How to check land titles in the Philippines, what government offices to go to for verification, and ways of spotting red flags
When buying property, it is important that you don't get your hands on a fake land title. Buying even a small parcel of land these days costs a lot of money, and you certainly cannot afford to be scammed. There are many dishonest people out there, and a lot of them have sophisticated ways of fooling and tricking property buyers. Doing an extensive web search on specific terms such as “online land title verification Philippines” might not be convenient for those who do not have a lot of time on their hands, so compiled here are some of the things you need to take note of to know if a title is legitimate or not.
Make sure the seller is legitimate
First, you need to make sure that the person selling you the property is its rightful owner or one who has been given the authority to sell. This person should have a signed and notarized document from the rightful owner that says "Authority to Sell” or “Special Power of Attorney." This document has to have been signed by the person whose name appears on the land title. Be cautious if the person selling you the land only has a copy of the title and claims to have connections with concerned government agencies to make things go faster. It is okay to ask questions and demand the proper documents.
If you are handed a land title, check the quality of the paper used. A legitimate title uses paper from the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, which is unique and hard to duplicate with a texture similar to that of a bank cheque. Think of cash bills and how easy it is to spot a fake. This is the same principle when handling land titles – if it doesn’t feel premium, it’s probably fake.
There should also be an "LRA" or Land Registration Association watermark and tiny dots and fibers all over the title. The papers for new land titles are pale yellow in color while the older ones are "pale straw," also a tone of yellow. The distinguishing marks of a genuine title certificate include the Intaglio – which is a design, figure, or ornamentation that is carved, engraved, or etched onto the paper – and colored circular patterns called planchettes. If you are still unsure, you can do a quick image search for “online land title verification Philippines” to see these features up close, so you will know the details you need to look out for.
It is also best to consult with a real estate company if you are looking for a property. With RE/MAX Philippines, you are assured that properties have been verified.
If you have genuine land titles on hand from previous purchases, make a side-by-side comparison. Or you could borrow one or two from a relative or friend who would trust you with their land titles just so you could compare. Appearances may be skin-deep, but in this case, the way a land title looks and feels is one of the first steps towards authenticating it.
For a real estate company, it is a must to know the difference between a legitimate and a fake land title. RE/MAX Philippines can definitely assist you if you are having difficulty in verifying property title.
Verify and authenticate
The transfer certificate of title (TCT), the Registry of Deeds’ (RD) copy, and the owner’s duplicate should be identical and look exactly like the original copy. To check for authenticity:
· Make sure caps and lowercases, erasures, punctuations marks, and fonts are identical on all the documents. The owner’s duplicate copy of the certificates of title should have the words "Owner’s Duplicate" and a red seal, whereas the original copy of the title does not.
· All judicial forms do not blot or stain the paper when the red seal is wet. For reference, ask for the Registry of Deeds’ original copy and compare it with the owner’s duplicate.
· The last two or three digits of the TCT number should be identical to the page number, while the serial number of the title as arranged in the registry book should be consecutively numbered.
The Land Registration Authority, Land Management Bureau, and the Department of Agriculture are the government agencies with records of the serial numbers assigned to each registry, so you can also verify the title with them.
Make a last check for financial claims
When everything checks out, go to the assessor’s office of the city, town, and municipality where the property is located and check if the owner owes any real estate taxes. Also check for liens and encumbrances, which are basically monetary claims against the property. Make sure these are settled (again, look for documentation like official receipts) before making the purchase.
Be extra-vigilant when it comes to land related-transactions. Many people have been scammed and you wouldn't want to be one of them. Our last piece of advice: Look for a reputable real estate company and secure the help of a licensed broker. With RE/MAX Philippines, you are assured that you are dealing with legitimate and reputable properties. You can never go wrong with us.
Filipino Law Group, “Land Title Issues In The Philippines”
ABS-CBN, “How to spot fake land titles, guard against fraud”