Registering property: Using information to curb corruption

Author: Doing Business
Publication: Doing Business 2018

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Registered property rights are necessary to support investment, productivity and growth. Registering property indicator examines the steps, time and cost involved in registering property. In addition, the topic also measures the quality of the land administration system in each economy. Transparency is a key element of the quality of land administration systems. It increases the efficiency of the real estate market and eliminates asymmetrical information between users and officials with respect to services provided by the land administration. In 2013, Transparency International reported that one in five users of land services globally claimed to have paid a bribe for services such as registering a land title or obtaining updated property ownership information. Lack of transparency can also lead to land record fraud or alteration, land document forgery and multiple allocations of the same plot of land.

Transparency is one of the most important tools for combating corruption—it is the basic pillar of enhancing the quality of land administration. Transparent systems strengthen public confidence in governments and facilitate substantial reductions in the cost of doing business. As a component of its registering property indicator set, Doing Business has measured the transparency of land administration systems for the past four years. This research has focused on whether information concerning the ownership and physical location of a property is public, whether essential information on the property transfer process is made accessible, if there is an independent and specific complaint mechanism to respond to issues raised by land registry users and whether statistics on property transfers in the largest business city of an economy are published.

Main Findings

  • More than 70% of upper-middle-income and high-income economies make information on property ownership available to the public, whether for a nominal fee or free of charge. By contrast, only 50% of low-income economies open their records on land ownership to the public.
  • Since 2013, 25 economies have become more transparent by launching websites, publishing fee schedules, setting time limits and implementing specific complaint mechanisms.
  • Around the world, 158 economies publish fee schedules for services offered at the land registry. If a fee schedule is public, it is also likely to be available online. In 131 economies, this information can be accessed through a dedicated website.
  • In countries where documentary requirements for property registration are not publicly available it costs more and takes twice as long to transfer property - as compared to countries that make such requirements available to the public.
  • In 51 economies, the only way to obtain information about documentary requirements for property registration is by having an in-person interaction with a public official.
  • In 127 of the 190 economies covered by Doing Business, the information recorded by the land registry is openly available to the public. In the remaining economies, mainly because of privacy concerns, only owners or third parties who prove legitimate interest can access the information kept in the land registry.
  • Globally, information about land ownership is restricted to intermediaries and interested parties in 31% of economies. In 27 out of 190 economies—including Chile, Poland and the United States—this information is freely available.
  • Service standards at land registries are rare. Land registry users are not aware of any specific time limits promulgated by law in 122 economies covered by Doing Business. In addition, economies that do not establish service standards, such as specific time limits, tend to complete property transfers less efficiently.