• Avoid getting scammed by verifying property title

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    ALTHOUGH constant efforts are being made by a number of government agencies and the real estate industry to improve the issuance and record-keeping of property titles, fraudulent titles are still a common problem in the Philippines.

    To avoid falling victim to a title scam, government officials in the City of Imus, Cavite explained the steps a property buyer should follow in order to verify that the title for the property is correct, authentic, and is not encumbered by unpaid taxes or other liens.

    Step 1:
    Visit the local Registry of DeedsBEN KRITZ
    The Registry of Deeds in the city or municipality where the property is located is where all properties are registered, and where transfers of properties are recorded. While many jurisdictions now have computerized records, the Imus Registrar of Deeds pointed out that many records are still incomplete, and many localities still keep the records entirely by hand. A visit to the office is the surest way to make sure the title exists and is properly recorded.

    Step 2:
    Visit the City Assessor’s and Treasurer’s Offices
    The physical description of the property is kept by the Assessor’s Office, which also handles requests for maps needed to obtain clearances from the Bureau of Internal Revenue or the Department of Agrarian Reform, if those are required. The Treasurer’s Office, on the other hand, maintains the records of property tax payments, and can either issue a clearance, or details of tax delinquencies.

    Most property titles can be thoroughly investigated with just these two steps, and if all three offices have records of the property in question, the buyer can be assured his title is completely legitimate. But depending on the property, the Imus officials explained, and depending on what questions the buyer may have about it, information may need to be sought from other offices, such as:

    The Housing and Land Use Regulatory Board (HLURB) primarily regulates condominiums and subdivisions, but also deals with farm lots and memorial parks, and is the agency that has oversight over homeowners’ associations. Any questions or complaints related to these should start at this agency, which has a great deal of information, including contact forms, available online.

    The Land Registration Authority (LRA) is described as the “master” of all property records in the Philippines, and issues certificates of title, decrees of registration, and land awards and patents. If a title cannot be found or has serious errors, the Imus Registrar explained, the LRA is where a buyer would be able to investigate the property’s history.

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