Just saw this thread.
i have some good and some very bad experience investing in the development of village houses with local partners and quite frankly I would never touch an unfinished property/off plan village house without the CoC knowing what I now know. It is a minefield and many legal firms won't touch this business because it is a grey area with little chance of redress if the developers choose to be dishonest.
firstly - the CoC has to be applied for in the name of the Indigenous Villager (Ding) who has been used throughout the whole application process from start to finish. This Ding is almost certainly controlled by the developer through a series of contracts (which are usually held at the developers lawyers and are technically not legal as far as the law society is concerned) the Ding is being rewarded on a milestone achievement basis ie. payments as and when the application process reaches a certain point. Such as
1. Initial application to Lands Department
2. Lands Department interview with Ding
3. Application to build Small Village House approved
4. Application for CoC submission
5. Payment of Government land premium allowing title transfer
some deals will involve even more milestones ( bear in mind the process can take anything between 4 and 8 years on average.
even at the point of applying for the CoC the lawyers have to confirm that the Ding is not being sued for any sums of money by finance companies or individuals for a clean transfer. Sometimes Dings will deliberately borrow large sums of money from finance companies with no intention to repay in the full knowledge that the Developer will have no choice but to settle the loans to complete the transfer. ( this is because most developers get a bulk payment of at least 30% once the transfer to the end buyer is completed)
like me I said it’s like navigating a damn minefield.
even if you get a lawyer, all the documents relating to the Ding are not in your possession so
you can’t challenge what you technically have no right to. Besides, the courts have already indicated that they have little or no interest in handling these cases. It really is a case of buyer beware.
To find out the true status of your application you have to appoint a surveyor to deal with the Lands department on your behalf.
However, the Lands Department will ask for the POA (power of attorney) that shows the surveyor was appointed by the actual indigenous villager who made the original application. Which obviously you can’t get.
lastly a word of warning - if you do kick up a big stink the Lands Department can freeze the application whilst they investigate the true ownership which could leave it in limbo for many many years. Lots of examples of these houses in New Terretories.
my advice is to get a chinese speaking intermediary (can be a lawyer) speak to the developer and try to negotiate a settlement whereby you get all the deposits back plus a sum that covers at least some of the other expenses you have incurred on the basis that the developer will be able to resell it at a higher price since the market has risen since the original deal. Not the outcome you hoped for but hopefully a lesson learned without too much damage. What you will really have lost is the opportunity cost as the value has increased.
in future, as a novice - only buy something secondhand that has been completed with the CoC already issued and with no Lands Department liens on the deed for violations. Any decent estate agent can check those on the Lands registry website for a small fee.
Good luck !