If you are a first-time homebuyer or property investor, you may be unfamiliar with the process of purchasing land and the legal paperwork that goes with it. Or you may be aware of the basic concept but have no idea how it works or what it can tell you about your property.
To help you through the process, we’ve put together some clear definitions and answers to the most frequently asked property title questions.
Let’s start with some simple definitions!
What is Land Title?
A “title” is simply a legal document that shows legal ownership of a property and grants you the exclusive use of the land, allowing you to build on it.
A land “title search” (or property title search) is a current copy of the Certificate of Title that shows the current owner, the land description, and any transactions that have occurred.
When you buy a plot of land or an off the plan property, it is usually sold as unregistered at the time contracts are signed. Once a title is obtained, you will sign a contract of sale with the developer in order to receive your land.
What is Title Certificate?
Owning a property is a dream of many Australians.
The transition from renting to owning a home is a significant one, but it can be extremely rewarding. You will be the new legal owner of the property when the sale is finalised at settlement, and your name will appear on the certificate of title.
A certificate of title is a document that records and verifies the official ownership of land. It’s a legal document, similar to a passport or car registration, and each property in Australia has one.
Your developer will begin sending you emails with important information at least 8 weeks before titles are expected, and you should begin organising your finances. Following this step, your conveyance will assist you in preparing for the issuance of the Certificate of Title, which outlines all your rights and obligations as the owner.
When you receive the Certificate of Title, Congratulations! The property is now “officially” yours!
Different Types of Land Title
The two most common property title that you should know about is Torrens Title and Strata/Group title. These types cover nearly all residential titles and a majority of commercial titles
Torren Titles are registered with the state government, and the land is completely owned by the people listed on the Certificate of Title if there is no mortgage on the property. In New South Wales, this is the most common type of property ownership. The certificate will show your name as the owner, but the mortgage will also be registered here to show the mortgagee’s interest in the property.
Owning a property under a strata agreement means that you only own a portion of a building and share common interests with the other owners. As a result, when looking at apartment buildings, units, and townhouses, the Strata Title is very common. If you buy strata-titled property, you will usually be required to make quarterly payments to the owner’s corporation that oversees the maintenance of the common areas in your building.
Company title properties are, most of the time, apartment buildings built before 1960. Rather than holding an individual title, when you buy a company title property, you buy shares in the company that owns the building.
The property is divided into lots under stratum title, so when you buy a unit or apartment, you become a holder of your lot. This means you’ll own stock in a company that owns and manages the common property.
A government leasehold is when you purchase ownership of a temporary hold on land or property from the government, which generally applies to property in rural areas.
Retirement villages can offer a variety of property titles above. However, there can be additional annual fees and occupancy, purchase and sale restrictions so it’s important to seek legal advice when purchasing these properties.
The process of recording ownership in Australia has come a long way. The Torrens title system was put in place to improve the accuracy and efficiency of buying and selling land or property. And the plan to digitise certificates of title (E-Title) is an important improvement to the system.
For detailed information on land titles in Australia, you can visit the Australian government website.
How do you Get E-Title?
An Electronic Certificate of Title (eCT) is a digital record of land ownership that is a part of the electronic conveyancing (eConveyancing) process.
Currently, most states and territories offer an online title searches service, where you can access property information. However, you might need to create an account before you do any searches, and you will also need to pay for this service.
The state-by-state property title guide can be found in the next section.
The Australian Government moved title registries and searches service online to give you an electronic copy of your Certificate of Title. Keep in mind that you will receive a copy of your property title rather than the original document resulting from your title search.
Your original title can be found at the state or municipal land registry authorities. In any case, since the state will always have the originals, this helps with the secure storage of the original documents.
Therefore, to apply for a certificate of title search, you will need assistance from a licensed broker or land registries. The brokers will charge you a fee for obtaining for you the title search and give you a digital copy of your certificate of title.
Tips: Only use the services of a licenced broker because they have access to the land registries’ title search.
Know More About Property Titles in Each State
Each state and territory maintains a central register of all land in the state that shows who owns it. It is an official record so it may also include mortgage information, agreements, disclaimers, and all property rights.
All registered land title certificates are kept in public registers and can be accessed online or in person. Most states allow you to do online title searches and access documents on their official government website. You can find the link to your state and the fee below:
New South Wales
NSW Land Registry Services (NSW LRS) manages Australia’s largest centralised land title registry. Every year, it issues Certificates of Title for each new land parcel in the state while also processing, approving, and recording hundreds of thousands of transactions on existing properties.
The NSW Department of Land and Property Information no longer provides title searches services online, instead directing users to a list of approved information portals. These online portals provide a variety of property-related searches, including property title searches.
Some portals you can use to do a title search in NSW are Direct Info, MHE (Morris Hayes & Edgar), Hazlett’s and Legalstream. However, keep in mind that they might require you to create an account and pay a fee for your title search service.
Queensland Government Website – $18.15 per title search
ACT – Access Canberra – access property information only
Victoria Government’s LANDATA Website – $14 per title search
Tasmania Land Information System Website – $30.60 per title search
South Australia Land Information System Website – $27.75 per title search
Western Australia Website – $24.85 per title search
Online property title searches are not authorised in the Northern Territory. You must go to a land titles office in person or request a search by fax or phone.
Your property title checklist
Here are some of the main things that you need to check on your property title:
- Ownership Details – Check the information of the registered and authorised owner to see if everything is in order. There may be instances where individuals who are not the owners list the property for sale.
- Easements – This is a part of Due Diligence that contains some restrictions related to the use of that land or property.
- Mortgages – The property you want to buy will not have a Certificate of Title if it’s under a mortgage. So if the seller does not release the mortgage before you settle, you will face delays.
- Covenants – Similar to Easements, covenants limit your use and interaction with the property in a certain way.
- Caveats – A caveat occurs when another party has a claim on the property, such as a mortgage or other loan, and it must be removed prior to settlement.
Frequently Asked Questions
How long does a title search take?
A title search is a current copy of the Certificate of Title that shows the current owner, the land description, and any transactions that have occurred. The majority of titles are available online and can be found through an instant search.
When will my land be ready?
When you buy off-the-plan, you are purchasing land that has not yet been fully developed. When the building is finished and your block is ready, you can begin the process of registering your property for settlement. This waiting period may be advantageous because it allows you to save more money before paying your balance at settlement.
When can I register when my property is finished?
Once all construction is completed, the developer will need to submit documentation to the appropriate Council for approval, as well as obtain approval from all authorities – water, power, NBN/broadband, and so on. Following the completion of the works, you should expect to register your property after 4-6 weeks.
What happens on my settlement date?
The day your land ‘officially’ becomes yours is known as settlement. Your Conveyancer or solicitor will also check the registration of all your title documents to ensure that the land title reflects the change in land ownership.
What is a Land Title Duplicate?
In some cases, a duplicate of the original title is issued to the property owner or the bank that holds a mortgage on the property.
Are you buying your first home? If yes, your property purchasing process will be much smoother if you have a thorough understanding of how property titles work and how to access them.
However, if you get stuck with all the legwork, Liviti is here to help! Give us a call at (02) 9056 4311 or fill in your information here so we can be in touch!