What constitute Land in Zanzibar ?

According to the Land Tenure Act of Zanzibar; land is defined to include land covered by water, all things growing on land, buildings and other things permanently affixed to land, except trees when specifically classified and owned separately.

Something that is worth noting from this definition is that trees are not necessarily part of land. It’s important to be aware and specific when you sales or purchase land in Zanzibar.

Who can own Land in Zanzibar?

First and foremost, it is important to note that, according to the land laws of Zanzibar, all-natural land occupied or unoccupied is vested and owned by the President for the use of common benefits of the people of Zanzibar.

As the land is totally owned by the President, then what the people of Zanzibar are allowed to own is the right to use land or an interest over the land.

The right to own an interest in land is granted only to a Zanzibari who are above the age of eighteen years, through the Right of Occupancy. No foreigner, not even a Tanzanian coming from Tanzania mainland is allowed to be granted a Right of Occupancy, by way of acquisition or purchase.

Sale and Purchase Land with Right of Occupancy certificate.

Generally speaking there is no restriction on the ability to sale an interest in land. The sale can be effected between one person and another or from one person to a group of people or between groups of people to another group.

Once the right to own an interest over the land has been granted to a Zanzibari, then the owner of such interest is free to sale, lease, bequeath, gift (the later are restricted to blood relation only first and second degrees relatives) his interest over the land to any person including a foreigner.

Can A Land without Right of Occupancy be sold or Transferred?.

Not all owners/occupiers of the lands in Zanzibar have granted the Right of Occupancy. There are some parts of the land which are not surveyed, hence no R/O has been granted, but the owners/occupiers have legal ownership of these lands either through inheritance or purchase. These types of land are also not restricted from being sold or transferred to a new owner/occupier.

Can a Foreigner Purchase land or Property in Zanzibar?

Since the owner of an interest over the land or occupier of the land is not restricted from leasing or selling his interest over the land. Then there is a room for a foreigner, to buy land or property in Zanzibar.

A foreigner can purchase land from the holder of Right of Occupancy, or from any person owning interest over the land though other means including inheritance, or purchase but has no granted Right of Occupancy.

Further, A foreigner can acquire/purchase a landed property such as house, or apartment, in Zanzibar. According to the definition of land given by the Land laws of Zanzibar, to include among other things attached to land, buildings. therefore it is possible to purchase a ready made house in Zanzibar. In addition to that, since coming into force the Condominium Act No 10 of 2010, has brought about change that allows a foreigner to purchase landed property in Zanzibar, and be granted a title deed for a maximum of 99 year. The Lease is transferable and inheritable, this is further discussed and explained below.

Land Purchase and Land Transfer Process

When buying land in Zanzibar, one has to observe the below procedure for a successful purchase and transfer of land ownership form the current owner to the buyer.

First, locate the land you need to purchase, once you are certain about the location you may negotiate and agreed on purchasing price. Thereafter, we recommend that you get an assistance from qualified lawyer/attorney to guide you throughout the process, that is;

  1. Conduct official search to ascertain the ownership the interest over the land,
  2. Prepare, sign, attest and register land purchase agreement,
  3. Site plan and beacon Placement,
  4. Request land transfer approval from the relevant institution,
  5. Apply for Government Lease, and
  6. Apply for relevant building permit before starting any development over the land.

Obligation & Rights acquired when Purchasing Land or Property.

Once land purchase is concluded, between the seller and the buyer, immediately the buyer acquires some obligation and rights over that land.

In Zanzibar, once a foreigner, purchase a land or property, then if the land or property purchased has not been surveyed. The buyer needs to ensure that the land is surveyed by placing the land beacons to locate the boundaries and site plan has been issued by relevant authorities. The transfer of ownership from the current owner to the buyer will not be effected in absence of the site plan.

Secure building permit from the relevant authorities where the land is located. No one is permitted to start building or develop land for any purposes, unless he/she acquires the building permit. The building permit will specifically allow the owner/occupier to develop land within permitted terms including, building permitted structures over the land.

Upon approval of land transfer from the current owner to the buyer by the relevant institution. The buyer must proceed to request a Lease from government through relevant institution(s). The lease once approved by the government will recognize the buyer as the lawful occupier and user of the land.

Accordingly Lease approval will give the following rights to the holder.

  1. Right to use and occupy the land for 33 years. Upon expiry of 33 years the holder will be allowed to renew the Lease. Provided that the land has been used for a permitted use, for the whole time of lease term.
  2. Right to develop land including to build permitted structures on the land, subject to securing the building permit.
  3. Right to dispose an interest over the land by way of lease or sale. A foreigner buyer can lease or even sale the land to a local person or another foreigner. Provided that he/she complies with the requirements put forward by the relevant authority.

Purchase Condominium Property in Zanzibar.

As Explained above, the Condominium Act No 10 of 2010, now affords both Zanzibar and Non-Zanzibari to purchase Unit(s) in a Condominium property. Upon successful purchase the buyer will be granted the title deed/Lease for 99 years. The Lease term is normally granted for phases of 33-years each. Further, the owner of unit(s) in a condominium property are at liberty to renew the lease upon its expiration.

Apart from the long term renewable lease enjoyed by the Unit buyer. The unit owner, can rent his/her unit to other people, or resell the unit, and above all the title deed is inheritable, meaning it can pass through generations.

Things to consider when purchasing a Condominium Property in Zanzibar

  1. Buy only form approved projects. The property developer shall provide the prospective buyer with all relevant documents concerning the land, site plan and building plan approved by the Condominium Board.
  2. Validate the seller. Conduct official search to ensure the seller is the owner or has been approved by the owner to sell the property on their behalf.
  3. Signing, Attestation and registration of Sale agreement. The sale agreement has to be registered for it to become a valid document and enforceable, before the Court in case of any dispute.
  4. Transfer and grant of the title deed or Lease. Upon successful purchase the owner has the right to be granted the title deed and Lease from the government for 99 years.
  5. The unit owner has obligations towards his fellow unit owners. Use and maintenance of common areas, subject to agreement and decisions made by the unit owners/condominium association.

Property Purchase and Grant of Residence Permit in Zanzibar

Generally, a Non-Tanzanian citizens, are not allowed to live or reside in Zanzibar without a Residence permit. This permit allows a foreigner to stay in any designated part of Zanzibar for two years without existing the country, if he/she so wishes.

To qualify for residence permit in Zanzibar, one must have a work permit as one of the mandatory requirement. With exception to people aging 60 years and above who can apply for retirement residence permit. To secure a work permit, you must have an established business or employment within Zanzibar. This will make you eligible for work permit and consequently Residence permit. Click this link for more information about Residence permit in Zanzibar.

With that in mind and the need to attract more investors in the country. Zanzibar Investment Promotion Authority (ZIPA) came up with and arrangement, where it would facilitate and secure residence permit for investors who are purchasing landed property in Zanzibar.

It is our opinion that, these recent development are put in place by ZIPA, to accommodate foreign investors who needs to purchase property in Zanzibar, but have no intention to work or run a business in Zanzibar. So that they can become eligible to secure residence permit, allowing them to legally stay or live in their purchased properties.

To qualify for this type of Residence Permit, one must comply with the below criteria;

  1. Purchase property worth of at least US$ 100,000,
  2. The purchased property must be under ZIPA’s approved projects,
  3. Shall submit all the required documents and information needed for Residence Permit approval.

At Eden Law Chambers, we support and assist clients who are interested to purchase land or property in Zanzibar. Our Support is throughout the whole process starting from conducting search to ascertain ownership over the land through to application for Lease from the Government. For more information and fee quote on our service, please fill in the form by clicking the below link;