Before we talk all about Land Search, are you about to put down a deposit to ‘jop’ your dream house? You may be brimming with enthusiasm about the renovation, colours and decoration.
Hold on a sec! Better to first get more details of the property, its owners and the piece of land where it sits. You would certainly not want unnecessary hiccups that could delay the purchase process.
Just as how you would choose, for example, a mobile phone when shopping, you should do the same when it comes to buying property. It’s normal to spend time checking out different brands, the specs, popularity and price of the items you like right?
The same should apply before buying the house that caught your eye – even more so considering the hundreds of thousands or even millions that you are about to invest in it.
Take a little time (it definitely isn’t long) to conduct a land search at the land registry or land office to verify the particulars of the property title before committing to the purchase.
What is a land title?
A land title is a legal document which proves ownership of a property, whether the piece of land itself or buildings developed on the land. Also known as a title deed, land titles are used to simplify the process of transferring ownership.
The Malaysian land law is governed by the National Land Code Act 1965 and is based on the Torrens System where “the registration of title is everything…” What this means is that no one can challenge the ownership based on the land title.
In Malaysia, all registered land title records are kept at the respective state Land Office (Pejabat Tanah dan Galian), or Land Registry.
Different types of land titles in Malaysia
A land search will reveal the type of land on which your future home is built. This is important because it not only protects your interest as the buyer but avoids the possibility of disputes over the land.
More popularly known as geran, Malaysia’s land titles are differentiated as follows:
Freehold and leasehold land
Land is classified as Freehold and Leasehold. When you buy property freehold, you own both the property and land until you sell it. There is no imposed time restriction.
On the other hand, if your property is on leasehold land, only the property is yours, not the land. You can continue to reside in this property so long as the land tenancy is still valid.
Leasehold land owners lease or rent the land from the state Government, generally for a duration of up to 999 years. When the leasehold period expires, the land will go back to the state Government unless the owners apply for a renewal of the lease from the authorities.
The Master Title
Both freehold and leasehold land fall under a Master Title.
The Master title is the main land title that covers a huge area of land designated for project development. This title is usually owned by the property developer.
As each phase of the development project is completed, the developer will apply for a subdivision to specific individual land titles that can be transferred to end purchasers and owners.
Eventually, the Master Title will be further split into:
– The individual title. For individual property such as terrace house, semi-D, bungalow). – The strata title. For multi-storey buildings like apartments, condominiums, townhouses or gated housing communities with shared common R&R facilities such as a swimming pool or gymnasium.
Malay reserve land
The Malay reserve land (tanah rizab Melayu) was first introduced in 1914 as the Malay Reservation Land Law. It later evolved into the Malay Reservation Enactment in 1935 and is still in use today.
The Malay reserve land can only be owned by a Malay. It cannot be transferred, sold, or leased to a non-Malay. However, not every state in Malaysia adopts this law. So, if you are non-Malay, best to check the status with the state authorities if your dream home happens to fall on the Malay reserve land.
What are the types of Land Search available?
You can choose to do either a Private Search or an Official Search.
Private land title search (carian persendirian) is a printout issued by the respective Land Office without endorsement.
Official land title search (carian rasmi) is a printout carrying the Land Registrar stamp and endorsed by the officer’s signature on the last page. This is the supporting document used for submission to Government agencies in a transaction.
Certified true copy (CTC) is a copy of the original title certified as a true copy by the Land Registrar.
An official land search certified by the land office’s Registrar will cost more than a private search.
Information disclosed through a land search
Included are the following key details:
The full details of the current registered land owner.
Location of land (e.g the postal address).
Status of the land – whether freehold, leasehold or Malay reserve land.
The type of title – whether Qualified (land without specific measurements), Final (land with specific measurements), master, individual or strata.
Land area and the title number.
Tenure period. This applies mainly to leasehold land. It is advisable to check how long is left before the land goes back to the state authority. The nearer it gets to the end of the lease (e.g if there are 30 years left of the 99-year term), buyers may face difficulty in getting a bank loan. Besides, the property will become less saleable due to uncertainty after the lease is up.
Current encumbrances. An ‘encumbrance’ is a registered interest in the land or property by parties other than the owner. This will affect the sale or purchase of the property.
Any restrictions in interest. Generally, the state authority has a vested interest in leasehold land since this belongs to them. Any changes in ownership will require their approval, and this may take a longer time than expected.
Should I do a land search?
Conducting a land title search allows the buyer to acquire knowledge about the property he or she is interested in. Understanding key information about the relevant property before signing on the dotted line helps to avoid potential risk and loss.
Verify the current owners
The first and foremost reason to have a land search performed is to validate that the current seller is, in fact, the true owner of the property.
Verify the particulars of the land
This may sound boring, but confirming the particulars from the search (e.g title number, mukim, house number, etc) against information provided by the seller is important. Imagine if there was a typo. It could mean that you could potentially own nothing, or maybe a different place entirely!
Determine if the land is free from encumbrances
You would definitely want to find out if there is anything that will prevent the property from being transferred or sold. This normally happens when:
The property is charged to a bank (as collateral). If the seller took out a bank loan for the property and is still servicing the loan, the bank has a right to keep possession of the property until the debt owed by that person is paid.
A caveat has been entered on the land/property. A caveat is a registered “claim of right” over the property by someone else other than the owner. This is to prevent the owner from selling the land or property due to an already ongoing transaction, family reasons or dispute.
Determine if there are any restrictions in interest
Property which is subject to restrictions in interest will be endorsed with words like “the land cannot be transferred, leased or charged without the consent of the State Authority”. In such a case, the seller must obtain consent from the state authority to transfer to the buyer’s name.
Do note that the consent may be longer than the normal sale and purchase time frame of 3 months.
See if the land is subject to any acquisition by the Government
Under the Land Acquisition Act, the compulsory acquisition of land is the process by which the Government acquires land from private landowners for a purpose beneficial to Malaysia’s economic development, or any public purpose.
This is a drastic form of Governmental intervention that results in evictions and dispossessions of landowners.
Ready to do a land search? Here’s how to go about it
It isn’t difficult to conduct a search on your own. You will need the particulars of the property before starting the search. If you are the buyer, the first thing to do is to get in touch with the seller’s lawyer for the following details:
District /Town / City (Mukim / Pekan / Bandar )
If you wish to do a private land search on your own home, you can get the land records from the original title deed or quit rent bill.
There are several ways to go about conducting a land search. Do note that a payment (called the Disbursement Fee) is imposed by the Land Office for each search.
Personally visit the respective Land Office/Land Registry Drop by the respective offices with the particulars of the property in hand, state the type of search preferred (i.e private or official) and pay the disbursement fee. Just remember to go to the related Land Office/Land Registry (do check the land office availability too) where you are planning to buy your property. E.g, if your new property is in Putrajaya but you reside in Gombak, you will have to go to Putrajaya’s Land Office in Putrajaya to do the search.
Online land search Online land search service is available at many Land Offices. This is by far the easiest way to do a search. Sign up, register, log in, pay via FPX or credit card and key in the land title number. If the details are correct, voila! You will get a copy of the land search and payment receipt. The land records information system is not centralised but dependent on the initiative of the respective Land Office. e-land title searches are available at the Federal Territories portal (covering KL, Putrajaya and Labuan), Kedah, Perak and Sarawak.
Mobile app Pahang is the first state to use mobile technology. Via itsPahang Go app (available on Google Play Store), home buyers can use their mobile devices to conduct a land search (click on the hakmilik icon).
Professional services To save yourself the hassle of drive time and waiting, consider hiring a law firm to conduct an official land search on your behalf. Many law firms provide this service at an additional charge on top of the Land Office’s disbursement fee. However, if you have already engaged a lawyer for the conveyancing of your new property, a land search is included in their service.
The fees vary for each Land Office/Land Registry. Here is a breakdown per search for your convenience:
Private land title search (RM)
Official land title search (RM)
Certified True Copy (RM)
30 / 80
40 / 60
120 / 150
Land search charges for Sabah and Labuan are RM20 each and the cost for a photostat copy is RM20.
In Sarawak, the cost of a search is RM15 for the first 2 pages and an additional RM5 for each subsequent page (i.e from page 3 onwards). If you require a simple printout, that will cost you RM5 for the first 2 pages and RM5 for each subsequent page.
Note: The information above is derived from Easy Law’s website based on its last update i.e July 2021.
Does it take long to do a land search?
If you personally visit the Land Office or log in online to offices with land title e-search services, the turnaround time in obtaining the land records should be fairly quick. If you use professional services for this purpose, you may want to check how long they will take to provide you with the information of the land details.
Information is gold
While buyers commonly use land searches during the buying/selling process, other parties may benefit from doing the same. Financial institutions, Government agencies and companies may also conduct land title searches for risk management and investment protection purposes.
Land searches play an important role in protecting ownership rights and avoiding risks associated with real estate transactions. The next time you think about purchasing property or are about to enter into a property-related contract with a land owner, do keep this guide in mind.
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