What is a certificate of title?

A certificate of title shows the ownership and any other interests in a property. Learn about what it includes and what that means for both homebuyers and sellers.

By John Christian – May 27, 2022
for sale sign

A certificate of title is one of the most important things to be aware of if you are a hopeful home buyer. When dealing with legal property ownership, you need to understand the part that a certificate of title plays. Although your solicitor or conveyancer can take care of all the legal matters for you, it’s still helpful to understand exactly what they’re doing and how they can help you. So what is a certificate of title?

What Is a Certificate of Title?

A certificate of title or otherwise known as a title deed is a legal document that states who the owner of a particular property is. The certificate records ownership and can be used to prove ownership when necessary. When someone purchases a property, the certificate of title is transferred to the new owner. Every property in Australia has a copy of the certificate of title that needs to be dealt with when the property is sold to someone new.

What Does the Certificate of Title Show?

The certificate of title search shows a number of things. It consists of several parts that show what the land and property are and who has an interest in the property.

Firstly, the certificate includes a description of the land. This consists of property diagrams and a written description, as well as a lot and plan number that corresponds with the property.

The first schedule is the part that lists the owner or owners of the property. If more than one person owns the property, it also says how the ownership is distributed between them. So you can tell if multiple owners have joint ownership or if they are tenants in common. If they are joint tenants, both owners own the whole property together. If they are tenants in common, the ownership is split between them. This may be a 50/50 split or one person could own the majority.

The second schedule of the certificate of title shows any other interests in the property. Registered interests relating to the ownership or use of the land are important to know when you’re purchasing a property. It could be that a neighbour has a right to use part of the land to access their own property, for example. The second schedule also includes any covenants, which detail how the property can and can’t be used. They might define the maximum size of any building on the land, for example, or perhaps rules for sustainability and conservation.

If there are any mortgages on the property, this will show on the certificate too. This is important to know when you’re interested in buying a property because any mortgages need to be discharged before the ownership can be transferred to you. The name of the mortgage provider will be on the title.

Caveats are also included on the certificate. These are any additional records of interest that could affect the sale of a property. For example, if a property is in one partner’s name but their spouse has contributed to the mortgage, the spouse can use a caveat to protect their interest.

How to get a copy of your Certificate of Title?

Since the transition to electronic title registry in 1994, paper copies of Certificates of Titles were not issued unless requested by the property owner. However, in October 2019, legislation was passed in Parliament to eliminate the use of paper certificates entirely. Since then, paper title deeds no longer hold any legal effect. If you own in Queensland, a certificate can be requested from Titles Queensland. Otherwise, the electric copy can most likely be sourced from the solicitor that conducted conveyancing for you when you purchased the property.

When you need help handling a property purchase, make sure you have a good conveyancing service from someone like Victor Legal.

Article by John Christian, Principal Lawyer, Founder and Director of Victor Legal

John has extensive experience in complex civil and commercial dispute resolution and litigation matters, specialising in:

Building and construction disputes
Complex litigation
Contract drafting and review
Dispute Resolution
Commercial Law
Corporate insolvency
Securities and caveats
Debt collection
Contract disputes
Commercial and risk mitigation advice

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