REALWorld Law

Sale and purchase

Real estate legislation

Which legislation applies to property transactions?

Angola

Angola

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).

Argentina

Argentina

As a rule, the CCC covers all types of property transactions, unless there is a specific statute to that end (this assessment is made at national level, state or municipal regulations may apply). Land records offices and procedures are administered by each state (province), subject to Recording Act N° 17,801.

Real estate transactions over rural land are also regulated, in some of its aspects, by the Rural Land Act N° 26,737.

Australia

Australia

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

Each legislative regime is fundamentally similar in its structure and implementation; however there are some differences between each jurisdiction.

Australian real estate is regulated under a titling system which operates on the principle of 'title by registration'. This system effectively does away with the need for a chain of title (ie tracing titles through a series of documentary instruments).

Belgium

Belgium

The Civil Code contains all general provisions connected with property transactions.

The Mortgage Law governs registration with the competent Legal Security Office (Bureau de Sécurité Juridique / Kantoor Rechtszekerheid) when real estate is transferred.

The Registration Tax Code and the Flemish Tax Code govern registration duties when real estate is transferred.

Finally, some regional decrees provide for specific formalities that have to be complied with from an environmental and zoning law perspective.

Bosnia-Herzegovina

Bosnia-Herzegovina

The transfer of property is generally governed by the Rights in Rem Act in the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (Official Gazette of F BiH no 66/13 and 100/13) and Rights in Rem Act in the Republika Srpska  (Official Gazette of RS 124/08  and 58/09).

The rights of foreign investors are set out in the Law on Foreign Direct Investment Policy in Bosnia and Herzegovina (Official Gazettes of FBiH 4/98, 17/98 and 13/03).

Other applicable laws regarding the acquisition of real estate are as follows:

  • The Law on Spatial Planning and Use of Land of the FBiH (Official Gazette of the FBiH nos. 2/06,72/07, 32/08, 4/10, 13/10, and 45/10)
  • The Law on Spatial Planning of the RS (Official Gazette of the RS nos. 84/02, 112/06 and 53/07)
  • The Law on the Protection of Environment of the FBiH (Official Gazette of the FBiH no. 15/21)
  • The Law on the Protection of Environment of the RS (Official Gazette of RS no. 71/12 79/15 and 70/20)
  • The Law on Expropriation applied in the FBiH (Official Gazette of the FBiH no. 70/07, 36/10, 25/12, 8/15 - The Decision of the Constitutional Court and 34/16)
  • The RS Law on Expropriation (Official Gazette of the RS nos. 112/06, 37/07, 110/08, 106/10 - The Decision of the Constitutional Court, 121/10 - The Decision of the Constitutional Court, 2/15 - The Decision of the Constitutional Court and 79/15)
  • The Law on VAT of Bosnia and Herzegovina (Official Gazettes of FBiH nos. 9/05, 35/05, and 100/08).
  • The Law on Spatial Planning and Construction in the RS (Official Gazette of RS no. 40/13)
  • The Act on Rights in Rem (Official Gazette of F BiH no. 66/13 and 100/13)
  • The Act on Rights in Rem (Official Gazette of Republika Srpska no. 124/08, 3/09, 58/09, 95/11, 60/15, 18/16 – Decision of the Constitutional Court and 107/19)
Brazil

Brazil

Real Estate rights in general (and related property transactions) are ruled by the Civil Code.

Canada

Canada

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

All Canadian provinces and territories with the exception of Newfoundland and Labrador, Prince Edward Island, Quebec and some portions of Ontario, have a Torrens system of land ownership which is a titling system operating on the principle of ‘title by registration’. The Torrens system effectively does away with the need for a chain of title (ie tracing title through a series of documentary instruments).

Newfoundland and Labrador, Prince Edward Island and some portions of Ontario operate under the Registry system of land ownership. The Registry system provides a means for recording documents that evidence title interests but, unlike the Torrens system, does not provide a definitive statement with respect to ownership or title.

Quebec is unique in that it is a civil law jurisdiction rather than common law jurisdiction and employs a cadastre system.

China

China

The transfer of properties is mainly governed by the following:

  • the Property Law (物权法)
  • the Law of the PRC on Land Administration (中华人民共和国土地管理法) and the Implementing Regulations for the Law of the PRC on Land Administration (土地管理法实施条例)
  • Interim Regulations of the People’s Republic of China Concerning the Assignment and Transfer of the Right to the Use of the State-owned Land in the Urban Areas中华人民共和国城镇国有土地使用权出让和转让暂行条例
  • the Law of the PRC on the Administration of Urban Real Estate (中华人民共和国城市房地产管理法); and
  • Regulations of the PRC for the Administration of the Development and Operation of Urban Real Estate (城市房地产开发经营管理条例)
Colombia

Colombia

The main sources of real state law are:

  • Civil Code
  • Commercial Code
  • Cadastral Regime – Law 44 of 1990
  • Rural Land Regime – Law 160 of 1994
  • Seismic Resistance Regime – Law 400 of 1994
  • Condominium Regime – Law 675 of 2001
  • Urban Housing Leasing Regime - Law 820 of 2003
  • Consumer Protection Regime – Law 1480 of 2011
  • Public Registry Regime – Law 1579 of 2012
  • Safe Housing Law – Law 1796 of 2016
Croatia

Croatia

The transfer of property is generally regulated by the Croatian Obligations Act (Zakon o obveznim odnosima, Official Gazette Nos. 35/05, 41/08, 125/11, 78/15).

Other relevant laws are:

  • The Land Register Act (Zakon o zemljišnim knjigama, Official Gazette Nos. 91/96, 114/01, 100/04, 107/07, 152/08, 126/10, 55/13, 60/13, 108/17), and
  • The Ownership and other Real Rights Act (Zakon o vlasništvu i drugim stvarinim pravima, Official Gazette Nos. 91/96, 73/00, 114/01, 79/06, 141/06, 146/08, 38/09, 153/09, 143/12 and 152/14)
Czech Republic

Czech Republic

The transfer of title to real estate is generally governed by the Czech Civil Code (which deals with purchase or donation agreements). The provisions of Act No. 256/2013 on the Cadastral Registry (the Cadastral Act), regulates registration at the Cadastral Registry.

Denmark

Denmark

Transfers of real estate are mainly governed by the general rules of Danish contractual law. Additionally, the Danish Real Estate Agent Act, the Danish Consumer Protection in the Acquisition of Real Estate Act, the Registration of Property Act, the Promotion of Energy Saving in Buildings Act and general Danish tax law apply.

France

France

The applicable legislation is set out in a wide range of laws, each dealing with a particular aspect of the sale and purchase of real estate.

Germany

Germany

The main sources of real estate law are:

  • the Civil Code 
  • the Notarization Act 
  • the Land Register Ordinance 
  • the Federal Building Code, and 
  • the Building Ordinances of each federal state
Hong Kong, SAR

Hong Kong, SAR

Contracts are primarily governed by the general common law inherited from the English system. There are also additional statutory provisions relating to real estate transactions, including the Conveyancing and Property Ordinance, (Cap. 219 of the Laws of Hong Kong) Land Registration Ordinance (Cap. 128 of the Laws of Hong Kong) and related regulations.

Hungary

Hungary

The main sources of real estate law are:

  • the Hungarian Civil Code (Act V of 2013)
  • the Real Estate Registration Act and the accompanying decree (Act CXLI of 1997 and Decree No. 109/1999 (XII 29) of the Ministry for Agriculture)
  • the Arable Land Act (Act CXXII of 2013)
  • the Government Decree No. 251/2014 on the Acquisition of Real Estate by Foreign Nationals
  • the Duties Act (Act XCIII of 1990), and
  • the Formation and Protection of the Built Environment Act (Act LXXVIII of 1997).
Ireland

Ireland

A broad range of legislation affects property transactions in Ireland, including that covering:

  • Registration of title
  • Family law
  • Taxation
  • Planning
Italy

Italy

The transfer of title to real estate is generally governed by the Italian Civil Code, with supplementary provisions relating to town planning, building and taxation.

Japan

Japan

The primary legislation applicable to property transactions in Japan are the following:

  • Civil Code – The Civil Code stipulates the general rules for the sale and purchase of real estate.
  • Real Estate Brokerage Act – This act stipulates the obligations of real estate brokers involved in real estate transactions.
  • Real Estate Registration Act – This act stipulates real estate registration procedures.
  • City Planning Act and Building Standards Act – These acts stipulate land usage requirements and building standards.
Netherlands

Netherlands

The legislation that applies to real estate is:

  • Article 7:1–50 Civil Code (sale/purchase)
  • Article 3:80–106 Civil Code (transfer)
  • Article 5:20–36 Civil Code (ownership)
New Zealand

New Zealand

The key legislation governing property transactions are:

  • Land Transfer Act 2017 and Land Transfer Regulations 2018 – The Land Transfer Act 2017 governs the system of registration of land ownership and interests in New Zealand. It maintains the certainty of property rights and enables the register to be managed electronically. This is supported by the Land Transfer Regulations 2018.
  • Overseas Investment Act 2005 – This Act governs overseas investment in New Zealand’s sensitive land and assets.
  • Property Law Act 2007 – This legislation governs land and personal property. It sets out rules including for deeds, sale and purchase of property, covenants relating to land, mortgages, and leases.
  • Unit Titles Act 2010 – This sets out the law governing building developments where multiple owners hold land in unit titles (see above). This provides the legal framework for the ownership and management of this land. In the context of a property transaction, it imposes disclosure requirements between the buyer and sellers of unit titles.

As part of the wider transaction process, there are also various Acts that may apply and can affect the title to land. These include:

  • Anti-Money Laundering (AML) and Counter Financing of Terrorism Act 2009 – This Act concerns customer due diligence requirements on agents (including lawyers and real estate agents) to complete risk profiles on their clients and have an established AML/CFT compliance programme in place.
  • Building Act 2005 and Building Code – This outlines the requirements for construction, alteration, and demolition of new and existing buildings. A key consideration for buyer of land is whether a building on the land has been built or alterations done in accordance with the any building consent and the Building Code.
  • Public Works Act 1981 – This Act gives the Crown and certain public authorities powers and obligations in relation to the acquisition and disposal of land needed for public works (eg schools or roads). Once land held under this Act is no longer needed for the public work (or another public work) it must be offered back to the previous owner (or their successor) before the land-owning agency can sell it.
  • Real Estate Agents Act 2008 – This Act is to promote and protect the interests of consumers and increase public confidence in the performance of real estate agency work.
  • Residential Tenancies Act 1986 – See section on Residential Leases.
  • Resource Management Act 1991 – This Act promotes the sustainable management of natural and physical resources. In the context of property transactions, this mainly has implications for subdivisions and amalgamations of land, and consents issued by the territorial authority. It is currently under review, with three new Acts intended to replace it.
  • Te Ture Whenua Māori Act 1993 – This Act concerns Māori Land with principles reaffirming the Treaty of Waitangi relationship between Māori and the Crown. It aims to enable the retention of land in Māori owners, and their whanau (family) and hapu (tribe), and to protect wahi tapu (places sacred to Māori People).
Nigeria

Nigeria

The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 and the Land Use Act 1978 are the major uniform laws for the entire country. There are, however, other subsidiary legislations regulating property transactions within the respective 36 states and the Federal Capital territory which include but are not limited to the following:

  • Land Instrument Registration Act and Land Instrument Registration Laws (of various States);
  • Property and Conveyancing Law (States in the Southwest except Lagos State);
  • Conveyancing Act 1881 (States in Northern and Eastern Nigeria);
  • Rent Control and Recovery of Premises Laws (various States);
  • Acquisition of Lands by Aliens Law Ch. A1, Laws of Lagos State, 2015;
  • Land Registration Law of Lagos State 2015;
  • Land Use Charge Law of Lagos State 2020;
  • Tenement Rate Laws (various States);
  • Tenancy Law of Lagos State 2011;
  • Registration of Titles Law (various states);
  • Lagos State Real Estate Regulatory Authority Law, 2022;
  • Wills Act 1837;
  • Wills Laws (various States);
  • Companies and Allied Matters Act 2020;
  • Nigeria Startup Act 2022;
  • Administration of Estate Laws (Various States); and
  • Tax legislations – Finance Act (2019, 2020 & 2021 Amendments)Capital Gains Tax Act 2004 (as amended), Personal Income (Amendment) Tax Act 2011 (as amended), Stamp Duties Act 2004 (as amended), and Companies Income Tax Act 2004 (as amended).
Norway

Norway

The Alienation Act (Avhendingsloven) regulates the transfer of planned and completed properties between individuals and/or between professional parties (companies etc.). Professional parties may opt out of the regulations imposed under the Alienation Act.

New buildings, including contracts for the proposed construction of a building, are not regulated by the Alienation Act.

In the case of individuals such contracts are regulated by Norwegian law number 43 of 13 June 1997 (Bustadoppføringslova), but for professional parties there is freedom of contract.

In the case of professional parties entering into contracts, including those for transfer of title and for the proposed construction of new buildings, land transfer is regulated by the Alienation Act, but the construction elements are regulated through the building contract.

Poland

Poland

The basic rules for sales and purchases can be found in the Polish Civil Code. However, there are many other laws which may apply to specific transactions such as the Real Estate Management Act and the Zoning and Development Act, which apply to sales and purchases by the community, etc.

Portugal

Portugal

In Portugal, private property transactions are mainly ruled by the Portuguese Civil Code. However, certain provisions of tax law, registration law, public law and corporate law are also applicable.

Romania

Romania

The legal framework providing for the main rules and procedures for real estate transactions in Romania comprises:

  • The Romanian Civil Code, as republished in the Official Gazette no. 505 of 15 July 2011 and further amended
  • Law no. 18/1991 (the “Land Law”), republished in the Official Gazette no. 1 of 5 January 1998 and subsequently amended
  • Law no. 10/2001 (the “Restitution Law”) republished in the Official Gazette no. 798 of 2 September 2005, as subsequently amended
  • Law no. 7/1996 regarding the land cadastre and immovable publicity, republished in the Official Gazette no. 720 of 24 September 2015, as subsequently amended
  • Law no. 1/2000 regarding the restitution of agricultural and forest lands, published in the Official Gazette no. 8 of 12 January 2000, as subsequently amended
  • Law no. 17/2014 regulating the sale of agricultural land located outside municipal boundaries, which entered into force on 11 April 2014

Specific provisions in respect to real estate transactions are also included in the Romanian Fiscal Code and law no. 36/1995 regarding notaries public, as subsequently amended. When involved in real estate transactions in Romania, companies must also observe the rules provided by the Company Law no. 31/1990, as subsequently amended.

Slovak Republic

Slovak Republic

The Civil Code and the Act No. 162/1995 Coll. on the Cadastral Registry and Registration of Ownership and Other Rights Over Real Estate, as amended, apply to the transfer of real estate in general. Further primary and secondary legislation also applies to real estate, including specific types of property.

Spain

Spain

The main legislation for the transfer of real estate comprises:

  • The Spanish Civil Code and/or Commercial Code
  • The Mortgage Act and mortgage regulations
  • Notarization regulations
  • The Urban Planning Law of the region where the real estate is located
  • The building ordinances of the relevant town council
  • The Act and regulations relating to VAT and transfer tax
Sweden

Sweden

The transfer of title to real estate is generally governed by the Real Property Code (Jordabalken).

Thailand

Thailand

The main legislation governing the transfer of real estate is as follows:

  • The Civil and Commercial Code
  • The Land Code
  • The Condominium Act
  • The Foreign Business Operation Act
  • The Investment Promotion Act
  • The Industrial Estate Authority of Thailand Act
United Arab Emirates - Abu Dhabi

United Arab Emirates - Abu Dhabi

Within Abu Dhabi and outside the Abu Dhabi Global Market free zone

The following legislation applies:

  • The Civil Transactions Law of the State of the United Arab Emirates No. (5) of 1985 (as amended)
  • Federal Law No. (18) of 1993 on Commercial Transactions
  • Law No. (19) of 2005: Re-organising Real Property in Abu Dhabi (as amended by Law No. (2) of 2007: amending certain provisions concerning Real Estate ownership)
  • Law No. (3) of 2005: concerning the regulation of Property Registration in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, together with Department of Municipal Affairs Chairman’s Decision No. (52/1) of 2008 on the issue of an Executive Regulation regarding the Organization of Real Estate Registration in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi
  • Law No. 3 of 2015 Concerning the Regulation of the Real Estate Sector in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi

Within the Abu Dhabi Global Market free zone

There is an extensive list of statutes and regulations that apply to property within the Abu Dhabi Global Market free zone. These include:

  • Abu Dhabi Global Market Real Property Regulations 2015
  • Abu Dhabi Global Market Strata Title Regulations 2015
  • Abu Dhabi Global Market Application of English Law Regulations 2015 which in turn applies a prescribed list of English and Welsh Acts of Parliament together with English and Welsh common law and the rules of equity
  • Abu Dhabi Global Market Commercial Licensing Regulations 2015 and associated rules
  • Abu Dhabi Global Market Companies Regulations 2015 and associated rules
  • Abu Dhabi Global Market Insolvency Regulations 2015
  • Abu Dhabi Global Market Employment Regulations 2015

We have not listed the prescribed list of applicable English and Welsh Acts of Parliament here as it is extensive. However, it can be viewed on the Abu Dhabi Global Market website.

United Arab Emirates - Dubai

United Arab Emirates - Dubai

The following legislation is important to consider in most property transactions in Dubai:

  • The UAE Civil Code, being Federal Law (5) of 1985 (as amended);
  • Law No (7) of 2006 Concerning Land Registration in the Emirate of Dubai (as amended by Law No (7) of 2019);
  • Regulation No (3) of 2006 Concerning the determination of areas where non-locals can acquire properties in the Emirate of Dubai;
  • Law No (8) of 2007 Concerning Real Estate Development Trust Accounts in the Emirate of Dubai;
  • · Law No (13) of 2008 Regulating the Interim Real Estate Register in the Emirate of Dubai (as amended by Law No (9) of 2009; Law No (13) of 2008 and Law No (19) of 2020);
  • Law No (14) of 2008 Concerning Mortgages in the Emirate of Dubai;
  • Regulation No (1) of 2010 Specifying Areas of Property Ownership by non-UAE Nationals Amendment;
  • Dubai Regulation No. (1) of 2011 On the Addition of Certain Lands to the Zones of Ownership by Non-nationals of Real-Estate in the Emirate of Dubai;
  • Regulation No (2) of 2012 adding Lands to the Areas of Real Estate Ownership for Non-nationals in the Emirate of Dubai;
  • Regulation No. (3) of 2012 adding Lands to the Areas of Real Estate Ownership for Non-nationals in the Emirate of Dubai;
  • Law No. (7) of 2013 Concerning the Dubai Land Department;
  • Executive Council Resolution No. (30) of 2013 On Endorsement of Fees Pertaining to the Land Department;
  • Administrative Resolution (134) of 2013 On Considering as Long-Term Lease Every Lease of a Minimum of 10 Years and a Maximum of 99 Years Term;
  • Resolution No (14) of 2015 Adding Land to the Areas for Ownership by non-UAE Nationals of Real Property in the Emirate of Dubai;
  • R· Resolution No (8) of 2016 Adding Land to the Areas for Ownership by non-UAE Nationals of Real Property in the Emirate of Dubai;
  • Law No. (6) of 2019 Concerning the Ownership of Jointly-Owned Real Estate in the Emirate of Dubai;
  • Resolution No (18) of 2019 Adding Land to the Areas for Ownership by Non-UAE Nationals of Real Property in the Emirate of Dubai
  • Decision No. (25) of 2021 On the Addition of Some Plots to the Areas where Non-Nationals Own Real Estate in the Emirate of Dubai;
  • · Decision No. (7) of 2021 Concerning the Addition of Certain Plots to the Areas of Non-Nationals' Ownership of Properties in the Emirate of Dubai;
  • Decision No. (6) 2022 On Adding Some Lands to Areas Where Non-Citizens Own Real Estate Properties in the Emirate of Dubai.
UK - England and Wales UK - England and Wales

UK - England and Wales

Contracts are primarily governed by case law. There are also additional statutory provisions relating to real estate transactions, including the Law of Property Act 1925 and the Land Registration Act 2002 and related regulations.

UK - Scotland

UK - Scotland

Contracts for the sale and purchase of real estate are governed primarily by case law. The execution of contracts is governed by the Requirements of Writing (Scotland) Act 1995 but contracts are not generally in a standard form.

There is legislation applicable to the registration of the buyer's title, namely the Land Registration etc. (Scotland) Act 2012. If the acquisition of the property also involves the transfer of a business carried out on the premises, then statutory provisions dealing with employees and VAT also need to be considered.

United States

United States

Each state has its own law, consisting of case law and statutes, applicable to property transactions; local regulations are also applicable to aspects of property ownership, such as zoning compliance and building codes. In addition, federal laws may be applicable.

Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe

In Zimbabwe, the following laws apply to the regulating of property transactions, depending on the nature of the transaction. The major legislation pertaining to property transactions are:

  • The Capital Gains Tax Act [Chapter 23:01]
  • The Commercial Premises Lease Control Act [Chapter 14:04]
  • The Commercial Premises Lease Control Act Rent Regulations [S.I 676 of 1983]
  • Finance Act [Chapter 24:04]
  • The Housing and Building Act [Chapter 22:07]
  • The Housing and Building Rent Regulations [S.I. 32 of 2007]
  • The Deeds Registries Act [Chapter 20:05]
  • The Land Acquisition Act [Chapter 20:10]
  • The Rural Land Act [Chapter 20:18]
  • The Land Survey Act [Chapter 20:12]
  • Urban Councils Act [Chapter 29:15]
  • Rural District Councils Act [Chapter 29:13]
  • Value Added Tax Act [Chapter 23:12]