Formal identification of properties in Israel is by the block and lot system, where a large area -the “block”- is defined, numbered, and then split up into smaller pieces, the “lots”. The actual size of a block and its individual lots can change dramatically from area to area, depending usually upon the actual amount of development in the area. As the density of development increases, the number of blocks and lots increases and their size decreases.

When investigating the ownership and title of a piece of property the purchaser must first check the Tabu, as the land registry is commonly called. The word Tabu comes from the name of the land registry during the Ottoman Empire. There, upon payment of a fee and submission of a request listing the property’s location, the registry provides a document listing the size of the property, its owners, and any mortgages, liens, or other restrictions on use or ownership.

If the property is Minhal, the Tabu registration will generally not list the name of the lessee, and the potential buyers must request the seller to provide copies of the contract with the Minhal, and to check the file at the Minhal itself to verify that all payments have been made, the existence of mortgages or other liens or payments to the Minhal, and that the property may be transferred. Today the Minhal is undergoing a process of registering land in the land registry as a means to centralize all land ownership information.

The title registration of many residential properties, particularly those which were constructed on Minhal land by one of the large public building companies such as Shikun Ovdim or Shikun U’Pituach, has remained at the offices of these companies, who function as land registries for subsequent resales of these apartments.

Title insurance is new to Israel and is currently only available for residential property. The Israeli real estate law sees registered title and not contracts or occupation as the only determination of ownership. Thus one must verify title and register title to protect ones possession of property.