Good title or pristine title?

Lau Kam Shing v Cheung Chuen Hon ([2011] HKEC 1581, CFI) concerned a dispute as to whether a seller had shown good title to property agreed to be sold. The buyer alleged that two requisitions had not been satisfactorily answered. The first concerned a 1947 sale by two trustees. The requisition sought details as to how the trust had been established and the trustees’ right to sell the property. The second concerned a discrepency between the Land Registry record of a 1955 sale and the relevant conveyance; there was a discrepency in the name of the seller in 1955.

The court considered sections 13 and 13A of the Conveyancing and Property Ordinance. In the absence of a contractual stipulation to the contrary, the seller only had to go back 15 years to a 1992 Deed of Gift.  In any event, neither of the issues raised gave rise to a real risk of an incumbrance.  First the lapse of time would be a considerable impediment to a successful claim. Second, it could be inferred from the 1947 memorial that good title had been shown. Third, section 13(4) of the Conveyancing and Property Ordinance created a presumption in favour of the truth of a fact or matter contained in a recital, statement or declaration made (inter alia) in a document of title not less than 15 years old. The second requisition was answered by a declaration made in 1992 that fell within section 13(4) and had not been rebutted.

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