The government’s Audit Commission has urged the Land Registry to enhance the accuracy of information in land registries, after 7,564 errors were found in one year alone.

According to an 83-page report published by the Director of Audit on Wednesday, the total number of errors corrected each year ranged from 5,737 to 7,564 from 2012-13 to 2016-17.

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File Photo: Wikicommons.

Such errors in the land registries are identified through quality control checks during daily operations and amendment requests filed by external parties.

The Audit Commission said that there is a need for the Land Registry to “keep under review the errors corrected in the land registers… perform more detailed analysis of the corrected errors for monitoring” and take measures to enhance accuracy.

The Land Registry is headed by the Land Registrar and provides a land registration system for the purposes of land transactions. It deals with the registration of land documents, provides land search services and provides copies of documents and owners’ corporation services.

The Audit Commission also said that the registry should update its target completion date for tidying its records as it shifts to a computerised system. It was currently set for the end of 2018, but according to the Land Registry said there might be “a slippage in completing the exercise.”

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Photo: In-Media.

The Land Registry maintains over 3 million land registries involving registered particulars of about 23.7 million land documents. They have been accumulated since 1844.

The Audit Commission added that the performance of New Territories Search Offices in Tsuen Wan, Tai Po and Yuen Long should be reviewed, as the three offices incurred operating losses ranging from HK$0.9 million to HK$2 million each year, with a low patronage of visitors.

Title registration system

With regards to the title registration system, the Audit Commission noted that the Land Titles Ordinance was enacted in 2004 but – up until September 2017 – the ordinance has still not come into force and the system has yet to be implemented.

land titles ordinance
Land Titles Ordinance. Photo: GovHK.

The lack of a land title registration system means that – in order to establish whether one has title to a property – a solicitor is required to check the transaction history for the past 15-year period ahead of any new transaction.

The Audit Commission said the Land Registry underestimated the complexity of the issue and urged it to set a target implementation date, devise an action plan and make additional efforts.

Karen is a journalist and writer covering politics and legal affairs in Hong Kong for HKFP. She has also written features on human rights, public space, regional legal developments, social and grassroots activism, and arts & culture. She is a BA and LLB graduate from the University of Hong Kong.