How protected are property owners – local or foreign - in Zanzibar? In this exclusive interview Zanzibar lawyer Mussa Kombo talks to FUMBA TIMES and finds straightforward answers for a complex issue.
Since 2010 a condominium law administers property with multiple units whether it’s a high vertical building, or an estate with horizontal property in Zanzibar. Already that was a big step forward. Now regulations for this have been put into writing and passed by the Zanzibar government for better implementation of that law. In essence that means, we have clear regulations for every situation now.
It gives security. Foreigners as well as locals are now entitled to buy houses and flats and get a clear title deed in Zanzibar. The good thing: This title deed is inherited by law. You have the liberty to renew the lease when the term is about to expire.
It is a 99-year-lease issued gradually in phases, about 33 years for each phase. But because of the long duration usually equalling or longer than a life span – and because it is inheritable it equals ownership.
No foreigner can own land in Zanzibar under the Right of Occupancy, not even a Tanzanian from mainland. The land laws are strict on this. The reason is: We are so small. Zanzibar is smaller than some districts in mainland Tanzania. Even hotel projects lease the land after the approval of projects by the Zanzibar Investment Promotion Authority (ZIPA).
Another good part of the Condo Act. It regulates in very clear terms the selling and renting part. There is legal assurance for all parties.
Let’s talk about a unit of 100 flats or buildings. As a proprietor or developer you can build those units and legally transfer the flats and houses to individual owners each with a title deed. Once you are the new proud owner of one flat you can legally rent it out, get income from it, resell it and do
whatever you’d like within certain provisions. Owning a flat or house also comes with responsibilities, the act is very clear about that…
You have to paint your flat, the condo provider has to maintain common gardens, the individual owner again has to contribute to maintenance costs. In a beautiful apartment complex you cannot be the one with broken windows, you cannot let your flat deteriorate. On the other hand the law also clearly stipulates what is carried out by the overall property owner such as providing water, sewerage, drainage, gas, electricity, garbage removal, telephone and television services.
And even gets better, the condo corporation or provider cannot suddenly alter, lets say your window or view, and build another house just in front of you. Everything must remain like it was at the date of registration of the particular condo property.
Yes, very important. By law the condo provider has to insure the entire property against fire, hurricanes and other disasters.
The unit owner has the right to be furnished with all necessary documents including copies of the lease of the entire area to which the building was erected, site plan of the entire building, condominium plan as approved by the condominium board and other documents. These documents should be availed to the prospective unit owner during the signing of the purchase agreement.
Of course, the law therefore has established a national Zanzibar Condominium Board where issues related to condos are dealt with. The board ensures that the condo project runs smoothly as approved at the beginning, for any changes the approval of the board is sought beforehand. The board meets quarter-yearly. On top of that, every condo property, let‘s say Fumba Town, will form so-called condominium associations. They represent the individual owners. They can decide, within the boundaries of law, what to do with their properties, do they want to add a pool for instance, do the houses need repainting, are the maintenance charges correct?
But much clearer than before.
Think of the Michenzani, Kilimani and Kikwajuni flats, some planned and built by German engineers in the 70s. Those buildings were deemed a great progress for Zanzibar but they were and still are to a certain extent totally unregulated. That’s why they are often not well maintained. Those were the first condos in Zanzibar – most of them owned by the government and some by individuals.
The law applies to both, the condos that came after the passing of the law but also those which were there before. One of the initiatives that can be taken to improve the old condos of Michenzani, Kilimani, Kikwajuni and elsewhere is to establish condo associations where the owners can agree on modalities to improve their units.
A fictitious question. In principle, the Zanzibar constitution protects one’s property against any “unfair seizure” as elaborated under section 17. The section provides that, when there is a dire need for expropriation, compensation has to be paid. Moreover, compensation should be paid at market value, as the Land Tenure Act clearly stipulates.
It’s a huge benefit. It will attract investors because it gives assurance of sustainability.