How to register untitled land in the Philippines

Article 2: How to register untitled land in the Philippines (Residential Free Patent)

 

If you are wondering how to register untitled land in the Philippines (maybe you only have a tax declaration for your house and want to get a title), this article is for you.

One of the major requirements for land titling in the Philippines under a Residential Free Patent is that the land is untitled.

If the land has a title and you are trying to transfer it to your name, check out the following articles:

·         Extrajudicial Settlement if you need to transfer from a deceased parent/grandparent to the heirs

·         Extrajudicial Settlement with Deed of Sale if the owner is deceased and sold it to you

·         Extrajudicial Settlement with Waiver of Rights if the owner is deceased and some heirs are waiving their rights in favor of others.

·         Reissuance of Land Title if the original land title is lost

·         Reconstitution of Land Title if the land title at the Registry of Deeds is lost

·         Transfer to new Owner (Deed of Sale) if the owner is alive and sold the property to you.

·         Transfer to new Owner (Deed of Donation) if the owner is alive and donated the property to you. 

Who can register untitled land in the Philippines under a Residential Free Patent?

 

You must be:

·         A Filipino citizen (yes, you can do this even if you are working abroad/OFW so long as you are a Filipino citizen)

·         You or your predecessor in interest must have been an actual occupant of unregistered/untitled residential land

·         Must have continuously occupied and possessed land under a good faith claim of ownership for at least 10 years

·         Total land holding must not be more than 12 hectares

·         You can only apply for a Residential Free Patent for a limited land area, depending on where the land is located.

You might be looking at the above RFP requirements for land titling om the Philippines and be wondering – what is a “predecessor in interest” and what does it mean to be an actual occupant?

Let’s quickly go through a few things so that some confusion is cleared up.

Are dual citizens eligible? Yes, dual citizens are eligible but former Filipinos are not.

Are OFWs eligible? Yes, OFW is eligible and will need to give a Special Power of Attorney so that someone can work on it on his behalf.

What if I’ve only lived on it for a few years? If you and your predecessor-in-interest – for example, the person you bought the property from or the person you inherited from – together lived on the property for 10 years, then you are eligible.

How do I know if the land is untitled? This guide for how registering untitled land in the Philippines is only applicable if the property is unregistered. To determine if it is unregistered, check at the Registry of Deeds and the DENR CENRO office.

How do I know if the untitled land is residential? Another of the RFP requirements for land titling in the Philippines is that the land is residential. You can get this at the Barangay, Municipal or City Hall at the Zoning Department.

If I work abroad and haven’t lived on the property for years, am I still eligible? When you treat the property as your primary residence – for example, your wife and children live there and you constantly make improvements, then you are eligible.

If the property is not my residence, am I eligible? No, you are not eligible if it is not your residence.

What is a bona fide claim of ownership? A bona fide or good faith claim of ownership is when your ownership derives from a valid claim such as an inheritance, a sale, etc. In other words, there must be some basis for ownership.

What are the requirements for land titling in the Philippines for a Residential Free Patent?

 

There are several requirements for land titling in the Philippines under a Residential Free Patent – it really does take a lot of work.

Residential Free Patent Requirements:

  • DENR Application Form for Residential Free Patent
  • DENR Certification that the Land is alienable and disposable
  • DENR Form V37 Approved Survey Plan with Technical description
  • Certification of the status of Land from the Land Registration Authority (LRA), if under cadastral proceedings or if an old survey exists
  • 2 Affidavits of disinterested persons
  • Regional Trial Court Certification of no pending land registration proceedings
  • Certification from the LGU that the land is zoned Residential or CLUP
  • Documents that prove that you have a valid claim to ownership such as Tax Declarations, Extrajudicial Settlement, Deed of Sale, Deed of Donation, Waiver of Rights, etc.

I know that the list of documents is intimidating.

If you are abroad, you might be wondering how to do this.

Many work with family members – or a Philippine Land Lawyer with a Special Power of Attorney – to get this done.

The reason to outsource this is that getting the documents actually take a lot of time and money. A Land Lawyer can certainly help although you may be needed to give information or talk to your relatives to sign documents, such as in the case of an EJS. 

What is the process for land titling in the Philippines for a Residential Free Patent?

 
 

The process for land titling in the Philippines for a Residential Free Patent varies a little per Community Environment and Natural Resources Office (CENRO office).

General Guidelines for Free Patent of untitled land are below:

1.      Go to the CENRO Office to determine if the lot is eligible for a Residential Free Patent.

          Bring proof of valid claim to the untitled land such as Tax Declaration, Deed of Sale, etc.

          Be prepared to wait and follow up since many CENROs are manual and have trouble accessing their information.

      I would also suggest checking at the RDO to get a CTC of the land title to ensure that the lot is untitled land.

2.     Gather the documents if the CENRO officer indicates the untitled land is eligible for land titling in the Philippines

          Document requirements vary depending on the CENRO officer but a frequent cause of delay (or something that can stop the process altogether) is when a family cannot agree on how the land is to be divided or cannot process the documents because family members are abroad. Generally, all family members have to agree such as in the case of an EJS.

          A Survey is needed when several family members want to split a lot. A geodetic engineer can be costly and payment delays can cause additional delays.

3.    Submit documents, DENR application and pay fees.

4.     CENRO assesses your documents and assigns a Land Management Inspector (LMI).

5.    LMI posts a Notice of Application at the Barangay Municipal or City Hall and collects proof of posting after 15 days.

6.     LMI investigates your claim to the land and may visit the site.

7.     CENRO approves the Residential Free Patent application and submits it to the Provincial Environment and Natural Resources (PENRO) if there is no opposition.

8.     PENRO approves the application and sends the signed Residential Free Patent to the Registrar of Deeds.

9.    Registry of Deeds releases the Original Certificate of Title.

FAQs for How to Register Untitled Land in the Philippines

 
What happens if the land is not registered?

 

The reason that this article discusses how to register untitled land in the Philippines, is that it is very, very important to register land.

If your lot remains untitled land, your ownership can be challenged.

As practicing Land Lawyers in the Philippines, we’ve often come across people who have been removed from their property because they weren’t the registered owners.

You might say that you have the tax declaration and have lived on the property for several years – that is not enough. If the lot remains untitled land you can always be removed from it and you cannot loan against it and you will never be treated as the owner in the eyes of the law. 

Can land be sold without title?
 

Yes, untitled land can be sold but it depends on the buyer.

When untitled land is sold, the buyer assumes the cost and difficulty of completing all the requirements for land titling in the Philippines.

Since the process of how to register untitled land in the Philippines is long and difficult, buyers may often require that the land be titled first.

That that is why titled properties are much more valuable and sought after. The buyer is essentially paying more for a title since it avoids a lot of cost and hassle on his side.

And buyers who are investing a lot in a property will never buy a property that is not titled – they know that they will never be considered the owner of untitled land.

Can I buy a lot without title in the Philippines?
 

Yes, you can buy untitled land in the Philippines.

But, you will have to go through the very long process of how to register untitled land in the Philippines I’ve described above.

Until you submit all the requirements for land titling in the Philippines and complete the entire process, your claim to ownership will not be secure.

Keep that in mind when you buy something cheap.

It is cheap for a reason – namely, you are assuming a lot of risks. 

How much does it cost to title a land in the Philippines?

 

The cost for a Residential Free Patent depends on where the property is located and on what the documents are available.

Costs of Geodetic engineers are very different from place to place.

The costs of hiring someone to help you fix this also differ from place to place.

Please remember costs vary heavily and are very dependent on your situation. Often, costs have exceeded the below.

As you can see additional documentary requirements – such as an Extrajudicial Settlement will incur drafting costs for a lawyer, estate tax payments to the Bureau of Internal Revenue, publication fees, the cost of getting people to sign this if they are abroad, PSA documents, payment of delinquent real estate taxes, etc.

That is just one common example of what the costs could be.

Note also, the above costs are when you get the supporting documents yourself – if you want someone to get the documents for you, be prepared to spend a lot since getting the documents is mostly manual.

Something to remember is that a percentage of the estate is charged when you pay estate taxes at the BIR. Also, notaries may charge based on the estate cost in the EJS.

For example, you would be charged Php 60,000 or 6% by the BIR if the net estate is 1 million. 

You might need to consult a Philippine Land Lawyer to evaluate the case – it often helps prepare you for what you might need to do. 

How long is Land Titling in the Philippines?

 

Assuming that you can promptly pay the geodetic engineer, that you can get all the landowners to agree and that you can collect all requirements for land titling in the Philippines under a Residential Free Patent, you are probably looking at 315 days from application to registration.

Most people take longer because they cannot pay the geodetic engineer.

Additionally, people often fail to get all the land owners or heirs to agree.

As a result, many people simply give up on the process and this really hurts them eventually. They are never able to borrow from a bank, mortgage, or build on the land while being secure in their ownership. (And yes, they might borrow money from a person, not a bank but what happens when that person refuses to give the title back? A bank is more secure.)

And companies buying property so that they can invest in it will not invest in land that has no title because they cannot defend their rights otherwise.

 

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