Bad things happen, like land titles getting lost or destroyed. If this happened to you, then you need to learn how you can reconstitute or replace lost/destroyed titles and prevent yourself from being victimized by con artists. I’ll help you through this blogpost.
Actually, I have been thinking of the possible problems that may crop up due to the lost or destroyed land titles brought about by strong typhoons due to climate change (remember Typhoon Ondoy and Yolanda?).
And whenever situations like this arise, I’m pretty sure con-artists will take advantage of the situation to scam land owners and buyers of real estate.
Why do you need to protect your land titles?
Before we dive into how lost land titles can be reconstituted or replaced, let’s tackle why you should protect them in the first place.
Obviously, your property needs to have a title, if you are going to sell your property and proceed with the transfer of ownership.
If you think there is no urgency to get your lost title reconstituted or replaced if you have no plans of selling your property in the near future, think again.
Unfortunately, there are a lot of unscrupulous people out there who can take advantage of the situation when a title is lost or destroyed. If you are not paying attention, your property can end up being transferred to someone else’s name without your knowledge.
This in fact happened when the Registry of Deeds (RD) of Quezon City was razed by fire in 1988, and until now, there are many pending court cases brought about by con artists who took advantage of the situation.
In a situation where a registered owner lost his/her owner’s duplicate title, and due to termites, fire, floods, or any other event the original copy of the title in the RD was destroyed, it is really possible that bad elements will make fake titles and assert that they are the true owners.
It’s better to be safe than sorry, so make sure all your land titles are safe and well protected, and this includes your copies of the owner’s duplicate certificate, and the original title with the respective RD’s.
How to protect your land titles from floods, fire, and natural disasters
When properties are mortgaged, the original owner’s duplicate certificate of titles are kept in a safe and secure place by the bank/lending institution. I suppose they put it in a fire-proof safe or vault that is in a flood-free area, so it’s safe to say they are safe and sound.
However, if your property is already fully-paid, you should already have the original owner’s duplicate certificate of the title, and it becomes your responsibility to keep it in a safe and secure place.
I suggest that you keep them in a safety deposit box (SDB) in a bank not too near your home (Jay say’s it’s like having an off-site backup). Since the bank has security guards, your important documents are more secure in the SDB. I think this is more cost-effective because you need not buy your own vault. Plus, you will have peace of mind in case your house gets affected by fire, floods, or get robbed or burglarized.
I suggest you choose an SDB which is in a high place, as I recall a case where documents stored in the SDB of a certain bank got wet because the SDB was near the floor and got flooded. Maybe you can also have a fire-safe and waterproof chest where you can put your documents before you put them in the SDB.
You might be asking, “How about the original titles that were in the hands of the Register of deeds, like those that got destroyed when the Quezon City RD burned down, is there a way to prevent the same thing from happening?”
The answer to this is yes, and this can be done by converting a physical land title into an “eTitle” through the Land Registration Authority’s Voluntary Title Standardization Program. According to LRA’s website,
“Registry copies of the titles are protected from loss or destruction due to age, wear and tear, fire, natural disasters, and misfiling of records, as the eTitles are stored in its electronic original form, which are regularly backed up. By availing of this program, eTitle owners may rest assured that their titles are always safe and available, and they need no longer go through the expensive and time consuming process of title reconstitution should a disaster hit the Registry”.
For a sample of the documents that need to be submitted if you would like to apply for an eTitle, click here.
Unfortunately, since this program is voluntary, there will surely be a lot of titles that have not been converted to eTitles, which means titles lost or destroyed when RD’s got hit by Yolanda will have to undergo reconstitution.
Reconstitution or replacement, what’s the difference?
If the original title with the registry of deeds got lost or destroyed, then reconstitution of the title would be necessary. This can be either through an administrative reconstitution (in case of a substantial loss of titles in the RD) or a judicial reconstitution (in case the RD copy of the title is lost or destroyed, but no administrative reconstitution is necessary as determined by the LRA).
For example, if the original copy of the title in the RD was destroyed by termites, your title needs to be reconstituted. For a short discussion on this example written by Atty. Persida Acosta, Chief of the Public Attorney’s Office (PAO), click here.
On the other hand, if only the owner’s duplicate certificate got lost/destroyed, and the copy at the register of deeds is intact, then the owner only needs to get a replacement for the lost duplicate certificate, through the procedure stated in Section 109 of Presidential Decree (P.D.) No. 1529 (Property Registration Decree)
How to reconstitute land titles under Republic Act (R.A.) No. 26, as amended by R.A. 6732
Following the procedure under Republic Act (R.A.) No. 26, as amended by R.A. 6732, administrative reconstitution may be done in case there is substantial loss or destruction of land titles due to flood or other force majeure as determined by the Administrator of the Land Registration Authority (LRA). I have not read about any such declaration from the LRA, there’s no announcement on their website. I think also it’s because while some original titles have been lost, the number does not reach 10% of the total number of titles.
Flowchart: Administrative reconstitution
Source: Ombudsman’s website
In any case, for those whose titles got lost or destroyed in the Registry of Deeds, but no administrative reconstitution was determined to be necessary, they need to undergo judicial reconstitution of title.
Reconstitution of a title is very tedious and time-consuming. The whole process could take anywhere from six to nine months to complete. Sometimes, it even takes years. You have to prepare legal documents, secure certifications and clearances, and you need a legal counsel to represent you in court proceedings.
Mr. Raul J. Palabrica of the Inquirer has offered suggestions so that reconstitution could be done with the least time and effort, but to date, these remain as suggestions to be acted upon.
Flowchart: Judicial reconstitution of titles
Source: Ombudsman’s website
How to replace lost/destroyed land titles (owner’s duplicate certificates) under PD 1529
If you misplaced your owner’s duplicate certificates of title (but the original title is still with the Registry of Deeds), don’t feel too bad. Losing a title for no special reason except forgetfulness may be a bit embarrassing but it is not such an isolated occurrence (we all have our senior moments).
Section 109 of PD 1529 provides for the procedure in getting a new owner’s duplicate certificate as follows:
Section 109. Notice and replacement of lost duplicate certificate. In case of loss or theft of an owner’s duplicate certificate of title, due notice under oath shall be sent by the owner or by someone in his behalf to the Register of Deeds of the province or city where the land lies as soon as the loss or theft is discovered. If a duplicate certificate is lost or destroyed, or cannot be produced by a person applying for the entry of a new certificate to him or for the registration of any instrument, a sworn statement of the fact of such loss or destruction may be filed by the registered owner or other person in interest and registered.
Upon the petition of the registered owner or other person in interest, the court may, after notice and due hearing, direct the issuance of a new duplicate certificate, which shall contain a memorandum of the fact that it is issued in place of the lost duplicate certificate, but shall in all respects be entitled to like faith and credit as the original duplicate, and shall thereafter be regarded as such for all purposes of this decree.
Land titles lost/destroyed by Typhoon Yolanda/ Haiyan (November 2013)
When Super Typhoon Yolanda/Haiyan hit Leyte last November 2013, it’s pretty obvious that many land titles were lost/destroyed.
In an article dated December 23, 2013, Reuters wrote that Leyte’s Registry of Deeds office faced the ocean and was thus pounded by seawater during Typhoon Yolanda’s onslaught. The accompanying picture painted a pitiful sight – RD employees were hanging original copies of titles on clotheslines with clothespins and waiting for them to dry.
Atty. Emeterio Villanoza, Palo, Leyte’s Registrar of Deeds, was quoted as saying that as much as 2,000 land titles could have been lost in the floods, probably washed away in the nearby creek. These lost titles would require reconstitution.
On the other hand, owner’s duplicate certificates of titles that got lost/destroyed when homes got hit by the floods and the storm surge only need to be replaced, assuming that the original titles in the RD are intact and accounted for.
Prevention is better than cure
At the end of the day, it’s obviously better to prevent situations like lost land titles that can result in a long and tedious process of reconstitution or replacement, by taking simple steps to safeguard them. Based on our own experience, simply having a safety deposit box can make a world of a difference. Even though just about everything in our house got destroyed by Ondoy in 2009, all of our postdated checks from tenant-buyers, contracts, and other original copies of important documents like owner’s duplicate certificate of titles, were saved, which is proof that:
“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”
~ Benjamin Franklin
Cherry Vi M. Saldua-Castillo
Real Estate Broker, Lawyer, and CPA
PRC Real Estate Broker License No. 3187
PRC CPA License No. 0102054
Roll of Attorneys No. 55239
2013 Internal Education Head, REBAP-LMP
Text by Jay Castillo and Cherry Castillo. Copyright © 2008 – 2018 All rights reserved.
Photo by: Romeo Ranoco, Reuters from http://www.abs-cbnnews.com/focus/12/23/13/leyte-land-titles-lost-damaged-yolanda