Add your name onto the title deed of the property registered in the name of your spouse
Sep 25, 2012

Add your name onto the title deed of the property registered in the name of your spouse

We are talking about real estate in the context of a marriage under CHINESE LAWS.

It is not a new topic at all. Ever since Chinese Supreme Court handed down its third interpretation on Chinese marriage law in last August of 2011, in which the court declared that real property that is bought after marriage with the money from the parents of one spouse and registered in the name of this said spouse shall be deemed as gift by the said parents to the said spouse only and therefore shall be regarded as separate property owned by the said spouse only. In other words, such property will not be deemed as community property of the couple. This new rule has spurred a wave of wives requesting to add their names onto the title deed of their family properties. Well, I am one of the husbands that are immersed in the wave. : )

While there is a clear point for the wives to add their names onto the title deed, which turns the otherwise separate property into community property co-owned by the couple, there has seen a manifest increase of cases in which one spouse, before divorce, sues to ask the court to recognize and confirm his or her ownership in their real estate (houses, or apartments) bought during their marriage but registered for some reasons in the name of the other spouse only. The plaintiff in such a case, the spouse whose name is not appearing on the title deed, generally makes the claim of adding his or her name onto the title deed. People who know of Chinese family laws would contend the necessity of making such a case since they know that under Chinese Marriage Law, any property or asset such as salary of one spouse acquired after marriage are automatically considered as community property of the couple giving half of the ownership in such assets or properties to the other spouse.

While that contention makes a good sense, in practice, the mere declaration by the Chinese Marriage Law of the community property rule is far from enough in protecting the interests of the spouse whose name is not officially registered or appearing on the title deed of the property. Though Chinese Marriage Law requires that mutual consents of spouses are needed in the case of substantial disposal of marital properties, in practice, the spouse whose name is registered on the title deed of the property can manage to sell the property without the knowledge of the other spouse, and with the bona fide third party rules coming into play in regard of transaction of real properties, the bona fide purchaser in such deceptive sale will be protected by law with respect to his title to the property, leaving the other spouse only the remedy to claim damages from the spouse who deceptively sells the property which remedy will go nowhere in the end because of concealment of cash sale proceeds by the deceptive spouse.

Given the vulnerability of the legal interests of the unregistered spouse in the community properties, esp the real properties, it is definitely and highly necessary for the spouse who is not registered as owner of such real properties to take actions to protect his or her own interests when the couple fall out of love with each other or even fight against one another in the divorcing proceeding. This is the case with Chinese couples, so is true of foreign couples or cross-border marriage couple having real properties in China. Once both names of the couple are registered in the title deed, in practice, neither spouse will be able to sell the property without the consent of the other spouse, an effective measure to eliminate deceptive sale by either spouse.

We are advising a Korean client in defending her interest in one high-end property in Shanghai which is registered in the name of her husband only. The couple are being involved in the divorcing proceeding in a foreign country, and the client believed that her husband is planning to secretively sell the property in Shanghai and cover and conceal the sale proceeds from her. It is crucial for the client to add her name onto the title deed of the real estate in order to prevent her husband’s illegal scheme.

Such litigation cases are relatively new, a result of the enactment of Chinese Property Law, effective as of October 1, 2007. The Chinese Property Law has made it clear that title or ownership in real estate shall be deemed as having been created only when the title is duly registered with real estate registry authority. Such new title/ownership rule has made the weakness or drawback of the community property provisions in Chinese Marriage Law appear more apparent and conspicuous than before. Such litigation is actually a perfection of the title of such unregistered spouse in their community property.

In brief, this post is telling you that you have the way to protect your interests in your community property (esp real estates) when you don’t feel safe about your interests therein by taking legal actions to add your names onto the title deed of the community property.

However, there are barriers in your way to add your name onto the title deed in case the real property in question has been mortgaged to banks where the addition of another name onto the title deed is subject to the consent of the bank. But such barrier may be removed in the legal proceeding if the bank is made a party to the proceeding.

For more information about this topic, or you want to further discuss the topic, please contact the blogger of the site.



  1. Alexa says:

    Hi Jason,
    My husband bought a property in 2016 and the deed of sale/ the house certificate is under his name and his ex. When they divorce in 2017 it was clearly stated on the divorce agreement that the house belongs to him (he haven’t fully paid the house from the bank and he has all the records that since the beginning he is the only one paying for that property without any cent from her ex. Now, he got married again and we want to sell the property but his ex refuses to help him so that he can sell the condo. She is threathening my husband and wants to have an agreement that my husband should give her the half of the profit once it is sold. Can my husband change the name of the house cert without the ex’s consent and just use their divorce agreement as proof of his ownership of the condo? How he can deal with this issue?

    1. Jason Tian says:

      Alexa, can you please get your husband to contact me so that I can fully understand the situation. I believe if they have made it clear in their divorce agreement (which should have been registered with civil affairs department), then he should be able to remove her name off the deed after paying off the bank debt. I need to review the divorce agreement before advising further.

      1. Alexa says:

        Hi Jason,

        Thank you for the quick response. This article is very informative and helpful.

        I had a conversation with my husband and I have mistaken it. Only his name is in the house cert and it is the contract from the bank (bank loan contract) that includes the name of his ex wife and for some reasons we are having a problem selling it because of that contract and some gov’t policy. Just in case we have decided not to sell it in the future and finish paying it from the bank, does the ex can have a claim in the future? and can my husband include my name on it for it to become a conjugal property? I have told him to contact you the soonest to give you more details and for further clarification on the matter. Again thank you so much.

        1. Jason Tian says:

          Alexa, I don’t think you have told me about where the property is located. In most cases, if there is only your husband’s name on the title deed (house certificate), then he should be able to sell it esp that property was meent to be his personal property when he divorced his ex. If he wishes to sell, please let me know. We can help. As you can see from other posts on this blog, we help foreign clients sell their China properties all the time.

  2. Michael says:

    I am a US citizen and my wife became a US citizen in 2011 (she originally came to the US in 2007). Before she immigrated to the US, my wife purchased a condo in Nanning in 2004 (my mother-in-law has been living in this condo since my wife moved to the US).

    Therefore, the following conditions now exist: (1) my wife no longer is listed on her family hukou, (2) my wife no longer has her Chinese national ID, (3) my wife changed her name to take my last name after we married.

    What would the process be to have a new deed issued to reflect her new name / citizenship? What type of documentation would be required? Are there any special concerns we should have regarding home ownership as a US citizen? Any assistance/guidance you can provide would be greatly appreciated.

    1. Jason Tian says:

      Hi Michael, honestly speaking, i have never handled a similar matter before. I believe your wife should be able to update the title deed by providing all documents proving her change of identity. You should talk to local real estate authority on that.

  3. tong foosing says:

    Dear Jason
    Need your advices on the following.
    I have a lady friend from chongqing having this problem.
    As a young migrant worker at the tender age of 15+ and was imprenanted by this man 10+ older than herself and being away from home and nobody to turn to and held against her wish by having people watching hers every moves,she was forced to borne him a son.
    After giving birth she was allowed to go back to her own home.After that incidence after some time due to hardship she went out to work again.Then after 7 long years,this man’s family member contacted her and asked her for help because this young boy cannot enrol into school without a marriage certificate and persuaded her to register the marriage and promised to sign the divorce paper after getting admitted.Out of sympathy for the boy she relented to their request.
    This guy married a women without registering the marriage and they have their own child and made my friend signed an agreement stating both are entitle to their own private life specifically on monies,assets and life partner
    Recently,due this man’s business failure and knowing that my friend owning a apartment and started threatening my friend to take in the child and fund all his education expenses and to make the child coowner of the apartment and failing which this man will institue actions to make her liable for half of whatever his debts.
    So i will appreciate very much if you can give your honest and frank advise on her predicament.I really hope you can help this poor soul from this monster man.

    1. Jason Tian says:

      Hi there, whether the monster man can hold this poor lady liable for his business failure depends on whether the debts are incurred from sake of family life. Whether her apartment is safe depends on when she bought this apartment before or during marriage. You really should seek professional advice from a local lawyer in her place.

  4. charles says:

    dear Jason,

    i have a query regarding the availability to the public of the title deed of a property. the context is that my wife bought a condo in qingdao in 2009 while we were married and we lived there for a while that summer before moving to shanghai for her to work. i did not care that my name was not on the title – we were married :). however, we recently divorced in the usa. in her declaration of assets and debts my wife stated that the condo was a gift to her father. it was not a gift. please advise how i might be able to obtain a copy of the deed.

    thank you.


    1. Jason Tian says:

      Hi Charles, from your message above, you are saying the apartment is bought during your marriage. It is supposed to be the community property belonging to both you and your wife unless you two have a pre-nuptial agreement indicating otherwise. If the apartment is somehow gifted to your wife’s father without your consent, it is possible that you can sue the two to restore the title and get your share.

      By the way, I am wondering whether the USA court is going to rule in respect of marital properties/assets? Such judgment on splitting of marital properties will not be valid in China at all.

      You can simply ask one of your friends in Qingdao to go to local real estate registry to find out the title information. It is easy and simple to obtain such information. Just tell the registrar the address of the property and he or she will tell you who is the owner of the property.

      Good luck!

      1. charles says:

        dear Jason,

        i much appreciate your advice – to obtain a title deed from a local real estate registry in qingdao, and the possibility of suing in china (sounds risky). one realtor told me she could not obtain the title deed; i will check other realtors. as in china, apparently there is code in the usa which prevents gifting ‘significant’ community property and my attorney has proposed to sue under this code.


        1. Jason Tian says:

          1. it is not that risky to sue for getting back your title of the apartment. You have solid legal ground to make that claim.

          2. You should pay them to do the service for you.

          3. Your USA attorney is kidding you if he proposed to sue in USA to get back your title in the apartment. He should know some international rules. As advised previously, USA court’s judgment in respect of properties in China is nothing but a piece of paper in China. You cannot rely on that judgment to get back your interests.

          1. charles says:

            Thank you Jason. good to know that there is a chance of suing in China if i fail in the usa. in california (where my ex and i live), family code 1100 (b) states: A spouse may not make a gift of community personal property,
            or dispose of community personal property for less than fair and
            reasonable value, without the written consent of the other spouse. even without a copy of the title i have a fair chance of prevailing since my ex admits to ‘gifting’. if i find that the title is in my ex’s name it should make negotiation or litigation less risky. yes, i offered to pay for the copy of the title deed. hopefully a realtor will provide me this service.

          2. Jason Tian says:

            Good luck. The risk of failing to take prompt action to take back your share is that the apartment may be sold to another third party buyer who is not aware of the dispute attached to the property. If the new buyer pays fair price and have the property registered in his name, there will be no chance for you to get back your title in the property.

            Good luck there!