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Understanding Certificate of Title

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Understanding documents surrounding land ownership and land titles

Property ownership is a big part of the Great Australian Dream. It’s a huge aspirational goal for millions of Australians. As time goes on, owning property has only become more essential to securing the lifestyle you want in Australia.

If you’ve bought property in Australia before, you likely understand how this process works. If you haven’t here it is in a nutshell:

  1. You intend to buy a particular property and negotiate a price with the owner.
  2. This discussion leads to a final settlement, where the land ownership transfers from the owner to yourself.
  3. The Certificate of Title transfers to you, and records that you are the official and legal owner of the property.


Also known as a Deed, the Certificate of Title is an important legal document like car registration or birth certificate. In this instance, it’s an official record of land ownership. The Certificate of Title is an important part of the process of buying and selling property. Before entering the market, it’s important to understand how it works, plus your rights and responsibilities under the law.

Complete Conveyancing Solutions offers innovative support for conveyancing matters in Melbourne. We can help navigate the process of Certificate of Title, including assisting with title search. For new clients, we offer a complimentary contract review during our first meeting.

It is important to understand that property ownership laws differ from state to state. 

 

How did Certificate of Title originate?

Certificate of Title traces its roots all the way back to 1788, when Australia was proclaimed as ‘crown land’ – land belonging to the reigning monarch. The land was owned by the crown, and everyone who wanted to buy or sell land in Australia would need to buy it from the crown directly. Land sold under this scheme falls under the Old System of land titles.

Every parcel of land in Australia now falls under 1 of 3 categories:

  1. Crown land – land that is not freehold title and is still held by the crown. This is managed by the Victorian state government.
  2. Old System title – crown land that was sold to private citizens or businesses between 1792 and 1863.
  3. Torrens title – land sold after a series of reforms in 1863 that is still in place today in Australia, New Zealand, and other nations around the world.

     

What is the Torrens title system?

The Torrens title system, or Torrens register is the modern way of buying and selling land in Australia. It was named after Sir Robert Torrens who migrated from London to Australia in 1839 with the goal of overhauling Australia’s land ownership laws. His approach to land registry more closely mirrored that of the registration of ships.

In short, a central ledger was held by the state to record all official land registry changes. A landowner wanting to prove their right to an original title would have to produce a Certificate of Title. These originally paper titles would match up with the ledger held by the state.

The Torrens title system was a sweeping success in Australia and is still in place today. New parcels of land that are available for purchase must come with a Certificate of Title. Not everything has remained the same, however. Today, verification of the original certificate can come from electronic certificates or an electronic record of who owns the property.

certificate of title (2)

What does a Certificate of Title contain?

Under the Torrens title system, a Certificate of Title contains 3 parts:

  • Land description – a description of the land that the certificate pertains to
  • Registered Proprietor – this lists the owner of the property
  • Encumbrances, Caveats and Notices – this lists all the registered interests of the land

Land description

Under the Old System, new parcels of land were vaguer than the modern Torrens system. All Old System titles feature land dimensions, shapes, and sizes. Under Torrens, the property comes with a full diagram, including its lot and plan number. All of these create an infallible reference to the exact property that the Certificate pertains to.

Registered Proprietor

This section contains:

  • The names of the owner or owners of the property
  • Outlines of distribution if more than a single person owns the property


Ownership of property is sometimes called ‘tenants in common’, which details exactly how ownership is divided among several people. Otherwise, ‘joint tenancy describes how both people own a whole property. This makes it easier for a person to continue owning an entire property in case of the death of another party.

Encumbrances, Caveats and Notices

The section determines all issues that affect the land that have been registered previously. Some of these interests can include:

  • Covenants about how the property can and cannot be used
  • Bank mortgages related to the particular property
  • Caveats that can restrict dealings
  • Charges that can restrict dealings
  • Notices
  • Administrative Notices


Understanding your rights and responsibilities related to a second schedule can be incredibly complex. We always recommend obtaining sound advice if there is anything out of the ordinary in your Certificate of Title. Complete Conveyancing Solutions is here to help you navigate Certificate Of Title, and understand what it means for you. Get in touch with us today, and get started on your journey towards property ownership.

 

What is a title search?

If you’re looking for information about a property, you can undertake a title search. You can conduct this title search in the Victoria Register of land. This title search will show you some of the information contained within the Certificate of Title, including the owner’s names and addresses, mortgage details, and issues that affect the land as contained in the encumbrances section.

At Complete Conveyancing Solutions, we can undertake a title search on your behalf. We will confirm that the property belongs to the seller you plan to engage with, and give you any information about the debts and liabilities that might exist in relation to the property.

 

Working with Complete Conveyancing Solutions

Property ownership can be an exciting process to go through. However, it’s important that you fully understand the process from start to finish. At Complete Conveyancing Solutions, we want to help you on your journey toward owning property in any way we can.

We like to get started with a contract review. We offer a complimentary review for contracts where we take a look at your situation and give you honest advice about what steps you need to take. 

We offer a complete conveyancing service that guarantees:

  • One-on-one interaction
  • Quick turnaround times
  • Cost-effective solutions


Get in touch with us today to get started.

Maria Tomlinson holds an unrestricted conveyancing licence together with Professional Indemnity Insurance against civil liability. Maria Tomlinson commenced her career in Conveyancing in 2001. She furthered her studying by completing her Diploma in Conveyancing in 2017 which has led her to hold an unrestricted Conveyancing License and successfully open her conveyancing firm, Complete Conveyancing Solutions.

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