Land matters in Kenya are a hot button issue. Many a times, we were treated to incredible scenes of tall buildings that are built on riparian land coming down in dramatic fashion and reduced to rubbles.
The word ‘beacon’ is commonly used in Kenya to refer to a mark on the ground at the point where boundaries change direction. In other parts of the world, they may say a monument or a peg to mean the same thing. In Kenya, survey beacons are used for demarcating boundaries between different plots of land. The land can either be public, communal or privately owned.
Most beacons are installed by land surveyors. Depending on the surveyor that installs them, the appearance may be different. Most beacons look like a concrete slab that sits on the surface of the ground with the plot numbers inscribed on them. They can also be large concrete posts which makes them easier to find by a survey team or the landowner. Because of their size, they’re usually made with metal pins inside. This makes them a target for scrap metal so they are often vandalised. Because of this, the most recent trend has been to use PVC pipes filled with concrete.
When surveyors install beacons on a property, they first confirm the true boundaries with their equipment to ensure that what is on the ground corresponds to the deed plan.
A good beacon confirmation and re-establishment should be able to tell the true area of your land as indicated in your title deed, deed plan or any other ownership document in your possession. Some parties go a notch higher and ask for a beacon certificate from the surveyor. A beacon certificate is a document anchored in the Survey Act declaring that the surveyor has placed beacons, that he has full knowledge of the positions of the said beacons and that he is satisfied that such define the boundaries of the parcel in question.
As the owner of a property, the onus is on you to have the beacons installed and to maintain them. Ensure that you trim around your beacons often to avoid overgrowth of bushes and wild grass, most especially if you do not live on the property full time. It is also important to ensure that the beacons are easily identifiable to deter squatters from settling on your property. It is a simple way of showing people that the property has an owner that is active and paying attention to the activity in and around it.
Conventionally, specific types of trees and bushes were planted to mark boundaries. In some communities, this practice is still the norm. Today we tend to fence our properties with concrete walls, wire or electric fences. But depending on the size of the plot and its location, the cost can be very high. Due to cost, many properties are left unfenced. If fencing is not possible, planting trees along the boundary between the beacons is an easy and inexpensive way to further mark your boundary once the beacons are established.
So, next time you embark on a construction job and the client is in a fix about the position of his beacons or parcel boundaries, don’t wish the issue away. Suggest to the client to seek the services of a land surveyor, duly trained and qualified. It might save him or her millions of shillings in damages just in case the property built on that land should be destroyed.
Another overlooked factor that developers often ignore before embarking on construction. That is beacon confirmation and re-establishment.
Kenyans are attached to the ‘ka-plot’ mentality with good reasons because the cost of land seems to be going up and up. It appears to be an investment that one can bank on to increase in value. Buying a plot of land either for investment or speculation has been the norm for Kenyans for a number of years now.
Since a good number of people do not develop their plot immediately after purchasing it, a few things are likely to happen. Your plot beacons could be destroyed or moved by dishonest neighbors with the ill motive of encroaching on your land. The second and most common scenario is that your beacons could get lost. This means that even though you have a good idea about the plot’s location, you can’t physically identify your beacons.
If you can’t locate your beacons, don’t construct. A number of people have been forced to demolish a wall or a room of their dream home or changing their architectural plan altogether because they had encroached marginally on the neighbors plot. This is all because the owners did not do the due diligence of confirming their beacons and hence embarked on construction without knocking off this detail off their checklist.
How do beacons get lost? Well, if you live your land idle month upon month and year upon year, the beacons might be buried by runoff soil and new grass or carried away altogether by flood water as the weather keeps changing. Another reason as mentioned earlier is that some scrap metal dealers often mutilate beacons to get hold of the iron pin for reselling. In other cases, during road construction, a bulldozer can inadvertently disturb a beacon position rendering it useless for the purpose it was intended.
In some cases, finding a lost beacon is not a difficult task. It could involve digging and locating the Iron Pin in Concrete (IPC) without much hustle. However, most are the times when the owner has no clue where he last saw the thing. This is the time to call upon a professional and ethical land surveyor to locate the IPC’s for you. It is not an expensive affair and it will give you the reassurance that you’re not encroaching on anyone’s land.