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Using Blockchain to Issue and Manage Property Rights

Property rights include the buying, selling and renting rights of a property. There is a lot of bulkiness involved in the management of property rights in almost any country around the world including the developed countries; the difference is not significant as anyone would think. If you think this statement is farfetched just visit your local government property office and check around. If you don’t find multiple shelves with bulky piles of files and paperwork you will find computers with administrators seated in front of them inputting data or scanning documents and uploading.

Anyone who owns a house or a piece of land knows what I am talking about. Although I will discuss extensively on how Blockchain will influence how governments manage land or property records in the coming sections, I would like to address this first from a purely legal perspective. A lot of paperwork at our property offices has made issuance and management of property rights a nightmare.

The bulkiness, the time-consumption, the fatigue, the confusion and the discouragement that officers at the property offices are forced to bare are unimaginable. My mind cannot even fathom how a country like China or India with over one billion people manages their property rights.

In Kenya, my lovely homeland, the narrative is not any different; there is still over-reliance on paper records and physical filing of documents either in physical files or basic computer files. Whether on physical files or computer files the difficulty and the risks associated with managing property rights in such conditions are almost the same. I agree that using computers greatly reduces the bulkiness, but the problem is that the data files are not immutable as the Blockchain thus several other duplicate copies of the same information has to be stored in other databases or cloud. I strongly believe the use of Blockchain in property rights issuance and management can simplify the whole process.

Property offices have to keep several piles of ledgers, property cards and paper deeds to track property ownership and transfers. Lawyers have been having difficulty ensuring that the property rights transactions are completed within a good time because of the confusion that often ensue in management of property ownership data. I remember my brother’s advocate had to make several trips to the lands office as well in order to fully deliver his legal services. The numbers of disputes that arise concerning property ownership are so many especially in the developing countries.

A good example is India where land records since colonial times were ambiguously stored; the majority of the cases in the India courts are regarding property disputes. Blockchain technology has an inherent digital ledger function and security that can ensure effectiveness, immutability and security in the storage of data on property rights such as land ownership, lease details, and sale details.

India hosted an international Blockchain conference in 2017 themed ‘Blockchain for Property Governance: A Conference on Distributed Ledgers for Secure Property Rights’, addressing the issue of digital property rights.lvii Kenya has also set up a Blockchain task force in early 2018 to explore ways in which Blockchain can be used in Lands registry among other areas. I will give more examples and more coverage under ‘National and Local Governments’ so stay put and hungry to learn more on how Blockchain will change the management of property rights.

 

Betty Wanjiru,

Betty’s Place Restaurant, Nyeri

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