Hong Kong Housing Authority and Housing Department

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Transfer of Ownership

Pursuant to the Housing Ordinance, change of ownership is restricted except for disposal in the Secondary Market after two years has elapsed since the first assignment, or in the open market upon payment of premium. However the Housing Authority (HA) may at its discretion and on the merit of each case give consent to a request for change of ownership under special circumstances.

The usual reasons for applying for a consent to change of ownership are:

Reasons other than the above listed will be considered only in exceptional circumstances.

transfer of property in hong kong

HOS applicants, who prior to execution of the assignment, need to apply for a change of ownership, can click the following link to download the Application Form for Change of Ownership and return the completed form to:

HOS Sales Unit Podium Level 1 Hong Kong Housing Authority Customer Service Centre 3 Wang Tau Hom South Road Kowloon Hong Kong

REALWorld Law

Sale and purchase, forms of real estate ownership.

What are the categories of property right that can be acquired? Are there any interests in real estate other than exclusive ownership?

Private ownership of land itself is recognized but there is no legal means of contracting to transfer smaller land rights (such as the right of customary dominium utile , right of civil dominium utile , surface right) and right to temporary occupation, is common.

Last modified 1 Aug 2019

The Angolan Constitution recognizes private property, however, it also sets forth that the ownership of land belongs to the state. The acquisition and use of land is mainly regulated by the Land Law (Law 9/04, of 9 November 2004), the Land Law Regulations (Decree 58/07, of 13 July 2007) and the Civil Code. Foreign investors due to restrictions to ownership tend to apply for the granting of one of the above-mentioned smaller land rights, the surface right is the most common due to the fact that it offers more security, since it can be granted for a period of 60 years and may be renewed.

The state enjoys preferential rights and has first preference in the case of sale, accord and satisfaction or tenure of land granted.

As mentioned above, property transactions are governed essentially by the Civil Code provisions, along with the Land Law and the Land Law Regulations. There are ancillary statutes that also must be considered with regard to this matter, including the Private Investment Law (Law10/18, of 26 June 2018).

No. The above mentioned laws apply to all.

The transfer of title must be executed by means of a public deed.

There is a Land Registry Office and all transfers of title are subject to registration. However, with regard to earliest transfers the existing records are not completely reliable. There has been an effort from public authorities to update the existing records and thus to assure and reinstate confidence to acquirers, both foreign and national. Title insurance does not exist in Angola.

Are transfers of title recorded in this country?

The procedure for the granting of surface rights (the most common title) is organized by the Instituto Geográfico e Cadastral de Angola (Geographical Institute of Angola). The procedure for the acquisition of such rights is as follows:

The concessionaire must register the concession deed with the Real Estate Registry being all costs bear by the applicant now owner of a surface right.

Yes. Buyers tend to carry out a due diligence process in order to ascertain the current state of the land or property, including to obtain information to confirm title.

Yes. Depending on the transaction and the legal regime of marriage, consent from a spouse may be required.

A public deed must be executed, before a notary. Full identification of the parties, the object, price and other conditions must be included.

What is a typical contract or SPA in this country like?

If the transaction does not involve the state or any other public authority, Parties typically execute first a promissory agreement and only after the deed is signed.

No. Parties may agree on warranties to be provided by seller however this varies from case to case.

In the event of misrepresentation by the seller, the buyer can, depending on the circumstances, terminate the agreement or file a legal action for the annulment of the agreement, and claim reimbursement of the amounts paid with an indemnification.

Relevant areas of public law are:

Depending on the type of project it may be necessary to obtain an environmental impact assessment study. This document evaluates the environmental feasibility of the project and also the methods for minimizing or neutralizing their effects.

The zoning and planning laws and regulations for each local region are available to the public and copies of the regulations and local decisions can be obtained. Additionally, all documents related to a parcel of real estate must be analysed during the due-diligence process.

Both the Private Investment Law and the Public-Private Partnerships Law aim for the execution of these types of agreements and from these regime benefits (namely tax and customs benefits) are available and may be granted.

Coming soon.

The purchase of a real estate is subject to transfer tax (SISA) at a rate of 2% (levied on the acquisition amount when equal to or higher than the value registered in the Land Registry Office). Additionally, it is also subject to stamp duty at a rate of 0.3% (levied on the acquisition amount). Stamp duty is also due for the execution of a sale and purchase deed at a fixed amount of AOA 2,000.

Costs are not typically shared and are normally entirely paid by buyer.

Typically, share deals do not trigger the payment of SISA. However, in the event the purchaser ends up holding more that 50 percent of a company holding real estate and does not prove that the main purpose of the operation is not the acquisition of the immovable properties then SISA is due.

There is normally no sharing of costs and these are normally paid by the buyer.

Luis Filipe Carvalho

Luis Filipe Carvalho

Each Australian state and territory has its own separate legislative regime in relation to the ownership of land and the various available tenures.

An interest in land can either be held under freehold or leasehold ownership. Freehold is the highest category of land ownership in Australia and effectively confers absolute ownership. The land can be held outright by one owner or a part interest or share can be held.

Leasehold land confers rights of exclusive possession and use, pursuant to specific legislation. Some leasehold interests are ‘perpetual’ in nature, and others are granted for fixed periods of time.

A real estate owner can also give non-exclusive rights to third parties to use their land, such as granting an easement for a right of way. If registered, easements are binding on successors in title to the burdened and benefited land.

Last modified 5 Jul 2016

The most extensive interest in real estate after full ownership is a usufruct, or a right to use the property concerned and to benefit from its profits and/or products. This excludes the right to transfer or demolish the property. A usufruct is always linked to the property itself, ending after 99 years or  on the death of the individual granted the right (in this context the duration of the usufruct can exceed 99 years and will run until the death of the individual older than 99 years).

Other real estate rights include the ‘right to use or to inhabit’ property. This is similar to the right of usufruct, but cannot be transferred since it is only granted to a specific individual.

Long leases ( emphytéose/erfpacht ) can be granted, giving the right to use and build on real estate in return for the payment of an annual ground rent. A long lease is normally granted for a minimum of 15 years and a maximum of 99 years. There is a possible exception to this: the emphyteusis right can be perpetual if and as long as it is established for public domain purposes by the owner of the property.

Building rights ( superficie/opstal ) can also be granted, allowing buildings to be erected on a property. When the building rights granted come to an end, the property owner will acquire the rights to these, either with or without payment. Building rights can be granted for a maximum period of 99 years. If a shorter period has been agreed, renewal is possible, but it cannot exceed the maximum period of 99 years. There is a possible exception to this: the building rights can be perpetual if and as long as it is established by the owner of the land (1) either for purposes of the public domain (2) or to allow the division into volumes of a complex and heterogeneous real estate entity that includes different volumes that can be used independently and diversely do not have a common part.

Both long leases and building rights are commonly used in tax-driven agreements.

Finally, the right of easement ( servitude/erfdienstbaarheid ) allows one property to be used in order to facilitate the use of another property. Easements can remain in force for unlimited or limited periods of time. The former are legally linked to the right of ownership of the property concerned (for example, easements to refrain from building on real estate located next to airports, or to gain access to public roads). The latter can be agreed between parties.

Last modified 26 Aug 2022


In addition to ownership rights, there are also:

It should be noted that in the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina the rights to use and to dispose of real estate exist as a result of the previous regime, when state ownership prevented individuals or legal entities from owning the real estate that they occupied and used. Under current regulations, these rights to use and dispose of real estate can be converted into ownership, but this can be a slow process.

Last modified 1 Sep 2021

Property rights fall under the jurisdiction of the provinces of Canada and each province or territory has its own legislative scheme governing the ownership of land.

An interest in land may be either a freehold interest or a leasehold interest. A fee simple interest, a type of freehold interest, is the highest category of ownership in Canada and effectively confers absolute ownership. A leasehold interest is an interest less than freehold and is characterized by a right of exclusive possession and use of land for a limited or terminable period of time.

An owner of an interest in land can also give rights to third parties, such as granting an easement for a right of way. Easements are typically non-exclusive rights to use land for the benefit of adjacent land and if registered are binding on successors in title to the properties.

Interests in land can be divided and concurrently owned in any proportion by one or more parties.

Last modified 1 Apr 2021

In the PRC, there is no private ownership of land. Although ownership of land is not possible for private individuals or entities, it is possible to obtain the right to use land from the State. Such rights are usually known as land use rights.

Land ownership in the PRC is split into two categories: State-owned land and collectively-owned land. State-owned land is owned by the State and administered by the State Council. Collectively-owned land refers to land owned by collective economic organizations, which are generally committees of local villagers. Only State-owned land can be managed and developed by individuals and legal persons through the holding of land use rights.

The primary means by which land use rights for State-owned land can be acquired is through land grants. Land grants involve the local Land Administration Bureau entering into a land grant agreement with an individual land user, in which in return for the payment of a substantial land grant premium, the Land Administration Bureau grants the land user land use rights for a fixed period of time.

In addition to land grants, the PRC government allocates land use rights for the construction of public interest projects.

Other categories of property right include leases and licences. 

Last modified 30 Jun 2015

In Croatia, the following types of property can be acquired:

Real estate interests, other than exclusive ownership, are:

Real easements are rights allowing one landowner to use another's land. These are linked to the land and are binding on future owners of the property, whereas personal easements ( usufructs ) allow rights to be granted to specific individuals.

The right to reside is another personal right allowing the holder to live in a building owned by someone else.

The right to build allows the holder to erect and maintain their own building on someone else's land and is normally granted for a limited period of time agreed between the landowner and the builder.

Last modified 1 May 2018

Czech Republic

Czech law distinguishes between the following property rights:

Last modified 11 Aug 2022

The categories of property rights are legal ownership (known in common law as freehold), which is the complete and absolute right of ownership, and leasehold.

Other interests in real estate are rights in the nature of easements or of security by mortgage or by distraint ( garnishment ) of assets.

In addition to exclusive ownership, the French system recognizes the division of ownership between a right of usufruct (a right to receive the income and produce from real estate without outright ownership) and a bare ownership (ownership without the right to use and derive profit from the property) as well as timeshare arrangements.

Last modified 10 Aug 2022

In addition to exclusive ownership there is also joint ownership or condominium ownership (where individual units in the same building can be owned by different people) ( Wohnungseigentum ), and hereditary building rights. Hereditary building rights are long-term leases (often of 99 years) which include the right to erect and maintain buildings on a property. They are registered in the land register and can be encumbered with mortgages and land charges in the same way as full ownership.

The concept of leasehold under German law is different from that in a number of other countries including the UK. In Germany a lease is only a contractual right relating to the leased property, while ownership gives full rights over the property. 

Hong Kong, SAR

An interest in land/real estate can either be held under freehold or leasehold ownership. If you acquire a freehold property, you acquire the exclusive right to both the building and the land where the building is erected on. A freehold owner can use and make alterations to the building as it wishes so long as it acts lawfully. On the other hand, if the property is held under leasehold ownership, the acquirer, namely the lessee, only acquires a right to use the property excluding the land beneath it for a limited period of time known as the term. Anything done to the property is governed by the terms of the lease.

In Hong Kong, since 1997, all land has become the property of the People's Republic of China while the government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region is responsible for its management, use and development. In other words, every piece of land in Hong Kong (with the sole exception of St. John's Cathedral, the only freehold property in Hong Kong) is leasehold property .

When the government decides to release land for building it usually does this by selling the land (or ‘parcel’ or ‘lot’) at an auction. Legally speaking, the government does not sell the land; it sells the right to occupy it for a term of years. This system gives the Hong Kong Government as the grantor a high degree of control over the way in which land is developed and used through covenants and conditions imposed on the grantee and contained in the lease. Since 1997, the term granted to the lessee has been 50 years from the date of the grant.

In the past, the government as lessor would issue a Government Lease to the purchaser (usually a developer) (as the lessee). Nowadays, instead, the government executes Conditions of Sale/Exchange/Grant/Re-grant/Extension depending on the purpose of grant. These are contracts giving a conditional right to the purchaser which will be converted to a form of legal ownership upon compliance with all the conditions stipulated. After a successful acquisition of the land, the purchaser (who is usually a developer) will recoup his investment in the construction and make a profit before the term runs out. Once a unit is sold or if the entire building as a whole is sold to a property company, the developer ceases to be involved. The purchasers take its place and they will also be able to sell their leasehold interests later or to assign the right to use to new tenants.

In Hong Kong where supply of land is limited, real estate is usually developed in form of a multistorey building. Under this system, the entire land and building is notionally divided into a number of undivided shares which are allocated to different flats. The sale of flat to a purchaser is effected by transferring the relevant undivided shares attached to the flat. Legally speaking, as the division of land into shares is only notional, all the flat owners own the land in common. For practical reasons, exclusive possession of a flat is at the same time guaranteed by execution of a document called a ‘deed of mutual covenant’ involving the developer, the first purchaser and sometimes the management company. Therefore, each flat owner, by assignment, owns a number of undivided shares in the land together with the exclusive right to occupy his/her flat.

Apart from a leasehold interest, a purchaser also enjoys an easement, meaning the non-exclusive right to use another’s land in a particular way for the benefit of the use of one’s own land. This is a proprietary interest which can be granted expressly, impliedly or by statute. Examples are a right of way and a right to park cars on neighbouring land.

In the case of a multi-storey building, the tenants also enjoy the right to use the common parts of the building, which refer to those parts which are not delineated as being for the exclusive use of one tenant in the deed of mutual covenants. Common examples are the corridors and staircase. This right can be expressly specified in the first assignment, Deed of Mutual Covenant and Sub-Deed of Mutual Covenant (if any) or implied by the Building Management Ordinance.

Under Hungarian law the following rights may be exercised in relation to real estate:

The owner of a building built on land has the right to use the land during the life of the building.

A right to possess, use and collect income and other proceeds from a property owned by someone else.

Right to use (beneficial use)

This is similar to usufruct, but the individual can only use the property to meet his or her own needs and those of his or her relatives living in the same household.

These are granted to enable an individual to use someone else's property for a specific purpose or require the owner to refrain from certain activities.

Easements include:

The mortgagee is entitled to sell the mortgaged property in order to recover unpaid claims secured by the mortgage.

Call option

The beneficiary of the call option is entitled to purchase the property at any time within the option period on payment of the agreed purchase price.

The beneficiary of the put option is entitled to sell the property at any time within the option period for the agreed purchase price.

Pre-emption right

The beneficiary of the pre-emption right is entitled to purchase the property on the same terms and conditions as a purchase offer made by a third party.

Legal ownership of property in Ireland is divided into freehold and leasehold. A wide range of possible interests in real estate exists, ranging from a week‑to‑week tenancy to exclusive ownership.

Other interests in commercial property include short leaseholds for terms of up to five years and long leaseholds for terms of 20 years or more. In the case of a lease term in excess of five years, a commercial tenant may acquire a right to renew after five years.

Last modified 23 Mar 2020

Property rights under Italian law include the following:

Property rights, including the right of full ownership of real estate, may be co-owned by two or more persons, companies and/or other legal entities. The co-ownership can be established on a “voluntary” basis (where agreed by the parties involved) and/or on a “legal” basis (where set forth by applicable laws, as in the case of hereditary co-ownership). Each co-owner has the right to divest its quotas on the co-ownership but cannot dispose of the entire co-owned real estate.

Co-ownership can also take the form of condominium: usually in relation to housing but also, in certain cases, to shopping malls where different units in the same building and/or different buildings in the same real estate complex are owned by different owners but some of the areas and services are used by the owners collectively. The members of the condominium have a right of co-ownership over the common assets which are proportionate to the value of their respective interests in relation to the value of the entire building/real estate complex. The rights of co-ownership in a condominium are expressed in millesimi (ie participation interests calculated on the basis of 1/1,000) and listed in a millesimal chart; the millesimal quota represents the value of the voting rights of each member of the condominium and, normally, also the parameter on the basis of which the condominium charges are allocated.

Last modified 10 Oct 2022

Ownership of real property and trust beneficial interest representing real property can be acquired.  Ownership, includes, without limitation, ownership of strata title (not a whole building).  In addition to exclusive ownership, joint ownership is possible.  There is no ownership of real property for certain period of each year.  Therefore, timeshares are often structured using not ownership but ‘use right’ of real property.


The main types of property right in the Netherlands are:

Last modified 20 Oct 2022

Prior to the enactment of the Land Use Act, 1978 (“the Act”), land could be held under freehold ownership in Nigeria. However, the Act now vests control and administration of all land within the territory of a State in the Governor of the State. By this, freehold ownership has been abolished and converted to leasehold ownership. The Act also empowers the Governor of a State to grant rights of occupancy over lands within the State for a maximum term of 99 years. By Section 49 of the  Act, title to land can be held by the Federal Government or any of its agencies.

Private ownership of land is recognized but it is subject to the rights of the State Government or Federal Government to the reversion of the interests after the expiration of the term granted to the owner, such terms of years on expiry are renewable continuously subject to compliance with the conditions of grant and renewal imposed by the State.

Also, private ownership of land can before expiry of the term be terminated by revocation for breach of the terms of the grant or provisions of State regulations or by State acquisition where the property or land is required for public use or purposes.

Last modified 18 Oct 2022

Interests in real estate ownership can be classified under Norwegian law as follows:

Last modified 4 Oct 2022

In addition to absolute ownership which gives title to real estate with the broadest legal rights, Polish law also recognizes perpetual usufruct rights. These are transferable, alienable and mortgageable rights to use property.

Perpetual usufruct can be granted in relation to state-owned (and situated within the administrative borders of a city or beyond those borders but within the area included in the development plan for a city) or local-government-owned real estate for a specified period of time of between 40 and 99 years, after which it expires unless extended for another period of between 40 and 99 years. Buildings and other installations situated on land that is subject to a right of perpetual usufruct are owned by the perpetual usufructuary.

The usufructuary is required to pay an annual fee to the state or the local government unit. The broad rights granted to the usufructuary result in the rights of the owner (ie the State Treasury or local government unit) being limited in that he may neither encumber nor sell the property to a third party other than the usufructuary.

Polish law also provides for the following real estate interests:

In Portugal, the property rights that can be acquired are the following:

Last modified 9 Aug 2022

The “right of ownership” entitles the owner to full powers including the following rights – to possess, to use and to dispose of the property.

“Common ownership” can be either:

The beneficiary of a “superficies right” has a complex right consisting of:

A superficies right can be transferred only through a deed authenticated by a notary public and only together with the ownership of the building (as opposed to the ownership of the land, which can be transferred independently). A superficies right can be granted for a period of no more than 99 years, with an option to renew.

A “right of usufruct” is a right for a person to hold and use an asset owned by another person and to benefit from its products. The beneficiary of the right of usufruct cannot sell or otherwise dispose of the relevant asset and cannot alter the asset's substance in any way, but can assign the right. A right of usufruct can be granted for:

A “right of use” is the right for a person to hold and use an asset owned by another person and to take its products (except from products resulting from the conclusion of agreements related to the asset), but only for household needs. The beneficiary of a right of use cannot assign its right. A “right of habitation” has the same characteristics as a right of use but applies where the property is a dwelling.

“Easements” are the rights for the benefit of the owner of one plot of land (the dominant tenement) in relation to a plot of land owned by another person (the servient tenement).

A “concession right” is a right and at the same time an obligation for a person, granted following a public tender procedure, to use part of the private or public property of the Romanian state or its administrative bodies for a limited period of time (ie a maximum of 49 years with the possibility of an extension for a further period equal to half of the initial duration).

Slovak Republic

There are following categories of property rights under Slovak law:

Last modified 22 Dec 2022

The following property rights are recognized under Spanish law:

The only existing form of complete and absolute ownership in Sweden is the freehold. A property may also be held by site-leasehold ( tomträtt ), a form of leasehold. A site-leasehold may only be granted for property owned by the state, a municipality or other public body. Site-leaseholds are granted for an indefinite period of time and may only be terminated in very specific situations. In return, the site-leaseholder pays a fixed annual fee which can only be renegotiated every 10 years or more. A site-leaseholder is therefore considered to be in a similar legal position to an owner of the property. Site-leaseholds may be transferred and the holder can also raise mortgages assignable to the property.

There are two categories of property right that can be acquired: ownership and the right of possession.

In addition to exclusive ownership, the Thai Civil and Commercial Code recognizes the following rights:

United Arab Emirates - Abu Dhabi

Within abu dhabi and outside the abu dhabi global market free zone.

An interest in land can consist of:

Usufructs and musatahas are investment interests allowing exploitation and development respectively as well as occupancy. Non-UAE nationals may only hold these interests within the designated investment areas, subject to the time limits which apply. A standard form musataha agreement has been introduced for use within Abu Dhabi for government-owned property.

A real estate owner can also grant non-exclusive rights, known as easements, to third parties to use the relevant land, such as granting a right of way. If correctly registered, easements are binding on any successors in title to the property.

In Abu Dhabi, a lease is a personal contract of hire, more akin to a licence and not an interest in land. Most non-owner occupiers in both the residential and commercial sectors are tenants under leases. Please see section on Commercial Leases for more information on leases in Abu Dhabi.

Within the Abu Dhabi Global Market free zone

There are 10 categories of real estate interests that can be created in the Abu Dhabi Global Market free zone:

The real estate laws of Abu Dhabi in relation to usufructs and musatahas apply to such rights located throughout Abu Dhabi, including those located within the ADGM where such rights were created prior to 3 March 2015 (the date upon which the ADGM regulations came into force) and where no election has been made by the parties to the musataha or usufruct (as applicable) to convert the relevant agreement to a lease. Under the ADGM regulations, usufructuary and musataha rights are not recognised interests and so no further usufructuary or musataha interests will be created within the ADGM following the implementation of the regulations.

United Arab Emirates - Dubai

In Dubai, the following property rights exist:

Last modified 29 Aug 2022

UK - England and Wales

The uk’s decision to leave the european union is likely to cause some uncertainty. fiscal consequences may include changes in stamp duty land tax (england), land and building transaction tax (scotland) and land transaction tax (wales). there may well be some other changes. if you have a contact in dla piper, please do check the latest position with him or her..

An interest in land/real estate can either be held under freehold or leasehold ownership. Freehold is the highest category of ownership in England and Wales and, in most cases, effectively confers absolute ownership. Leasehold confers rights of exclusive possession and use of land for a limited period of time.

A real estate owner can also give non-exclusive rights, known as easements, to third parties to use the land, such as granting a right of way. If correctly registered, easements are binding on any future owners of the property.

UK - Scotland

As well as full ownership, it is possible to own property jointly with other parties, although this is not common where the parties are unconnected. In addition, interests under leases can be acquired and disposed of in the same way as freehold interests, subject to any limitations set out in the lease agreement.

A real estate owner can also grant non-exclusive rights to third parties to use the property, for example rights of access across the land. These rights are generally known as servitudes and are binding on the successors in title to the person who granted the original right, provided they are correctly drafted in the title document and registered. (It is also possible to acquire such rights through the principle of prescription if they have been used without objection for a number of years.)

Ukrainian law provides for the following real estate rights, apart from full ownership:

United States

An interest in land can either be held under fee or leasehold ownership. Fee ownership is the highest category of ownership in the US and effectively confers absolute ownership. Leasehold confers rights of exclusive possession and use of land for a limited period of time.

A real estate owner can also give exclusive and non-exclusive rights, known as easements and licenses, to third parties to use the land, such as granting a right of way. Recorded easements are binding on any successors in title to the property, whereas licenses are typically for a shorter duration.

In Zimbabwe there are two categories of property rights: real rights and personal rights

A real right is an exclusive interest or benefit enjoyed by a person in a thing. It is an absolute right and entitles the holder to enforce it against other persons. Real rights are registrable, while personal rights are not. Real rights include long leases and servitudes.

A personal right is a right that is enforceable against only a particular person and is based on the existence of a special legal relationship, such as a contract. It is a right from a person to a person. An example of this would be short-term leasehold.

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How Can Transferring a Property to a Relative Save Taxes in Hong Kong?

Transferring a Property to a Relative

20 September 2019 - While Hong Kong's property market has certainly been affected by the recent uncertainties (both local and the broader trade war), the effect has not been as significant as some reports suggest.  August residential sales volumes were down 15% from July, 15% below August 2018 levels, and actually 60% higher than average monthly transactions in 3Q2018. There are people who remain confident in the long term and are investing opportunistically.  Nonetheless, volumes are certainly down from pre-protest levels. 

For those who are indeed looking to invest in properties, transferring a property to a close relative is a legal means of acquiring properties and avoiding taxes in Hong Kong.  After the Government implemented the double stamp duty in 2013, then increased the property stamp for second-home buyers to 15% in 2016, homeowners began transferring the title of a property from joint ownership to single ownership.  Doing so enables them to restore the “first-time purchaser” status for one party in order to re-enter the property market without triggering the 15% additional tax.

Notably, a study by QFang indicated that transactions involving close relatives constituted over 10% of the second-hand residential transactions in the first seven months of the year.  The same study indicated that this has increased in recent months and was 16% of all second-hand sales in July.  This may indicate that some buyers are optimistic about the market outlook and are preparing to make a new purchase by restoring their “first-time purchaser” status.

How does it work?

A person (HKPR) holding a property as a joint proprietor or individual owner may transfer (sell) their ownership of the property to a close relative such as a parent, sibling, spouse or child. This “close relative” status exempts the relative from paying the 15% Ad Valorem Stamp Duty (AVD).  The transaction is subject to Stamp Duty based on the determined value of the property, but the person (transferor) becomes eligible for first-time buyer status, exempting them from the 15% (AVD) on a future purchase.

How It Saves Taxes – An Illustration (Only Available for HKPR)

For example, a couple jointly owns a property with a market value of HK$6 million. The husband transfers the title of the property to his spouse. The total amount of tax rate payable is HK$45,000 ($3,000,000 x 1.5%). Later, the husband purchases a residential unit with a market value of HKD$8 million as a first-time buyer, avoiding the 15% AVD (HK$1.2 million), instead paying only the 3.75% stamp duty (HK$300,000).  This results in a net tax savings of HK$855,000 compared to what would have been paid had he purchased the property without having transferred ownership of the original property.

Under current laws, the husband may do this repeatedly - buy a property and then transfer it to his wife – and be entitled to the first-time buyer status and exempt from the AVD on each new purchase. Compared with the 15% AVD, the stamp duty applicable to first-time home buyers is much lower, ranging from 1.5% to 4.25%. If the property price is under HK$2 million, only a printing fee of HK$100 is required. 

In the first-hand property market, a similar strategy has evolved, with some with prospective buyers “borrowing” their relatives names and registering multiple lottery applications in order to increase their chances of purchasing units. If successful, they can transfer the property ownership from their relative to themselves, typically after waiting three years to avoid being subject to the Special Stamp Duty (SSD), an additional tax payable if you sell or transfer within 3 years of purchase.

These tax-saving strategies are not illegal and sound like no-brainers for anyone seeking to build a portfolio of properties.  So why doesn’t everyone (who can afford to buy multiple properties) do this?  This approach is obviously beneficial, but one must also pay attention to the risks involved.

Risks of Transfers

Although transferring property titles helps some buyers to reduce taxes, there are other considerations.

Mortgage Financing :  Banks are naturally careful about awarding a mortgage considering the financial strength of all parties involved, particularly for older purchasers or those with multiple properties in their portfolio.  In the above example, the husband may qualify for a mortgage when acquiring a property but may later find that the bank will not transfer the mortgage to his wife if she doesn’t meet various stress tests (ie. debt-to-income, etc.).  Or the bank may allow the mortgage transfer but at a higher interest rate.  In such cases, the husband could provide a personal guarantee on his wife’s mortgage, though again the bank will review the combined financial strength of the two parties.  The same applies to a parent transferring ownership to a child.  Just as importantly, a family should not undertake more debt (i.e. risk) than they can comfortably support.

Risks of transfers

Costs : One must consider the costs of the transaction, both the immediate costs (such as attorney’s fees) and costs that may be incurred later.  If the mortgage is transferred before the expiry of a penalty period, it may be necessary to return the cash rebate and pay the penalty interest to the bank.

Estate Planning : With joint-ownership, if one party passes away, the ownership automatically transfers to the other.  Moving to separate ownership results in a more protracted probate process of the sole owner dies, especially if they do not have an updated will, which then leads to an even more exhaustive intestate court process and potentially legal disputes amongst the family.

Other Tax and Title Considerations : Some owners may attempt to transfer their property at a below-market price (to reduce stamp duty).  However, tax authorities have the right to recover the difference, potentially with a penalty.  If the title transfer is done as a Deed of Gift (with no money changing hands between the parties), it is still considered a property transfer and subject to the same tax treatment as a sale.  Properties transferred via a Deed of Gift are also subject to claims by creditors if the donor declares bankruptcy within 5 years.  This title encumbrance can cause complications later, making the property difficult to sell, since banks may be unwilling to provide a mortgage to a new buyer during that 5-year period. 

In summary, property transfers are legal ways to reduce your property taxes. However, there are potential complexities to consider and you should engage professional legal and tax advisors to assist you in making an informed decision before employing this strategy.  In addition, the Government has indicated that it is closely monitoring such transfers, so stay abreast of the latest policies in case they change.

Note: Illustrations in this article are for reference only and no representation or warranty is made regarding their accuracy.  This article in no way represents legal, tax, accounting or investment advice. Readers considering real estate transactions should consult professionals in these areas for advice.

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transfer of property in hong kong

Hong Kong: Transfer Of Property In A Divorce Settlement In Hong Kong

transfer of property in hong kong

According to the Hong Kong Census and Statistics Department , in 2019, 35% of marriages in Hong Kong were remarriages. The pandemic also brought a spike in divorce rates as couples' marriage soured. Divorce proceedings often involve the division of former matrimonial properties between divorcing couples, whether such properties are solely owned by one, co-owned by both parties, or through corporate vehicles. The couple may choose or the Court may decide to sell the properties and distribute the sales proceeds between themselves, but it gets more complicated when properties (or a share of the properties respectively owned by each) are to be transferred amongst themselves. It would be beneficial for the parties to consider the issues they will need to consider to make the most appropriate arrangement in the divorce settlement or to present their case in Court.

This article highlights the important issues and/or common areas of misconception relating to property transfer in a divorce proceeding that divorcing couples should pay special attention to.

1. Stamp duty liability

There is a misunderstanding that no stamp duty is chargeable on a property transfer pursuant to a divorce order granted by the Family Court of Hong Kong. In fact, even if the property transfer is ordered by the Court, the parties are liable to payment of ad valorem stamp duty for both transfer of residential properties and non-residential properties at Scale 2 rates under Head 1(1A) of the First Schedule of the Stamp Duty Ordinance (namely, the lower ad valorem stamp duty rates). How much is payable will depend on the consideration of the transfer or the properties' market value, and whether or not any consideration is stated in the instrument effecting the transfer. It is a common practice that parties should agree on who will bear the stamp duty liability in preparing the settlement.

It is also worth noting that application for Scale 2 stamp duty rates for the property transfer between the divorcing couples would only be considered if the transfer is pursuant to a court order. For this purpose, "court" only refers to any court of Hong Kong of competent jurisdiction. A divorced party who is the owner of a residential property in Hong Kong and agrees to receive an additional residential property in Hong Kong under the terms of a divorce court order issued by the court outside Hong Kong cannot obtain the benefit of a lower stamp duty. Thus, divorcing couples will need to consider which jurisdiction to enforce divorce proceedings that will result in the most benefit in terms of stamp duty liability when the settlement involves properties in Hong Kong.

The assessment of stamp duty can be a complicated issue. The stated consideration or market value is only one of the several factors to be taken into account. Following the cases of Ngai Sau Ying v Collector of Stamp Revenue (CACV 460/2018) and Hung Ip Shing v Collector of Stamp Revenue (CACV 461/2018) , the division of properties between divorcing parties can be regarded as an exchange of properties in substance, and thus for stamp duty purpose, the difference in property value, namely the "equality money" will be the basis for the computation. Under the fairness principle in a divorce proceeding, both monetary and non-monetary consideration given by one party to another pursuant to the divorce order, whether in the form of real property (no matter in Hong Kong or overseas), lump sum payments, other financial assets, abandonment of rights to ancillary relief, etc., will all have an impact on how much stamp duty shall be paid and by whom.

One should note that the transfer of multiple properties together between the same parties, especially when performed concurrently, may be caught under the "series of transactions" regime under the Stamp Duty Ordinance (Cap. 117), i.e., the Stamp Office may question whether the transfer forms "part of a larger transaction or a series of transaction". In this situation, the aggregate of all the properties' values will be considered in determining the stamp duty rate in the assessment.

The lengthy process of adjudication of stamp duty is also a factor for consideration. As the Stamp Office may need to collaborate with other Government bodies such as the Rating and Valuation Department, coupled with the requisition process between the Stamp Office and the lodging party of the instrument, the assessment of stamp duty can take up to a year or even more in certain cases. It is therefore prudent for the divorcing parties to take the timing of the whole stamping process into account.

2. Potential risk of voidable transaction at an undervalue

Very often the transfers of properties between divorced couples are at "nil" consideration. Parties should be mindful of the potential risks associated with such arrangement because pursuant to sections 49, 51 and 51A of the Bankruptcy Ordinance (Cap. 6), section 265E and 266B of the Companies (Winding Up and Miscellaneous Provisions) Ordinance (Cap. 32) and section 60 of the Conveyancing and Property Ordinance (Cap. 219), a transaction shall be voidable if it is undervalued or is considered as a disposition made with intent to defraud creditors. The "relevant time" for a transaction at an undervalue is any time within the period of 5 years, ending with the commencement of the bankruptcy/winding-up. Therefore, most banks in Hong Kong incline to refuse a mortgage application by a property owner if he/she was assigned the property under any transaction at nil consideration within the last 5 years. Equal hardship will be faced by the property owner if he/she intends to sell the property within 5 years subsequent to a nil-consideration transaction due to the difficulty in proving good title. Thus, whether the divorced parties intend to mortgage or sell the properties within 5 years after the transfer, this needs to be taken into consideration when making divorce settlement arrangement.

3. Effecting transfer of properties with existing mortgage

It is another misconception that the existing mortgage of a property and all the rights and obligations thereunder will automatically be assumed by the new owner after the divorced couple has completed their property transfer. A change in ownership of the property is prohibited under the standard terms of a mortgage. The existing mortgage of the property should therefore be discharged or released before or upon completion of the transfer, even though the property assignee is already one of the co-owners and mortgagors. Some important considerations and topics that divorcing couples should bear in mind are:-

Banks tend to be more conservative when considering a mortgage application when the property transfer to the new mortgage loan applicant is at nil consideration. It is most crucial for the divorcing parties to enquire with the intended mortgagee bank about the requirement and possibility to grant the new mortgage loan in the circumstances prior to making any settlement arrangement.

4. Dealing with rights relating to the property

The transfer of real property does not only deal with ownership of property but may come with a "basket" of other rights. For example, if the property is transferred subject to an existing tenancy, the divorcing couple will need to agree on the responsibility in managing the tenancy issues such as entering into, amending, terminating, renewing of the tenancy agreement, maintaining the property, liability of landlord's obligations, collecting of rentals, distributing of rental proceeds and returning of rental deposit etc.

Occasionally, the divorced couple may settle on the property transfer decision on the condition that sufficient protection is given to secure the right of occupation in the matrimonial property of one party or their children or other family members for a period of time after the divorce order is granted. Alternatively, the parties may agree to sever the joint tenancy of a property into tenancy in common for ease of property management and distribution, whilst they equally wish to secure such occupation right of their children or family members. When negotiating for the occupation arrangement, the divorcing couple shall ensure that a high level of consensus is attained especially regarding the period of occupation, the termination of such occupation right, the timing and arrangement relating to the sale of the property, so as to avoid any doubts on title and encumbrances of the property upon a future disposal of the property.

For further protection of any third party right (such as the occupants' right) in the property, parties may consider obtaining and registration of a truncated Court Order setting out the arrangements of such rights at the Land Registry.

The above only sets forth a few of the considerations that divorcing couples should take into account when considering settlement or how to present their case in Court. From our experience, there are often other complicated issues that may evolve during the divorce process which may involve the divorced couples' companies shareholdings and trust and equitable interests. Should you have any enquiry, our teams of matrimonial and conveyancing lawyers are ready to share more details on this topic.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

transfer of property in hong kong

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In most transactions, the parties will first sign a provisional or preliminary sale and purchase agreement. A formal sale and purchase agreement will later be signed by the parties, superseding the terms in the provisional or preliminary sale and purchase agreement. On completion, an assignment will be executed for the formal transfer of the title.

A formal sale and purchase agreement may contain one or more of the following warranties by the seller to the buyer:

The exact scope of any particular warranty, and whether any particular warranty is to be given, depends on the negotiation between the seller and the buyer.

Where the seller is expressed to assign the property as beneficial owner, certain covenants are implied into the assignment (and will therefore be given on completion of the purchase), including the following:

After 29 April 2013, all preliminary agreement for sale and purchase and agreement for sale and purchase used in the sale and purchase of first-hand residential properties must contain certain provisions (including certain warranties to be given by the seller) as required under the Residential Properties (First-hand Sales) Ordinance (Cap. 621). Any person who fails to include the terms required by this ordinance commits an offense and is liable to a maximum fine of HKD 500,000.

In Hong Kong, a seller and a buyer will very often sign a provisional or preliminary agreement. A provisional or preliminary agreement usually binds the parties.

Whether or not a provisional or preliminary agreement constitutes a binding agreement depends upon the intention of the parties as evidenced by the wording of the agreement. It will depend on whether the execution of a formal agreement is an essential precondition before the parties will be bound or whether it is simply contemplated that the preliminary agreement, which is already legally binding on the parties, will be superseded by a formal agreement. This is a question of fact and will be determined by the court on a case-by-case basis.

However, under the Residential Properties (First-hand Sales) Ordinance (Cap. 621), after a buyer enters into a preliminary agreement for sale and purchase of a first-hand residential property, and the buyer pulls out and does not sign the formal agreement for sale and purchase within five working days after the date of the preliminary agreement for sale and purchase as required by the ordinance, 5% of the purchase price of the property (ie, the preliminary deposit) will be forfeited to the seller, and the seller does not have any further claim against the buyer.

The legal title will be transferred from the seller to the buyer upon execution and delivery of the assignment.

Buyers and sellers in general will bear their respective agents’ fees and legal costs.

In addition, the buyer usually bears the following:

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transfer of property in hong kong

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Hong Kong SAR

Corporate - other taxes, value-added tax (vat).

Hong Kong SAR does not have a VAT, goods and services tax, or sales tax.

Customs duties

There is no tariff on general imports in Hong Kong SAR.

Duties are levied on limited categories of dutiable commodities (i.e. tobacco, liquor, methyl alcohol, and hydrocarbons), regardless of whether they are imported or locally manufactured.

Property tax

Property tax is charged annually to the owner of any land or buildings (except government and consular properties) in Hong Kong SAR at the standard rate of 15% on the net assessable value of such land or buildings. Net assessable value of a property is the consideration payable to the owner for the right to use the land or buildings less rates paid by the owner and a 20% notional allowance.

Rental income derived by a corporation from a Hong Kong property is subject to profits tax. The corporation that is subject to profits tax may apply for an exemption from property tax in respect of the property. If no exemption is applied, the property tax paid can be used to offset against the profits tax payable by the corporation.

Stamp duty is charged on transfer of Hong Kong stock by way of sale and purchase at 0.26% of the consideration (or the market value if it is higher) per transaction. Hong Kong stock is defined as stock the transfer of which must be registered in Hong Kong SAR.

For conveyance on sale of immovable property in Hong Kong SAR, the stamp duty payable depends on the type of property transferred (i.e. residential property vs. non-residential property) and the property consideration. Currently, stamp duty on transfer of properties is charged as follows:

The stamp duty payable is computed by applying the relevant rate to the consideration or market value of the property (whichever is higher). When Scale 2 rates are applicable, marginal relief is available for transfer where the consideration is marginally above the lower bound of each rate band.

For lease of immovable property in Hong Kong SAR, stamp duty is calculated at a specified rate of the annual rental that varies with the term of the lease. Currently, the applicable rate ranges from 0.25% (for lease period of not more than one year) to 1% (for lease period of more than three years).

Exemption is available for certain transactions, such as transfer of shares or immovable property between associated bodies corporate, transfer of shares or units of exchange traded funds (ETFs) listed in Hong Kong SAR, transfer of shares by ETF market makers in the course of allotting and redeeming ETF units listed in Hong Kong SAR, and certain stock borrowing and lending transactions, provided that the specified conditions for exemption (if any) are satisfied.

Special Stamp Duty (SSD)

There is an SSD on resale of residential property within 36 months from the date of acquisition. The SSD is imposed on top of the stamp duty payable on conveyance on sale or agreement for sale of residential property, with a few exemptions. The SSD payable will be calculated based on the stated consideration or the market value (whichever is higher) of the resold property at the regressive rates indicated below.

Buyer's Stamp Duty (BSD)

A BSD is payable on acquisition of Hong Kong residential properties by any person (including Hong Kong and foreign companies) other than a Hong Kong permanent resident. The BSD is charged at a flat rate of 15% on the stated consideration or the market value of the property acquired, whichever is higher. The BSD is imposed on top of the stamp duty and the SSD (if applicable), with exemptions in certain situations.

Business registration fees

Every person who carries on a business in Hong Kong SAR is required to apply for business registration with a fee within one month from the date of commencement of the business. The business registration certificate has to be renewed either on an annual basis or every three years with a payment of a business registration (renewal) fee. Special registration and licence fees are applicable to banks and deposit-taking companies.

Capital duty

There is currently no capital duty in Hong Kong SAR.

Government rates and rent

Rates are an indirect tax levied on properties in Hong Kong SAR. Rates are charged at 5% of the rateable value, which is the estimated annual rental value of a property at the designated valuation reference date of 1 October.

Privately owned land in Hong Kong SAR is normally held by way of a government lease under which rent is payable to the Hong Kong SAR government in return for the right to hold and occupy the land for the term (i.e. the duration) specified in the lease document. Currently, government rent is calculated at 3% of the rateable value of the property and is adjusted in step with any subsequent changes in the rateable value.

Payroll taxes

In Hong Kong SAR, there are no payroll taxes other than the Mandatory Provident Fund (MPF) contribution ( see below ).

Mandatory Provident Fund (MPF) contribution

Under the MPF scheme, an employer is required to make a mandatory contribution for an employee in the amount equal to 5% of the monthly income of that employee. The maximum level of income for contribution purposes is HKD 30,000 per month. An employer may make voluntary contributions in addition to the mandatory contribution required.

Environmental taxes

Plastic shopping bag (psb) charging scheme.

Except for plastics bags used for food hygiene reasons, all plastic bags (including flat-top bags) used for retail sales are subject to PSB charges. Retailers are required to charge at least HKD 1 for each PSB provided to consumers. The proceeds from the PSB charges are retained by the retailers.

Hong Kong SAR contacts

Hong kong sar news.

transfer of property in hong kong

China and Hong Kong Tax Leader, PwC China

+86 21 2323 3029

2022/23 Hong Kong Tax Facts and Figures

Download the booklet

PwC Hong Kong

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  1. Transfer of Ownership

    Under the prevailing policy of the HA, transfer of ownership must be by way of a Deed of Assignment at nil monetary consideration (except in

  2. Effective transfer of ownership in Hong Kong, SAR

    Yes. The contract must be in writing and signed by each party. It must contain all the terms of the sale, including details of the land to be sold and the price

  3. How Can Transferring a Property to a Relative Save Taxes in Hong

    A person (HKPR) holding a property as a joint proprietor or individual owner may transfer (sell) their ownership of the property to a close

  4. How to transfer property titles in Hong Kong

    The final steps will involve registering the assignment at the Land Registry. Once done, your solicitor will give you the title deed, if there

  5. 3. If I want to sell or transfer my flat to a member of my family or a

    If I want to sell or transfer my flat to a member of my family or a relative, what should I be aware of? ... Basic knowledge of land ownership in Hong Kong.

  6. Transfer Of Property In A Divorce Settlement In Hong Kong

    A divorced party who is the owner of a residential property in Hong Kong and agrees to receive an additional residential property in Hong Kong

  7. Stamp Duty Rates

    On Transfer of Hong Kong Stock ; Contract Note for sale or purchase of any Hong Kong stock. 0.13% of the amount of the consideration or of its value on every

  8. Real Estate Law

    Registration is effected by submitting the instrument concerned to the Land Registry together with a memorial in the prescribed form. The memorial describes the

  9. Acquisition of Real Property

    Buyer's Stamp Duty (BSD), which applies to the acquisition of residential properties by companies and non-Hong Kong permanent residents, the rate is 15% of the

  10. Hong Kong SAR

    Transfer of residential property: A flat rate of 15%, with certain exceptions. One common exception is the acquisition of a single residential