Legal Update 1 of 2017

Whether Registrar of Titles owed duty of care to purchaser for not maintaining proper register of all lands registered at Registry.

CASE:

Pendaftar Hakmilik, Pejabat Pendaftaran Wilayah Persekutuan Kuala Lumpur v Poh Yong Hong [2016] 6 MLRA 257, FC 

 


 BRIEF FACTS:

  • The respondent (the 'Plaintiff') lost a sum of RM 4,451,160 when the piece of land that he had purchased from a vendor (the property) turned out to belong to a third party instead. 

  • The plaintiff had, prior to the purchase conducted a private search at the relevant Land Registry, and had only proceeded with the purchase after confirming that the said vendor was the registered proprietor of the property. 

  • However, it was discovered that the particulars in the Register of Titles are maintained by the Registrar of Titles was inaccurate, as the property was registered under two different title numbers and two different proprietors/owners.

  • The plaintiff filed an action against the Land Office and the Government of Malaysia ('third defendant') alleging that, they had: (i) breached their duty of care to him; (ii) commited the tort of negligence and (iii) were liable in damages for the losses he suffered due to the failure to ensure the correctness of the particulars in the Register of Titles.

  • The High Court allowed the Plaintiff's claim. On appeal, the decision was affirmed by the Court of Appeal. 

  • Hence, the present appeal by the Defendant. 


DECISION: Appeal dismissed

 

  • The Land Administrator is expected to maintain accurate and up to date information at hte Land Registry.

  • Failure to do so may cause the Land Registry to be liable for damages suffered by the public who relied on such information.

  • A common law duty of care would arise in the performance of a statutory function.

  • The Land Administrator and the third defendant owed a duty of care to ensure that when searches are made by members of the public at the Land Registry, the public would be acting on accurate information and a properlymaintained and accurate Register of Titles. 

  • Their duty of care in the context of the present case is two-fold. 

  • Firstly;

  • a. There is the statutory duty under the National Land Code (NLC) to maintain the register of all lands registered at the Registry,

  • b. There is a duty to ensure that the information contained in the Register is correct, true and accurate and reflects the true and actual description of the title to the land as well as the true identity of the registered proprietor thereof. 

  • Secondly, there is the common law duty of care whereupon there can be a claim for negligence for the same alleged wrong.

  • Here the information at the Land Registry was inaccurate and as such the Registrar of Titles and the Government were liable for damages to the Plaintiff.

 

 

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