Hawaii Regular System and Land Court Recording System

Hawaii’s Two Recording Systems: Regular System and Land Court System

    There are two systems for the recordation of documents in Hawaii: the “Regular System” and the “Land Court System”.  Both systems are located in the State of Hawaii’s Bureau of Conveyances which is in Honolulu, and there are no county recording offices.  As described below Hawaii’s recording systems are unique and you should consult a Honolulu, Hawaii real estate attorney for assistance when trying to attach Hawaii real estate.

A. Regular System

    The Regular System is a “race-notice” system.  Basically any document for recording will be accepted by the Regular System regardless whether the parties have an interest in the subject land.  In addition, a document with defects will still be accepted as long as it meets Hawaii’s statutory requirements for recording.  The Registrar makes no determination as to the ownership or priority of interests.  Thus, recording in the Regular System is easier to do so, and the order of recording will determine priority. 

    The Regular System is where UCC Financing Statements and tax liens are recorded, as well as Court judgments (unless Land Court property is owned by the judgment debtor, where in that case the judgment should also be recorded on the Land Court property itself).

B. Land Court

    The Land Court is a “pure race” or “Torrens” system of land registration as found in a few other states.  When a Land Court registration is completed, the State of Hawaii issues in the landowner’s name a Certificate of Title.  The Certificate of Title describes the land and encumbrances.  All documents affecting Land Court property (mortgages, leases, judgments, mechanic’s liens) must be noted on the Certificate of Title or such documents do not affect the land. 

    Thus, the order of filing of documents in the Land Court System determines priority and even notice of a prior encumbrance or claim will not defeat that priority.  In addition, adverse possession is not possible against Land Court property, and title does not pass until the conveyance is noted on the Certificate of Title.

    Through the Certificate of Title, the State of Hawaii guarantees ownership of the land set forth in the certificate.  This explains why the Land Court System will reject documents for filing if the strict requirements of Hawaii’s Land Court statute are not met.

    In addition, name changes, marriages and deaths of title holders require correction to the Transfer Certificate of Title via a Land Court Petition which is accompanied by an original certified copy evidencing the change.  Please contact us if you need a Hawaii Land Court Petition to be prepared.

C.  Dual System

    Some Hawaii real estate are “dual system” properties and so you must record in the Regular System and file in the Land Court System.  Failing to properly file in Land Court will leave the Land Court property unencumbered.

    As you can see many mistakes are possible when non-Hawaii real estate attorneys try to attach Hawaii real estate. 

    Contact us today for assistance in properly attaching Hawaii real estate.