Find out who can witness your Australian Mortgage Documents while overseas as a foreign resident.
Who Can Witness Your Australian Mortgage Document Overseas?
Your loan contract from the lender will often come with several other documents, most of which require your signature.
Collectively these may be referred to as your Mortgage documents. There is, however, one set of government mortgage documents that require specific witnessing and depending on your location at the time of signing; requirements may be tricky and sometimes impossible to meet.
Horror stories exist where foreign residents are left unable to settle their mortgage due to improper certification of documents while overseas.
Read on so you and your lender will be ready when it comes time to drawdown.
What is a Mortgage Document?
It is often the case that you may not have sufficient funds to purchase (real estate) properties. 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.
Mortgage documents generally contain the following information:
details of you and your lender;
description or address of the property;
details of your mortgage arrangement between you and your lender;
details 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 your loan is formally approved.
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 sign and witness 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 happen to be in Australia at the time of signing your mortgage documents, the restrictions are a lot more lenient. See below table on general requirements as a guideline.
Witnessing requirements if residing in Australia:
Witnessing requirements if residing in Overseas:
Mortgage Witnessing FAQs
Can a family member sign?
Do you need to date it?
Unless your lender expressly advises you not to date the document, you may date the mortgage document the time that you signed it.
How much can I borrow?
A simple question with a complex answer. Each individual will be different, and we go into detail with examples on how much you can borrow, how to increase your borrowing power and more in this article ‘How Much Can You Borrow?’.
Can the same person witness two or more signatures on the same document?
Do you have to sign in front of the witness?
Does the bank need the original documents? Or will email copy suffice?
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.
In light of the above requirement, the qualified witness will undertake a ‘verification of identity’ on you.
Typically, this 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
The identification documents must be originals and be produced by you.
Lawyers will also ensure there are no discrepancies in your identity documents.
For example, your passport name is ‘Thomas’, but your driver licence only shows ‘Tom’. In this case, you would need to sign a statutory declaration noting your name difference. A statutory declaration must be correctly signed and witnessed by an Australian lawyer.
Tips for witnessing a mortgage application from overseas
Remember to bring two (2) forms of identity documents that bear your photograph.
For example, if you reside in Hong Kong, this usually includes your passport and your Hong Kong Identity Card (or your current Australian driver license).
If you have previously changed your name, please also bring your proof of a change of name.
Where to find a qualified witnessing officer?
First port of call is to see if you have any friends that fit the bill. Their signature in exchange for a nice lunch on you? This will likely be the best value.
Failing 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 to be witnessed
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, these guys offer quick turnaround, flexibility and convenience but at a steep price. It’s standard practice to see fees charged 2-5x that of the consular officer.
Luckily, if you are residing 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!
The property you buy is probably one of your most valuable assets, so be sure to take the time at settlement to ensure that all legal documents related to your mortgage are accurate, most importantly 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, be sure to speak with a mortgage expert today.