A lease is an interest in land for a specific period of time and subject to payment of rent. Likewise there are also restrictions or conditions imposed by the lessor (land lord) to the lessee (tenant) on what he/she can do with the land. For example in the question above the person holding the 99 year lease is the lessee while the government is the lessor/land lord.

In Kenya the government grants leases for land especially in urban areas so as to safeguard community interests and to have direct control of the use and development of land. Examples of government lease terms are 33 and 66 year leases for the former trust land areas – now Community Lands or native reserves in the colonial period. Such towns included Kapsabet, Kakamega, Mariakani, Embu and Kisii among others.

In this case one could be given a 33 year term and on expiry of the same they would get an additional 66 years to make a total of 99 years. However, this was on conditions that they fulfilled the conditions in the lease in terms of developments and payment of statutory fees like annual rent and rates.

The 99 year leases were granted on the former government land (crown land)and examples included towns like Nairobi, Mombasa, Eldoret, Kericho, Nyahururu and Nyeri among others. For such land the government grants a 50 year term on expiry of the 99 year term. However a 99 year extension can be granted if the lessee proves that they will completely re-develop the land by putting up a new approved structure on the land.

The 999 year leases were granted by the former colonial government for agricultural farms in government land areas (crown land). Such farms are found in Nairobi and Rift Valley in what was famously known as the White Highlands. The 999 year leases being held by the former colonial farmers were transferred to the Africans who bought or were allocated the farms.

However, Sessional Paper No. 3 of 2009 on the National Land Policy recommends leases of not more than 99 years and consequently all such leases are converted by the government to 99 years with effect from 1st September 2010 after the promulgation of the constitution, 2010. The Land Policy 2009 is a vital document for anyone interested in land to read through.