Land Registry Background
(A) Brief history of the Land Registry
In 1841, a Land Officer was appointed to administer lands, collect the revenue derivable from them and oversee public works. The Government required that applications for land should be made in person to the Land Officer. The principle of land registration was then established and the Land Registration Ordinance (Cap. 128) was passed on 28 February 1844. It is one of the oldest ordinances still in force in Hong Kong. In the same year, the Land Office was established under the provisions of the Land Registration Ordinance. On 1 April 1949, the Land Office merged with the other functions including the Companies Registry, the Trademarks Registry, the Office of the Official Receiver in Bankruptcy, the Official Trustee's Office and the Marriage Registry, to form the Registrar General's Department. In May 1993, upon the disestablishment of the Registrar General's Department, the Land Registry was formed to take up the land registration and owners' corporation registration functions of the Land Office and became one of the first trading fund departments.
The responsibilities of the Land Office were originally confined to Hong Kong Island and Kowloon. Registration of instruments affecting properties in the New Territories - which were leased in 1898 - was performed by the District Land Offices administered by District Officers. In 1982, the former Registrar General's Department started a phased programme to take over all District Land Offices and assumed responsibility for land registration throughout the New Territories. The take-over of North District Land Office on 23 July 1990 marked the end of the whole take-over programme. Since 1997, as part of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government, the Land Registry has continued to provide registration and search services for the entire region.
(B) Duties and role of the Land Registry
We aim to maintain an efficient and effective land registration system to facilitate the orderly conduct of land transactions.
Our main duties are:
- registration of documents affecting land under the Land Registration Ordinance.
- provision of facilities for search and supply of copies of the information extracted from land register and related records.
- registration of owners' corporations under the Building Management Ordinance.
(C) Value of the Land Registry
The Land Registry maintains a public land register for recording registered instruments affecting land. This public land register provides the means whereby the title to real and immovable property may be easily traced and ascertained and secret or fraudulent conveyances can be deterred. Such services facilitate ownership transactions and encourage investments and support economic development.
(D) The existing land registration system
The present land registration system is a deeds registration system governed by the Land Registration Ordinance. Under the deeds registration system, instruments affecting real properties are lodged with the Land Registry for registration.
The deeds registration system only confers priority on registered deeds and serves as notice of registered instruments to the public. Registration is not proof that the person registered as the owner has good title to the property. The advantage of the deeds registration system is its simplicity. The complexities of advice on title are left to the legal profession.
The present deeds registration system has been in operation since 1844. Upon the commencement of the Land Titles Ordinance (Cap. 585), the Land Registry will implement the Title Registration System in Hong Kong.