereby official Mailo refers to land owned by the Kabaka (Buganda King), Katikkiro (Buganda Prime Minister), Omulamuzi (Buganda Chief Justice) and Ssaza (Chief). Private Mailo refers to land owned by private individuals. Official Mailo is supposed to benefit specific offices such as Kabaka’s office, Katikkiro, Ssaza, and Gombolola Chiefs and therefore, not supposed to be sold, however, this can be leased. The Kabaka was given 350 square miles, which is currently administered by the Buganda Land Board.

Private Mailo went to individuals, including the Kabaka as a person, royals, individual chiefs, and some notables. There were 1,000 people who were given 8,000sqr miles.

NOTE: There were 9,000 sq miles, which comprising lakes, rivers, and hills, was left untouched and vested in the Crown of England hence the name; Crown Land. At Uganda’s independence in 1962, the colonial government instituted a statutory body called Buganda Land Board, where this land was vested. When the then president Milton Obote abolished kingdoms in Uganda, the Uganda Land Commission was created and it is where this land was administered. Ugandans can obtain Freehold titles on this Land.


Under Mailo land tenure, Private owners have perpetual ownership and are free to sell or pass on their rights to their heirs. Many Private Mailo holders have since 1900 sold off their holdings, to such an extent that the Ministry of Lands puts the number of owners to have risen to more than 200,000 today, from the original 1,000 allocatees courtesy of so many having inherited or bought parts of what was previously one piece of land, thereby causing various subdivisions. It is important to note that there are no new titles issued under Mailo tenure because all titles were issued prior to 1928. What is done today is only further subdivision of the existing titles as well as changing the names on the titles in cases where ownership is being transferred.


Busuulu and Envujjo Law of 1928.

The “Buganda Busuulu and Envujjo law of 1928“, which was described as “perhaps the first legislative enactment in Africa dealing with native rental conditions” came into effect on January 1, 1928. The law provided that “No tenant may be evicted by the Private mailo owners from his kibanja (Land) save for public purpose or for other good and sufficient cause unless a court having jurisdiction shall have tried the case and made the order of eviction”. The same law also provided that “while a tenant is still prosecuting his appeal, or until the time for appeal has expired, he shall remain in undisturbed possession of his kibanja until such time as the order of eviction shall have been received from the final court of Appeal”.

This Law was the principal foundation of the current land Act of 1998 and the subsequent 2010 amendments therein. Under the above Act, the Busuulu was fixed by law at sh10 per annum. The same law is however silent on where tenants should pay Busuulu (nominal ground rent) if the landlords refuse to receive it as it is evidenced in various Buganda districts today. Majority of Occupiers of Land in Buganda are Bibanja Holders (Bonified Occupants), The registered owners are majorly absentee landlords


These include bonafide and lawful tenants. They are considered tenants of the registered owner of the land which they occupy and are required to pay annual ground rent.

Most people in Buganda are tenants by occupancy and are required to pay Busuulu: Rights and Duties of Tenants by Occupancy and Kibanja Holders

  1. Tenants by occupancy have a right to occupy land under the laws of Uganda.
  2. They have the right to enter transactions with respect to the land they occupy with the consent of the registered landowner, which should not be denied on unreasonable grounds
  3. The law strictly requires tenants by occupancy to give the landowner the first option where they wish to sell their interest and vice versa where a landowner wants to sell the land. This must be on a willing buyer willing seller basis.
  4. Where a tenant by occupancy or Kibanja holder sells their interest without giving the landowner the first option, he or she commits an offense and loses the right to occupy the land.
  5. A person who buys registered land which has tenants by occupancy must respect and observe their rights.
  6. He or she must not evict them except if he or she obtains a court order of eviction for non-payment of the annual nominal ground rent.
  7. Similarly, any person who buys registered land in Buganda must observe the rights of Kibanja holders on the land.
  8. Tenants by occupancy and Kibanja holders can also register a caveat at the Registry of Lands where they have reason to suspect that the registered landowner intends to enter a land transaction which will affect their rights and interests.


An absentee landlord is a person who owns and rents out a profit-earning property but does not live within the property’s local economic region. The term “absentee landlord” describes the situation where a person with the ultimate ownership of land—and this may be an actual person, a corporate entity, or even the state itself—does not personally use the land but instead extracts payment for its use by another. In one sense most landlords are “absent” in that the land is let for a rent to another person who enjoys physical possession and use of it. Historically absentee landlords have generated both social and economic problems on a grand scale, especially when the absenteeism is allied with external domination of the local territory


One can only secure their land by knowing the tenure he or she is under, plus his or her duties and responsibilities on the said piece of land.

The process of obtaining a certificate of title under Mailo land is supposed to be done through law. It is important to note that no new titles are offered under Mailo Land, but rather old titles are either subdivided or transferred into new names. In order to get a land title subdivided or transferred; you get the plot and block number of the land, then present it to the Registry of Titles at the Lands Offices who will confirm whether it is registered. The owner from whom you are buying fills in a transfer form and two consent forms.

The problems of dual ownership mainly on Mailo land is a challenge that arose as a result of the law giving rights of ownership and usage to more than one person for the same plot of land. In its interest to protect tenants, the law gives the tenants powers that are almost of ownership, because the law states that a landlord cannot sell off any piece of land without the consent of the tenants.

What some Mailo landlords do is sell off the land without the consent of the tenants, and in the end, the new buyer gets in trouble with the tenants who were not informed of the sale by their landlord, yet the law protects them that if they were not informed then they have to be compensated.

Advice to anyone buying land under Mailo tenure where the land has tenants, the buyer has to first ensure that the existing landlord and his tenants have reached a memorandum of understanding, or else the buyer will end up in conflict. With the exception of Buganda which is mainly held under Mailo, land in other parts of Uganda is held mostly under the customary tenure.