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By Harold Ayodo

When romantic relationships go sour for a couple with joint real estate investment, one may end up losing.

Usually, it is normal for spouses to chip in resources towards purchasing a property that is later registered in the name of the husband. Unfortunately, some husbands secretly sell the property without knowledge of their wives.

Legally, spouses who fleece their counterparts take advantage of the fact that their names appear in the Ministry of Lands as registered owners of the property.

Most buyers may not know that the home or land they are buying is jointly owned, unless indicated in the title deed. Furthermore, revoking the sale would be impossible, as the buyer can easily prove that an official search at the Ministry of Lands revealed the seller as the sole owner.

Caveat

It is for similar reasons the courts spend months or even years deciding on division of matrimonial property after divorce. Generally, the bone of contention is proof of financial contribution towards the controversial investment.

Most women fail to prove their input as courts mainly rely on receipts, if they are not registered as joint owners.

But, there is also an increasing number of disagreements among couples over alleged mismanagement of jointly owned property.

However, affected spouses can engage lawyers to temporarily stop the sale or mortgage of the property by placing a caveat or caution at the Ministry of Lands.

Another option is to file an application for an injunction, which are temporary orders stopping a spouse from interfering with the property.

The legal remedy to restrain also applies when you are a shareholder in a company and your spouse wants to sell shares without your consent.

A clever spouse should insist on registering the property in both their names to prevent the other from selling or mortgaging without their knowledge.

According to recent court rulings, orders are given to protect the property of the married women.

For instance, husbands have not only been prevented from selling or mortgaging the controversial property but their bank accounts have also been frozen.

Alternatively, courts can also order that the property be sold and money distributed according to the proportion it decides each contributed.

Outdated culture

Therefore, women must wake up to the reality that traditional cultures that dictated that men should be the sole registered owners of land are outdated. Fortunately, the law provides that single women can own property even after marriage unless they resolve to enjoin their spouses as joint owners.

Furthermore, the Law of Succession Act provides that women can write Wills detailing how their property be shared upon death.

The writer is an advocate of the High Court of Kenya

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