Solicitors not dragging their feet over property law changes

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 05 September, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 05 September, 2007, 12:00am

Being responsible for managing the transition from deeds registration to a register of title to property in Hong Kong, I welcome the article, 'Home ownership rules need revamp' (August 29).

While I question some comments made, I agree that a title register should be introduced. Having to obtain an opinion on title from review of title deeds every time there is a transaction in a property is inefficient, unproductive and potentially open to risk.

The Land Registration Ordinance of 1844 was adequate for the needs of the 19th century. With computerisation and modern management practices it has continued to serve Hong Kong tolerably well. But, in these days of widespread property ownership and high volumes of property transactions, it has fundamental limitations.

The continuous finality as to ownership that a title register provides will save time, increase security and cut mountains of paperwork.

That said, managing the transition from an old, familiar system, deeply entrenched in the laws, practices and assumptions of this city, to a new system, without on the way causing disruption and concern, is no easy matter. The process has legal and philosophical as well as practical implications. It cannot be taken lightly.

Solicitor Thomas Tse is quoted as saying the delay in making the change is 'because of the influence of other solicitors'.

This, in my view, is neither wholly nor substantially the case (to anticipate cynical retorts, please note that I am not a lawyer). Members of the Law Society Working Party on Title Registration have been indefatigable supporters of the project. Title registration will simplify a solicitor's role in conveyancing but will not render solicitors redundant in this field, contrary to the view expressed.

They will still have essential roles to play in property transactions. They will continue to advise families and businesses on the terms and security of what are often the most important investments they make, as well as verifying acts and records. These services, no less than registration itself, contribute to the certainty and ease with which a major component of Hong Kong's economy can operate.

Kim Salkeld, Land Registrar