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Land Titling and Litigation

Benito Arruñada (), Marco Fabbri and Michael Faure

Journal of Law and Economics, 2022, vol. 65, issue 1, 131 - 156

Abstract: We study a land-titling reform implemented as a randomized control trial to isolate its effects on litigation. The reform consisted of demarcating land parcels, registering existing customary rights, and granting additional legal protection to right holders. Ten years after implementation, the reform doubled the likelihood of households experiencing land-related litigation, but disputes did not escalate into more frequent violent episodes. We suggest that this increase in litigation reflects the complementarity of land titling by registration and by judicial procedures aimed at further clarifying property rights, as the reform registered titles to all parcels but left many titles subject to adverse claims. This raised the demand for complementary litigation aimed at perfecting titles for low-value parcels that, under the customary system, were optimal to keep unclarified. Consistent with this explanation, we find that the increase in litigation took place among households that plausibly own land of lower value.

Date: 2022
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