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Before the mid-1850s the systems in place to verify ownership of real property were unreliable, with fraud easily committed, and ownership subject to court challenges at any time. There was little certainty for buyers, making property transfers slow, expensive and fraught with danger. This all changed when Robert Torrens proposed a new system for South Australia built around a central register held by the state government. This system was so simple and effective that it was adopted by every other state in Australia, and subsequently by other countries around the world.
Torrens title is based on the principle that the Certificate of Title is always up to date, with information such as mortgages, caveats and easements being noted on the register. This means that when the title changes hands, the only notation needed is the name of the new owner. With the security of the title guaranteed by the state, buyers have surety that their interests are protected.
For a legal company such as ours, a complete understanding of the Torrens title system is essential to enable us to provide conveyancing services to our clients. At OWNit Conveyancing** **we work on their behalf to process the sale or purchase of real property. The conveyancing process itself can be complex depending on the type of transaction, but the final result is the transfer of title from seller to buyer on the state register.
One of the first tasks we undertake is to arrange a title search. We do this to check information about the propertyin question that is on the title, but may not be known to all of the parties involved. The most obvious is to check that the title does belong to the person, persons or legal entity mentioned on the contract of sale. The title search will also reveal any encumbrances on the property that need to be dealt with before settlement can take place.
To do a title search, we make a request either directly to the state government Registry Office or through one of their licenced online distributors, giving the property description that identifies the parcel of land in question. Before the registration system was computerised, all such requests were processed manually, but these days we request the title search, pay the required fee and receive the information.
It is not unusual for a title search to reveal information that the seller of the property did not know about, especially in the case of a deceased estate. For example, the executor may be selling the property to divide the estate between several beneficiaries. The executor and the beneficiaries may be unaware that the deceased person had mortgaged the property, or took some other action that was registered on the title.
While such surprises can take time to sort out, the simplicity of the Torrens title system helps our legal team at OWNit Conveyancing** **bring transactions to a conclusion on behalf of our clients. Without a title search, this would be much more difficult.