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[SHANGHAI] China issued rules requiring real-estate owners to register their holdings with authorities, a major step in the fight against official corruption that should make it harder for property speculators to evade regulations.
Until now, China has had no such registration requirement, an absence that has let some people use property as an opaque vehicle to hide assets from authorities.
The rules, issued on Monday and taking effect on March 1, are a key step in creating a nationwide property database. They were published by the State Council, China's cabinet-level political body. "All real estate assets - land, water areas as well as houses, forests and the like - will be subject to this set of rules," the announcement said. "The rules apply to the first-time registration, changes of ownership as well as property transfers, write-offs and asset freezing, among other things," it said.
Officials have said that China needs about three years to fully establish a unified registration system of real estate, and about four years to run a unified registration information management platform, which will support the country's fiscal and financial reforms.
Industry experts have said that the rules should force corrupt officials to come clean about properties purchased with ill-gotten gains.
But publication of the rules came later than expected, they said, reflecting heavy resistance from local governments and other insiders.
While information on property ownership is already collected in some form by authorities, experts said the current record-keeping system for residential property is not consolidated or comprehensive, making it insufficient to effectively monitor the housing market.
China's only housing census was done in 1986 and its economic censuses have so far not covered housing surveys.