Mortgage Documents Witness Requirements in Australia

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Your loan contract from the lender will often come with several other documents, collectively referred to as your mortgage documents, most of which require your signature.

There is, however, one set of government mortgage documents that require specific witnessing. 

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Please speak with one of our experts online to get a free recommendation on witnessing your mortgage documents.

What is a Mortgage Document?

You may need more funds to purchase (real estate) properties in Australia. On the other hand, you may borrow funds from a bank or a lender (i.e. apply for a mortgage with the bank) to fund your purchase. Mortgage documents are therefore required to be entered into between you and your lender to reflect the mortgage arrangement.

These documents generally contain the following information:

  • Details of you and your lender;
  • Description or address of the property;
  • Mortgage arrangement details between you and your lender;
  • Information of an independent witness who witnesses the execution of the documents.

Mortgage documents must be prepared and signed in an approved form under the Transfer of Land Act (VIC), Land Title Act 1994 (Qld), Real Property Act 1900, or any equivalent legislation depending on the location of your property.

Your lender’s solicitors will usually prepare all mortgage documents within a week of formally approving your loan.

Which Documents Require Mortgage Witnessing?

The key documents that require witnessing for a mortgage application in Australia are:

  • Loan Application Form: The borrower(s) will need to have their signature(s) witnessed when signing the official loan application requesting the mortgage.
  • Mortgage Documents: The mortgage contract showing the legal terms of the loan and using the property as security will need a witnessed signature.
  • Certificate of Title: If providing a Certificate of Title for a property as part of the mortgage collateral, the borrower’s signature handing over the title needs witnessing.
  • Consent Forms: Any consent forms from a partner who is not a borrower, but has an interest in the property used as security, should be witnessed when signing.
  • Statutory Declarations: If making a Statutory Declaration to verify any claims as part of the application, the borrower’s declaration and signature has to be witnessed.

Ensuring these are all properly witnessed is critical when applying for an Australian mortgage from overseas.

Who Can Witness Your Mortgage Documents?

Mortgage documents must be signed and witnessed by a ‘qualified witness’. Generally, an ‘Australian lawyer’, ‘Notary Public’, or ‘Consular officer’ are approved and qualified witnesses under the relevant laws and legislations.

Other than signing and witnessing your mortgage documents, your Australian lawyer will also need to verify your identity – therefore, remember to bring your identity documents (e.g. passport and another form of identification with a photo) when seeing your lawyer.

If you are in Australia when signing your mortgage documents, the restrictions are much more lenient. See the below table on general requirements as a guideline.

Witnessing Requirements if Residing in Australia

StateRequirement (if residing in Australia)
New South WalesAnyone over the age of 18 that is not a party to the loan.
VictoriaAnyone over the age of 18 that is not a party to the loan.
QueenslandAn Australian lawyer, Notary public, or Consular officer.
Western AustraliaAnyone over the age of 18 that is not a party to the loan.
South AustraliaAnyone over the age of 18 that is not a party to the loan.
TasmaniaAnyone over the age of 18 that is not a party to the loan.
Norther TerritoryAn Australian lawyer, Notary public, or Consular officer.
Australian Capital TerritoryAnyone over the age of 18 that is not a party to the loan.

Who can Witness a Signature Overseas for Australian Documents?

Depending on your location at the time of signing, requirements may be tricky and sometimes impossible to meet. Horror stories exist where foreign residents cannot settle their mortgage due to improper certification of documents overseas.

Fortunately, you only need to get the title registry forms, including the mortgage documents, signed in the presence of a witness. However, please note that the witness must be over 18 years and should not be a family member.

Read on to prepare yourself and your lender for the drawdown.

Witnessing Requirements if Residing Overseas

StateRequirement (if Overseas)
New South WalesAn Australian lawyer, Notary public, or Consular officer. Depending on the lender, anyone over the age of 18 that is not a party to the loan.
VictoriaAn Australian lawyer, Notary public, or Consular officer. Depending on the lender, anyone over the age of 18 that is not a party to the loan.
QueenslandAn Australian lawyer, Notary public, or Consular officer.
Western AustraliaConsular officer only
South AustraliaAn Australian lawyer, Notary public, or Consular officer. Depending on the lender, anyone over the age of 18 that is not a party to the loan.
TasmaniaAn Australian lawyer, Notary public, or Consular officer. Depending on the lender, anyone over the age of 18 that is not a party to the loan.
Norther TerritoryAn Australian lawyer, Notary public, or Consular officer.
Australian Capital TerritoryAn Australian lawyer, Notary public, or Consular officer. Depending on the lender, anyone over the age of 18 that is not a party to the loan.

Get a free Australian mortgage assessment today.

Apply online to get a free recommendation with real rates and repayments.

Mortgage Witness Requirements By State in Australia

The requirements for who can witness your mortgage documents vary slightly across Australian states. Here’s a breakdown:

Victoria Witness Requirements

  • Anyone over 18 who is not a party to the loan can witness your signature.
  • The witness must provide full name, address, and occupation.
  • Signatures must be in black or blue ink.

New South Wales Witness Requirements

  • Similar requirements to Victoria.

Queensland Witness Requirements

  • Due to a different land title system, stricter requirements apply.
  • Only an Australian lawyer, Notary Public, or Consular Officer can witness your signature.

Western Australia (WA) Mortgage Witness Requirements

  • Anyone over 18 who is not a party to the loan and can provide full name, address, and occupation can witness.
  • If signed outside Australia, an Australian Consular Officer is required (exceptions may apply).

South Australia Witness Requirements

  • Similar requirements to other states.

Tasmania Witness Requirements

  • Same requirements as other states.

Australian Capital Territory Witness Requirements

  • An Australian Justice of the Peace (JP) or Commissioner for Declarations is required.
  • Specific JP forms may be necessary.

Northern Territory Witness Requirements

  • Similar requirements to other states.

Disclaimer: Witness requirements for Australian mortgage documents vary by state/territory; consult your lender or legal representative for specific details.

Who Can Witness Your Australian Mortgage Documents Overseas?

Can a Family Member Witness a Mortgage Deed?

No, family members are generally not allowed to witness mortgage deeds in Australia.

The main reasons a family member cannot witness a mortgage deed are:

  • They are not considered an independent witness as they have a personal interest in the mortgage.
  • Witnesses must not be a party to the mortgage document itself. Family would be excluded as a party.
  • Potential conflict of interest if there is a dispute and the witness is a relative.
  • Mortgage documents require an impartial witness without a stake in the transaction.

However, there are some exceptions in certain Australian states:

  • In Queensland, parents, children or spouses can witness mortgage documents.
  • In Tasmania, family members are allowed to witness mortgages, except between spouses.
  • De facto partners may be able to witness in some states if they don’t live at the same property.
  • In all other Australian states and territories, family members, spouses, defacto partners and relatives are prohibited from witnessing mortgage deeds due to their inherent conflict of interest.

With limited exceptions in QLD and TAS, family members cannot legally witness the signing of mortgage deeds in Australia due to their personal relationship. An independent witness is required.

Can a Friend Witness a Mortgage Deed Signature?

Yes, a friend can legally witness a mortgage deed signature in Australia, as long as they meet the following requirements:

  • They are over 18 years old.
  • They are an independent third party, not a party to the mortgage itself or receiving a direct benefit from it.
  • They directly observe the person signing the mortgage deed.
  • They provide their full name, address and occupation legibly near their signature.
  • They are considered a ‘disinterested witness’ – meaning they do not have any financial or other interest in the mortgage transaction.
  • They are not under any duress or influence of the signatory.
  • They are not impaired by drugs, alcohol or mental incapacity when witnessing.

As a friend is generally considered an independent third party, with no financial interest or benefit from the mortgage, they can legally act as the witness.

However, some mortgage lenders may not accept a friend witnessing the signature, so it’s important to check with the lender first. But in most cases, a friend fulfilling the above criteria is permissible under Australian law to witness mortgage deeds.

The key requirements are that the friend is over 18, impartial and observes the signature directly without any conflict of interest in the mortgage transaction itself.

Why Do You Need a Witness For a Mortgage?

There are a few key reasons why you need a witness for signing a mortgage in Australia:

  • Legal verification: Having a witness provides legal verification that the mortgage documents were properly executed and voluntarily signed by the mortgagor(s). This helps prevent fraud.
  • Mortgage lender requirement: Most major lenders require mortgage documents to be witnessed as part of their loan approval process. It’s part of their risk mitigation.
  • State conveyancing laws: Certain states have laws that require mortgages to be witnessed in order to register the mortgage on the property title.
  • Evidentiary reasons: If there is ever a dispute over the mortgage, the witness provides additional evidence about the signing and identities of the parties involved.
  • Accountability: Requiring a witness adds a layer of accountability and formality to the execution of the mortgage. It signifies the importance and legal standing of the document.
  • Overseas transactions: For mortgages signed by Australians overseas, a witness adds a layer of verification and certification for documents signed internationally.

Having an independent witness to the signing of mortgage documents provides legal protection, satisfies lender requirements, complies with state laws, and acts as an important evidentiary source if ever required. A witness adds formality and accountability to this major legal transaction.

How to Correctly Witness a Signature

Before signing any government mortgage documents, the qualified witness must ensure they have ‘taken reasonable steps to ensure that the individual is the person entitled to sign the instrument’ as prescribed under Section 87A of the Transfer of Land Act 1958 (Vic), Section 56C of the NSW Real Property Act, Part 2-2005 of the Land Title Practice Manual (Queensland) or any other equivalent legislation.

The qualified witness will undertake a ‘verification of identity’ on you in light of the above requirement. This typically includes:

  • A face-to-face in-person interview;
  • You must bear a “reasonable likeness” to the person depicted in photographs in the identification documents; and
  • You must produce the original identification documents.

Lawyers will also ensure there are no discrepancies in your identity documents.

For example, your passport name is ‘Thomas’, but your driver’s licence only shows ‘Tom’. You must sign a statutory declaration noting your name difference in this case. A statutory declaration must be correctly signed and witnessed by an Australian lawyer.

Tips for Witnessing a Mortgage Application from Overseas

Here are some tips for witnessing a mortgage application in Australia if you are located overseas:

  • Check if remote witnessing is allowed: Some Australian lenders have provisions that allow documents to be witnessed remotely via video links. This removes the need for a face-to-face witness.
  • Find a suitable witness: If remote witnessing is not possible, you’ll need to find an acceptable witness in Australia who can be physically present with the borrower to witness their signature. Suitable witnesses include Justices of the Peace, bank officers, legal professionals, etc.
  • Coordinate a time: Set up a mutually convenient time for the borrower and witness to meet and have the documents signed/witnessed. Make sure to account for time zone differences.
  • Verify ID procedures: The witness will need to verify the identity of the borrower as per standard procedures before witnessing. Confirm what ID documents are required.
  • Arrange documentation transfer: Determine secure methods for the mortgage documents to be transferred between you, the borrower and the witness before and after signing. Digital transfer may be the easiest option.
  • Pay any fees: There may be administrative fees, travel costs for the witness to meet the borrower or charges for courier documents transfers. Clarify any costs ahead of time.
  • Check after witnessing: Follow up with the borrower and witness afterwards to ensure all documents were properly witnessed and sent where required in a timely manner.

Just to summarize: Always remember to bring two (2) forms of identity documents that bear your photograph.

For example, this usually includes your passport and your Hong Kong Identity Card (or your current Australian driver’s license) if you reside in Hong Kong.

If you have previously changed your name, please also bring proof of a name change.

Where to Find a Qualified Witnessing Officer?

The first port of call is to see if you have friends who fit the bill. Their signature in exchange for a nice lunch on you? It is likely the best value.

If you need that, seek out your local Australian Embassy to engage their Notarial service for a cost. Check your relevant Australian embassy website for a listing of their fees.

For the Hong Kong Australian Embassy, the fee as of 1st July 2020 is HK$389 (exchange rate of AUD/HKD 5.328) for certifying a copy of a document or witnessing a signature.

Keep in mind that for a single property mortgage transaction, there are usually:

  • Two (2) sets of signatures that need witnessing
  • One (1) certification form that needs to be completed by the witness
  • Two (2) copies of identification certified by the witness
  • For a total of five services x HK$389 = HK$1945 per person

The downside of using a Consular officer (besides the costs) is the potentially long booking times, up to 2 weeks during peak season.

Lastly, you have Notary Publics or Australian Lawyers who offer quick turnaround, flexibility, and convenience at a steep price. It’s standard practice to see fees charged 2-5x that of the consular officer.

Luckily, if you reside in Hong Kong, Odin Mortgage has partnered with Lee & Poon Associates – Australian Lawyers, to offer competitive notarial services at rates below that of the Australian Embassy. Just contact them directly and tell them we sent you!

To Summarise Australian Mortgage Documents Witnessing

The property you buy is one of your most valuable assets. Be sure to take the time at settlement to ensure that all legal documents related to your mortgage are accurate, most notably the witnessing requirement.

​When signing your mortgage documents, be sure to pay attention to answering all the required questions and especially signature fields. Where possible, sign the documents with your mortgage broker or banker to ensure correctness.

​If you still have questions about your mortgage, speak with our specialist mortgage expert today.

Get a free Australian mortgage assessment today.

Apply online to get a free recommendation with real rates and repayments.

Frequently Asked Questions about Mortgage Documents Witnessing

Generally, the answer is ‘No’. The witness must be ‘qualified’ as prescribed by the relevant laws defined by the state where the property is located.

Always check with your broker or lawyer to ensure your mortgage documents are signed and witnessed correctly!

Unless your lender expressly advises you not to date the document, you may date the mortgage document at the time you signed it.

Each individual will be different, and we go into detail with examples of how much you can borrow, how to increase your borrowing power, and more in our article ‘How Much Can You Borrow?‘.

There are no issues with that. Just remember the witness must be a ‘qualified’ witness as prescribed under the relevant laws.

You must sign in the presence of your witness. In other words, wait to sign the document at home before seeing your witness. It is to ensure the documents are valid.

Most banks ultimately require original documents. However, it is always good practice to scan and email the signed copies to your broker or bank’s legal team before providing the originals to them to ensure it’s signed correctly.

The last thing you want is to post the documents only to find out 1-2 weeks later that they were done incorrectly and need to be re-do causing a delay in settlement and potential penalties.

The witness must meet specific requirements based on your location:

  • Over 18 years old
  • Not involved in the loan agreement (not borrowing or lending)
  • Understands the agreement and witnesses the signing
  • Can provide full name, address, and occupation

In Queensland, you need a specific witness: an Australian lawyer, a Notary Public, or a Consular Officer. This is stricter than other Australian states due to the different land title system.

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