Real Estate Laws in Uganda

Real Estate Laws in Uganda

Uganda is a rapidly developing country with a growing real estate market. If you are considering investing in Ugandan real estate, it is important to be familiar with the country’s real estate laws. This article will provide you with a comprehensive overview of the real estate laws in Uganda, including land tenure systems, foreign ownership, and property transfer procedures.

Real estate in Uganda is one of the most profitable investments one can make. This is due to the fact that its value has steadily been on the rise for over 20 years, and the trend is expected to remain so for a longer time. Here’s an outline of the most relevant laws guiding the real estate industry in Uganda.


Article 237(1) of the Constitution states that land belongs to the citizens of Uganda and Article 26(1) protects the right to own property either individually or in association with others for instance groups of people who own land communally.

The citizens of Uganda hold land under 4 tenure systems namely: Freehold, Mailo, Leasehold and Customary according to Article 237(3) of the 1995 Constitution of Uganda and Section 2 of the Land Act.

Freehold Tenure

Refers to land held/owned by an individual registered on the certificate of title as the land owner for life. There are no tenants by occupancy on this land.

An owner of freehold has the following rights:

  1. Using and developing the land
  2. Entering into land transactions
  3. Taking and using produce from the land
  4. Giving the land to any person in a will

This type of land is the most popular in Uganda. Leasehold and customary land can be converted to freehold land (Sections 28 and 29 of the Land Act)

Mailo Tenure

Is land held by a land owner that has roots from the 1900 Uganda Agreement and 1928 Busullu Envujjo Law. It is mainly in the Buganda region. Both the land owner registered on the certificate of title, tenants by occupancy, and Kibanja holders have interests in this land. They are all entitled to adequate and fair compensation.

A lease is created by law where:

  1. The person granted the lease dies, and his or her successor is registered as the new lessee.
  2. A non-citizen person or company which acquires land in Uganda because non-citizens can’t own mailo, freehold or customary land.
  3. A Ugandan who holds land in freehold and mailo tenure loses their citizenship, their land automatically changes to a lease of 99 years. This is because a non-citizen can only own land in leasehold tenure (Section 40 of the Land Act)

During the process of compulsory acquisition of leasehold land by the government, the law recognizes two interests over the property in question:

  1. The rights of the person granted a lease; and
  2. The interest of the land owner

Therefore, both parties are entitled to compensation from the government in the event of compulsory acquisition.

Leasehold Tenure

Is land on which a land owner allows another person to take exclusive possession for a specific period of years or more in exchange for rent. A lease may be created either under a contract between the parties or by law. The person granted a lease must use the land for the specific purpose as agreed with the land owner (Section 3(5) of the Land Act).

Customary Tenure

Is where the land is owned based on the norms and traditions of a given society or community. One can even own land individually under customary tenure as long as it has been handed over from generation to generation using that society’s customs. Special protection is accorded to the rights of women, children and persons with disabilities to own, occupy or use customary land (Section 27 of the Land Act).

In 2015, the government of Uganda introduced Certificates of Customary Ownership (CCOs) for owners of customary land. A customary land owner can apply for a CCO as proof of ownership of the land (Section 4 of the Land Act). This tenure is the most common form of land holding in Uganda.

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