Conducting a property search

A Land Search is a necessity when thinking of buying or renting real estate in Hong Kong. A property search at the Land Registry in Hong Kong will cost you HK$10 for a current search and HK$25 for a current and historical search. The extra $15 is definitely worth it if you are serious about the property. It shows you the history of the property including the date it received an occupation permit, among other things.

Property in Hong Kong operates under a deed registration system. A register is maintained for each property. A deed or other document affecting the property is registered with the Land Registry and will appear on the property search for that property.
Hong Kong Land Registry

At the offices of the registry, you supply the address or lot no. of the property you want to search and pay the money, then wait a few minutes and then you get the Property search results. Alternatively, you can go to the Government’s Integrated Registration Information System IRIS to get the Land search documents you require.

The document you get back is divided into sections as follows:

1 – Property Particulars

Shows the details for the property you searched for including the exact address, lot number and property reference number (if available). It also contains the details of the government lease.

2 – Owner Particulars

This section shows the currently registered owner of the property. Clearly, if someone is claiming to be the owner and is not listed here, you might want to investigate further. The owner might be a Limited Company and so you should be dealing with a Director of the Company registered as the owner, or a representative of the Company with authorisation to act on its behalf. If there are multiple owners, you should make note of the “Capacity” column. Tenant in Common and Joint Tenants are distinctly different and usually means you will need the signatures of both co-owners on any documents relating to the transfer of ownership.

3 – Encumbrances

According to the “Encumbrances” Monograph available from the Estate Agents Authority (EAA):
“…an encumbrance is a claim, burden or liability attached to the property and such liability runs with the land.”

Essentially, if there is something wrong with a property, it will likely be an encumbrance of some sort. So, you want to make a note of all the encumbrances and investigate the details and effect of each one. An encumbrance is not a bad thing, but you need to know how they affect the property because they “run with the land” which means they will stick with the property after you have purchased/leased it.

4 – Deeds Pending Registration

As the name suggests, this is where deeds go that have been lodged, but have not been officially registered for some reason.

Common Encumbrances

You may come across a few different types of encumbrances in your property search results. There are a lot of possibilities but some of the major ones include:

Mortgage or Legal charge will indicate the property is held as security for a loan of some description. If the mortgage has been discharged (paid in full) then immediately after the mortgage deed will be a Release or Notice of discharge.

There may be an order issued under the Buildings Ordinance (Cap 123):

  • s.24 – Demolition, removal or alteration of building, building works or street works
  • s.24A – Cease or remedy dangerous works
  • s.25 – Change in building use
  • s.26 – Dangerous buildings
  • s.26A – Defective building
  • s.27 – Closure order
  • s.27A – Dangerous hillside
  • s.28 – Drainage

Stay tuned for a follow-up article which will cover encumbrances in more detail.


REFERENCES

Land Registry of Hong Kong
Queensway Government Offices
19/F, 66 Queensway
Hong Kong

Estate Agents Authority
48/F Hopewell Center
183 Queen’s Road East
Wanchai, Hong Kong