Mailo Land Tenure

Mailo tenure is a system of owning land in which there is an owner of the land, called a landlord, and there are recognized occupants on the land, called tenants. It is common in Uganda’s Central Region and in the Buganda Kingdom.

The Land Act (Article 3) describes mailo tenure as a form of tenure that allows separate ownership rights and user rights over registered land. This type of tenure is found in the central (Buganda) region of the country and some parts of Bunyoro and Ankole regions.

An important feature of Mailo systems is that although there is a registered owner, much of the land is used under a peasant tenancy (Kibanja) where although tenants do not hold full ownership rights, their stay on the land is protected; they however face some restrictions on what they can do on the land, e.g. if they must sell, the registered owner should be given first priority. Landlords and their descendants have all the ownership rights of a freehold owner but must respect the rights of tenants who are lawful or bona fide occupants and their descendants. The Land Act defines lawful and bona fide occupants.


Lawful occupants:

Lawful occupant refers to these various categories of people:

  1. Persons occupying land by virtue of the repealed; Busuulu and Envujjo Law of 1928, Toro Landlord and Tenant Law of 1937, Ankole Landlord and Tenant Law of 1937. These laws were repealed by the Land Reform Decree of 1975.
  2. Persons who entered the land with the consent of the registered owner including a purchaser.
  3. Persons who had occupied land as a customary tenant/Kibanja holder but whose tenancy was not disclosed or compensated for by the registered owner at the time of acquiring the leasehold certificate of title.


Bonafide occupants:

Bonafide occupant refers to these various categories of people:

  1. Any person who before the coming into force of the 1995 Constitution of Uganda, had either occupied and utilized or developed any land unchallenged by the registered owner or agent of the registered owner for twelve years or more.
  2. Any person who before the coming into force of the 1995 Constitution of Uganda had been settled on land by the Government or an agent of the Government, which may include a local authority for instance local council chairpersons.


NOTE: Tenants by occupancy:

Tenants by occupancy (including lawful and bonafide tenants) are guaranteed security of occupancy and have the right to a Certificate of Occupancy if they have paid the ground rent for the land. Ground rent is a nominal payment by the tenant to the landlord and is supposed to be set by either the District Land Board or the Minister of Lands. Tenants by occupancy have the right to make any legal transaction on the land but must obtain the owner’s consent.

The mailo tenure system has the majority of the occupiers being tenants rather than landlords.

It is a tenure system that permits the separation  of  ownership  of land  from the  developments  on  the  land  made  by a lawful and bonafide occupant of  land.

The tenure is subject to occupiers known as “Kibanja” (plural:  Bibanja) holders or owners and there exists dual interests on the land where by neither parties (the owner and the occupier who may be bonafide or legal occupants) can make decisions on land without consulting the other.

According to Section 4 of the Land Act, the mailo land owner holds the land in perpetuity and has all the powers of a freeholder but on the other hand the land is subject to customary and statutory rights of lawful or bona fide occupants.

As proof of ownership, the owner of mailo land is issued a certificate of title while the occupant is given a certificate of Occupancy (CO).

Features of Mailo Land Tenure System: