Upon purchasing a property, receiving a land title is generally the ‘champagne-popping’ moment as your new property becomes a reality and you are officially recorded as the owner of the land. However, it is not uncommon to realise only after the initial celebrations that you have little clue as to what your land title means. More than simply an official Certificate dressed in watermarks, a hologram, a thermo-chronic icon and control number, the secure document has a wealth of information regarding your property. Learning how to understand your land title will ensure all property purchases and transfers are properly informed, and reduce the risk of any unwanted surprises affecting the land.
Venturing out of the dark ages and into the glowing light of the computer screen; the original Land Use Victoria system of housing hard-copies of land titles in a fortress-type building located in Melbourne’s City has been updated to an electronic system. The Victorian Online Titles System (VOTS) reflects the advancing technological age and allows titles to be accessed in minutes. With more than 700,000 dealings per year, and 3.4 million titles currently stored electronically, the ease of accessing such an extensive record of information makes the initial system appear archaic in an increasingly technological age.
Although your title does not include an address, the land description (which references the lot, plan of subdivision and parent title with volume and folio) identifies the land and its unique location. So other than telling you that you own the property, why is a land title useful? A land title will acknowledge any mortgage currently held on the property, as well as any encumbrances, caveats and notices affecting the property and how you can alter it.
With your land title directing you to look at the supplied diagram location for any encumbrances, it is vital that you carefully consider all encumbrances before purchasing your property, as surprises in the property realm are rarely welcomed. Common encumbrances to look out for include:
- Easements: An easement allows a person or company the right to use part of your property. For example, gas, water or sewerage lines that may run through the property and may need to be accessed by councils, or companies. If an easement affects your property, consider contacting the registered party to ensure that the enjoyment of your property will not be affected by restructuring.
- Restrictive Covenants: A restrictive covenant is a private written agreement between landowners to restrict the use or development of land for the benefit of the other land. This is commonly applied when a developer subdivides land for sale and wishes to restrict development on the land, in order to protect other lands. This may affect your ability to build on land as you wish if you purchasing land to build on.
The land title will also acknowledge any caveats on the property. A caveat is a document that any person with a legal interest in a property can lodge at Land Use Victoria to show third-party claim rights over a certain property. A lodged caveat prevents the registration of any dealing regarding the property until it is withdrawn. A legal third-party interest that will allow for a caveat is commonly exemplified by someone seeking to buy off a piece of land being subdivided for development.
Now understanding the basics of the title, the celebrations can occur in peace and without surprise. If anything appears unusual or different on any Land Title, be sure to contact your lawyer or conveyancing agent to ensure it won’t affect your enjoyment of the land.
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