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Registering Property in

Tonga

Below is a detailed summary of the steps, time and cost involved in registering property in Tonga. It assumes a standardized case of an entrepreneur who wants to purchase land and a building that is already registered and free of title dispute.

This information was collected as part of the Doing Business project, which measures and compares regulations relevant to the life cycle of a small- to medium-sized domestic business in 190 economies. The most recent round of data collection was completed in June 2016.

Compare Tonga to 189 other economies.

  • Measure of efficiency
    No. Procedure Time to Complete Associated Costs
    1

    The lawyer prepares the transfer deed and application letter

    Agency: Lawyer

    The lawyer prepares the transfer deed and the application to transfer the lease. The use of a lawyer is not legally required but used in practice. Lawyer fees are not regulated, but there is a non compulsory table for lawyer fees issued by the Chief Justice.Tongan land law is extremely complex. Buildings do not necessarily belong to the land and there are significant conflicts and disputes involving identical material facts.
    10 days About TOP 500
    2

    An application to transfer a lease is submitted to the Hon. Minister of Lands

    Agency: Ministry of Lands, Surveys and Natural Resources

    A letter of application to transfer the lease, signed by both parties, along with the original deed of transfer mentioning the amount of the transfer and the original Deed of lease are submitted at the same to the Ministry of Land.

    • The Hon. Minister of Lands forwards the application to the Land Registration Section (LRS) for title search and due diligence. Once the title search and due Diligence are completed and meet the legal requirement, LRS then submits to the Hon. Minister of Lands with a brief on the outcome of the title search and due diligence with the recommendation to approve, subject to Cabinet’s consent to the lease transfer.
    • LRS submits to the Cabinet with the recommendation that Cabinet grants consent to lease transfer
    • And then the Cabinet will approve the submission.
    • Once all these processes are completed LRS prepare the Indenture of Transfer that must be signed by the Transferor and the Transferee
    90 days
    no cost
    3

    The parties sign the Indenture of the Transfer

    Agency: Ministry of Lands, Surveys and Natural Resources

    All lease transfers have to be approved by the Cabinet, which can take over 3 months on average. Cabinet meets once a week. Once approved, the Transferor and the Transferee sign the Indenture of Transfer and pays the Consumption tax of 15% of the value of the sale. The Indenture of Transfer is sent to the Hon. Minister of Land for his signature.
    7 days 15% of property value (Consumption tax) + 14 TOP
    4

    The signature of the new Lessee at the office upon receiving the Deed of Lease

    Agency: Ministry of Lands, Surveys and Natural Resources

    The Minister then signs and registers the lease. Once the lease is registered, the new lessee will receive an updated lease under his name. One original copy is kept at the Ministry. The rent for the lease can be revised every 5 years. The land registry is managed on paper.
    5 days no cost

  • Measure of quality
    Answer Score
    Quality of the land administration index (0-30) 17.0
    Reliability of infrastructure index (0-8) 2.0
    What is the institution in charge of immovable property registration? Ministry of Lands, Surveys, Natural Resources and Environment.
    In what format are the majority of title or deed records kept in the largest business city—in a paper format or in a computerized format (scanned or fully digital)? Paper 0.0
    Is there an electronic database for checking for encumbrances (liens, mortgages, restrictions and the like)? No 0.0
    In what format are the majority of maps of land plots kept in the largest business city—in a paper format or in a computerized format (scanned or fully digital)? Computer/Scanned 1.0
    Is there an electronic database for recording boundaries, checking plans and providing cadastral information (geographic information system)? No 0.0
    Is the information recorded by the immovable property registration agency and the cadastral or mapping agency kept in a single database, in different but linked databases or in separate databases? Separate databases 0.0
    Do the immovable property registration agency and cadastral or mapping agency use the same identification number for properties? Yes 1.0
    Transparency of information index (0–6) 3.0
    Who is able to obtain information on land ownership at the agency in charge of immovable property registration in the largest business city? Anyone who pays the official fee 1.0
    Is the list of documents that are required to complete any type of property transaction made publicly available–and if so, how? Yes, online 0.5
    Link for online access: http://crownlaw.gov.to/cms/images/LEGISLATION/PRINCIPAL/1903/1903-0020/Land...
    Is the applicable fee schedule for any property transaction at the agency in charge of immovable property registration in the largest business city made publicly available–and if so, how? Yes, online 0.5
    Link for online access: http://crownlaw.gov.to/cms/images/LEGISLATION/AMENDING/1991/1991-0018/LandA...
    Does the agency in charge of immovable property registration commit to delivering a legally binding document that proves property ownership within a specific time frame–and if so, how does it communicate the service standard? No 0.0
    Link for online access:
    Is there a specific and separate mechanism for filing complaints about a problem that occurred at the agency in charge of immovable property registration? No 0.0
    Are there publicly available official statistics tracking the number of transactions at the immovable property registration agency? No 0.0
    Number of property transfers in the largest business city in 2015:
    Who is able to consult maps of land plots in the largest business city? Anyone who pays the official fee 0.5
    Is the applicable fee schedule for accessing maps of land plots made publicly available—and if so, how? Yes, online 0.5
    Link for online access: http://crownlaw.gov.to/cms/images/LEGISLATION/AMENDING/1991/1991-0018/LandA...
    Does the cadastral or mapping agency commit to delivering an updated map within a specific time frame—and if so, how does it communicate the service standard? No 0.0
    Link for online access:
    Is there a specific and separate mechanism for filing complaints about a problem that occurred at the cadastral or mapping agency? No 0.0
    Geographic coverage index (0–8) 8.0
    Are all privately held land plots in the economy formally registered at the immovable property registry? Yes 2.0
    Are all privately held land plots in the largest business city formally registered at the immovable property registry? Yes 2.0
    Are all privately held land plots in the economy mapped? Yes 2.0
    Are all privately held land plots in the largest business city mapped? Yes 2.0
    Land dispute resolution index (0–8) 6.0
    Does the law require that all property sale transactions be registered at the immovable property registry to make them opposable to third parties? Yes 1.5
    Is the system of immovable property registration subject to a state or private guarantee? Yes 0.5
    Is there a specific compensation mechanism to cover for losses incurred by parties who engaged in good faith in a property transaction based on erroneous information certified by the immovable property registry? No 0.0
    Does the legal system require a control of legality of the documents necessary for a property transaction (e.g., checking the compliance of contracts with requirements of the law)? Yes 0.5
    If yes, who is responsible for checking the legality of the documents? Registrar.
    Does the legal system require verification of the identity of the parties to a property transaction? Yes 0.5
    If yes, who is responsible for verifying the identity of the parties? Registrar.
    Is there a national database to verify the accuracy of identity documents? Yes 1.0
    For a standard land dispute between two local businesses over tenure rights of a property worth 50 times gross national income (GNI) per capita and located in the largest business city, what court would be in charge of the case in the first instance? Land court
    How long does it take on average to obtain a decision from the first-instance court for such a case (without appeal)? Between 1 and 2 years 2.0
    Are there any statistics on the number of land disputes in the first instance? No 0.0
    Number of land disputes in the largest business city in 2015:
    Equal access to property rights index (-2–0) -2.0
    Do unmarried men and unmarried women have equal ownership rights to property? No -1.0
    Do married men and married women have equal ownership rights to property? No -1.0