The Registrar General of NSW has declared that 11 October 2021 is the day on which all certificates of title will be abolished, known as ‘cessation day’.
This welcome change represents the final reforms for the NSW land titles system to be 100% electronic, which is faster and more secure than the traditional paper process.
What is a certificate of title?
A certificate of title is a paper document issued by the land registry recording the owner of the property and other interests and dealings on the property title. Our land titles system (Torrens title) provides for registration on the land registry as conclusive evidence of ownership. Despite this, certificates of title had been used as a means of reducing the risk of fraud in a paper transaction system and as security for financing arrangements. Like many traditional procedures in property law, advancements in technology have effectively made it obsolete.
What safeguards are in place in an electronic transaction system?
The land registry makes electronic title searches available in a quick and cost effective way to anyone wanting to verify ownership records. Land dealings (such as transfers of title when a property is sold) are now registered online using electronic settlements platforms. Subscribers to the electronic settlements platforms (lawyers, conveyancers and banks) are effectively the gatekeepers to registering dealings on the land registry and have strict compliance requirements including the obligation to verify the identity of anyone wanting to deal with land.
Why is this good news?
Abolishing certificates of title will make transactions easier and a better experience for consumers. Where original certificates of title have been held by the owner (i.e. where there is no mortgage), the owners or their family often have no idea where the original is located and is often lost. This has meant that there is typically a time consuming and expensive process to go through to have a certificate of title cancelled and reissued.
Do any other jurisdictions in Australia have certificates of title?
The path to abolishing certificates of title is occurring in most states and territories. Certificates of title are no longer issued in Queensland, South Australia or the ACT. In other jurisdictions such as the Northern Territory, Victoria and Western Australia that still have a paper certificates of title regime, no paper certificate of title is issued automatically but is available on request by an owner or mortgagee. Tasmania still automatically issue paper certificates of title in some instances.
As a national law firm that delivers a conveyancing service using industry leading digital tools, lawlab welcomes the abolition of certificates of title, making NSW a 100% digital conveyancing jurisdiction.