Under study: Paperless property titles

Under study: Paperless property titles

Home owners may eventually be able to do away with paper property titles and instead have them stored digitally with the Singapore Land Authority (SLA).

That would save having to hunt for their physical titles when the time comes to sell.

The SLA is studying the feasibility of the service as it moves towards making property transactions paper-free processes.

"Going paperless allows us to achieve greater efficiency and cost-savings while reducing potential risks for the parties involved in the conveyancing process," said Mr Bryan Chew, assistant chief executive of SLA and the registrar of titles.

The SLA said it believes only New Zealand has gone fully paperless in this area.

Major banks started storing property titles with the SLA rather than holding on to hard copies after a pilot test with DBS Bank in June 2013. All banks must participate in this scheme from June next year.

When a transaction is registered for a property that carries a mortgage, the SLA will not issue the physical Certificate of Title to the bank. In the past, these documents had been kept by banks.

"As the titles are now stored digitally, there is no need to safe-keep physical copies," said Ms P'ing Lim, DBS head of consumer deposits and secured lending.

Another benefit to a paperless title scheme is that it eliminates the risk of lost or damaged titles, including fraudulent use of the title, the SLA noted. The process of replacing a lost title deed could be around eight weeks now.

The SLA aims to reach the stage where property transactions can be done entirely online.

So, for example, when lawyers prepare the transfers and mortgages online, they can be lodged without having to send the hardcopy title to the SLA.

This could help smoothen the current conveyancing process, said Ms Jennifer Chia, executive director and head of corporate real estate at TSMP Law Corporation.

Lawyers now need to prepare both hard and soft copies of a document for registration at the SLA. The soft copy can only be lodged between 8.30am and 1pm on weekdays, and the hard copy and title deed must subsequently be physically delivered to SLA by 1pm the next lodgement day.

"Hopefully, with a fully online system in place, lodgement hours could be extended as well," she added.

Property owner Christopher Tan feels the "SLA is right to head towards this direction of ownership proof".

With cars, for example, an owner previously had to use a physical log card and an IC to effect an ownership transfer but now this is done with a PIN and SingPass, and is secure, he said.

Home owners can now benefit from one facet of a paperless title system. The SLA started an online service last Wednesday that allows owners to view their title deeds and boundary plans for free, a service they previously had to pay for.

The information is available at www.sla.gov.sg/MyProperty.

This article was first published on September 6, 2016.
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