Couples fake divorce to buy property

By Yang Yijun (China Daily)
Updated: 2010-10-15 08:53
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SHANGHAI - The latest government regulation limiting families to the purchase of only one new apartment has led many couples in the city to fake a divorce to dodge the rule.

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According to a regulation issued by the Shanghai government on Oct 7, every household in Shanghai is allowed to purchase only one more commercial residential property starting Oct 7. Anyone in violation will not be able to register his or her ownership of the property.

But some couples are reportedly turning to fake-certificate companies for phony divorce certificates in order to buy more new apartments.

The Shanghai Morning Post randomly called five fake-certificate companies, who all said the number of clients coming for fake divorce certificates has been on the rise in recent days. Some clients even come with a housing agent, the report said.

An unnamed staff member at a fake-certificate company was quoted as saying that a fake divorce certificate usually costs 300 yuan ($45), while two certificates for a couple can be bought at a discount - two for 500 yuan. Except for the serial number on the certificate, which is random, the other elements are the same as real ones.

Local media reports said fake divorce certificates became popular when the government tightened measures in March to curb property speculation.

"It was the bank staff who recommended I fake a divorce when I planned to buy an apartment in May, as it was my third apartment, for which I had to pay a bigger down payment and it's hard to get a loan," said a Shanghai-based purchaser surnamed Wang, who works at a Fortune 500 company and refused to be named.

He said he followed the advice and not only succeeded in getting a loan with a favorable interest rate, but also lowered the down payment.

"As far as I know, there are a number of cases in which couples fake divorce certificates to get lower interest rates or buy another new property. The phenomenon shows that the current supervision is insufficient," said Lu Qilin, deputy director of Uwin Real Estate Research Center.

In response, the municipal civil affairs bureau said there is a national serial number on every divorce certificate, and an anti-counterfeit mark on the certificate also helps to distinguish fake certificates from official ones.

Experts have suggested that housing management departments should share information with civil affairs authorities to prevent fake-divorce certificates from being used during housing transactions.