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Property title guide

When buying or selling a property, you need to know about property titles as they are an important part of the due diligence involved in any property transaction.

A property title holds legal information about a piece of property, including details about the land and crucially who owns it or has a mortgage on it. During settlement of a property transaction the title is updated to reflect the change in ownership. A conveyancer or solicitor will usually conduct a search of property title records during the settlement process, or it will be included in the contract of sale.

What to look for on a property title

  • Check to make sure you are buying from the registered owner of the property
  • Check to make sure there are no caveats or encumbrances on the property that will affect you taking ownership
  • Check if there have been any changes made to the property that are not registered on the title. This is also something to check with the plan of the property registered with the land titles office
  • Check to make sure all easements have been properly disclosed by the seller

What are the different types of property titles?

There are different property titles used for different property types and require different ownership structures. Here are some of the most common ones:

  • Freehold or Torrens title: This is the most common type of title used for standalone properties in Australia.
  • Group or Strata title: This title type is used for apartments or townhouses where there is more than one property located on a single parcel of land, and therefore no one individual holds ownership of that parcel. The name of this title type does vary from state to state. There is usually common property and all owners are responsible for the upkeep. Often a strata or owners committee is formed for this purpose.
  • Community title: Similar to strata titles, these are most often used for subdivisions or neighbourhoods where there is common property that the community or neighbourhood is jointly responsible for the upkeep. This is most commonly used for property estates, where there might be certain restrictions in order to maintain a consistent aesthetic.
  • Leasehold title: This is usually used for rural properties that are owned by the government but leased out to an owner. Some examples are large wheat or cattle farms, as well as some churches. As the government retains ownership of the land, they can release the leasehold at any time in order to subdivide and sell off the land. This means those leasing it will need to move off the property. All properties in ACT are held under leasehold titles, so you may need to do more research if you are purchasing in ACT.
  • Old system title: There was no formal system for registering the ownership of land when the first governments of Australia were formed, and any properties that have not been transferred to the freehold or Torrens title system are known as old system title properties.
  • Qualified Torrens title: There are some Torrens title properties that have warnings on the land due to another person having an interest in the property. They are typically old system title properties that were transferred to the Torrens title system.
  • Limited Torrens title: These are Torrens title properties that have not been adequately surveyed, so their boundaries may not be correct. You can convert these to a standard Torrens title property by paying an additional fee for a thorough investigation to get confirmation of the land's boundaries.
  • Company title: These exist when a company holds the overall ownership of the complex or land, and then others own shares that give them ownership rights to an apartment in the complex or a property on the land. They are similar to a strata or group title, but there is one owner of the land and the whole company may need to give permission for any sale, lease or mortgage of the unit you own with the shares.
  • Titles used by retirement villages: Retirement villages are unique in that the residences offer the option to either rent or purchase. As such, there are multiple types of titles that are applicable for retirement villages. Thorough research is advised when entering into any agreement in such a property.

State-by-state guide: How to search for a property title

NSW

You can use the New South Wales Land Registry Services online portal for free searches of electronic notices of sale and historical maps, plans, titles and indexes.

For more comprehensive information, the NSW LRS refers to several authorised information brokers:

  • Direct Info - $19.70 for a title search
  • Infocert - $20.50 for a title certificate
  • PSi Global - $18.40 for a title certificate
  • Dye & Durham - You'll need to create an account to access search information
  • Equifax - You'll need to create an account to access search information
  • Hazlett’s - You’ll need to create an account to access search information
  • Legalstream - You’ll need to create an account to access search information
  • CITEC Confirm - You’ll need to create an account to access search information
  • Infotrack - You’ll need to create an account to access search information
  • GlobalX - You’ll need to create an account to access search information
  • Landchecker - You'll need to choose a subscription plan to access search information. A basic free plan is available.

Queensland

Queensland allows you to do online title searches and access documents for $23.27 (excluding GST). You can use the Online Title and Image Search (OTIS) on the Queensland Titles website. You can alternatively use the drop-box facility at the Titles Queensland office in Brisbane (there are no face to face enquiries available).

You can also obtain property title searches from the following approved distributors:

  • CITEC Confirm - You'll need to create an account to access search information
  • Dye & Durham - You'll need to create an account to access search information
  • Equifax - You'll need to create an account to access search information
  • Infotrack - You'll need to create an account to access search information
  • Creditworks - You'll need to create an account to access search information

ACT

You can search for property titles in the ACT through Access Canberra. There is a fee of $33. If you plan to do multiple searches across multiple users, you can set up a subscriber account.

Victoria

Victorian property information is accessible online at the government’s LANDATA website. This is where you can conduct a property title search. There is a wealth of other information you can order at the same time as the property title search. It's a simple process, and the land title itself will cost you $16.34 as it incorporates the Register Search Statement (Title) and Land Index Search. You may also include other documents such as Copy of Plan ($7.26) depending on the property’s history.

Tasmania

You can do a title search online in Tasmania through The List (Land Information System Tasmania) website. You will need to create an account to do any searches. A land title search will cost you $35.60.

South Australia

For SA, you can access property titles and other property information through the South Australian government's exclusive partner Land Services SA's SALIS (South Australian Integrated Land Information System) website. You can do a search in SALIS through an account you register with them. Alternatively, there are select searches you can do as a guest, one of which is a land title search. Ordering a copy of the certificate title will cost $41.50.

Western Australia

To do a title search online with the Western Australian government, you will need to visit the Landgate website. On the site, you will need to enter certain property details and pay $30.50.

Northern Territory

You can search for a land title online through the NT title search website. The property title will cost $27, plus a $5.50 search access fee. You can also search in person, by email or over the phone. Professionals, such as conveyancers who regularly do land title searches, have access to an online portal called the Integrated Land Information System (ILIS) for a monthly fee.

What do you need to check on a property title?

Whether you are doing the checks yourself or have hired a professional to do the relevant searches for your purchase, there are key things you need to look at when you review the land title.

Ownership details

Make sure that you are purchasing the property from the authorised and registered owner of the property. There could be cases where individuals who aren’t registered as the official owners of the properties are putting them on the market. It is best to flag these issues so the issue is resolved before the sale is finalised.

Encumbrances

These are restrictions placed on the land, whether by local council, land zoning or for other reasons. Some examples of encumbrances that may appear on a property title are mortgages held by the owner or easements that affect the use of the land.

Easement

An easement restricts the use of the land you are purchasing. These restrictions can range from the ability to build certain structures to the placement of water pipes or drainage on your land. It’s important to check for easements both for any future plans you may have for the property as well as the current structure on the land.

Caveats

A caveat is when another party holds a claim on the property, such as a mortgage or other loan. The property’s owner can easily remove these caveats from the title before or at the time of settlement, depending on the type of caveat.

Covenants

If there is a covenant on the property title, you should seek legal advice as they typically restrict what you can do or how you can interact with the property. One example of a covenant would be restrictions on the type of materials you can use to build a structure on that property. If there have been changes made to the property, there may be a note about this marked as a covenant. It will also include a copy of the plan associated with the change.

Further information recorded with the land titles office

There is a final section on a property title for anything that has been registered with the land titles office. If the land title office doesn’t have anything registered in their system, they will simply put NIL in this section.

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18 Responses

    Default Gravatar
    CJune 22, 2023

    When you conduct a title search, I’d the owner notified that this has occurred? And if so are your details provided to the owner too?

      AvatarFinder
      RichardJune 28, 2023Finder

      Hello,

      Anyone can access land titles as they are public registers. The information about property owners is limited to addresses and names, and I don’t believe the owner is notified or can view your details. But I suggest contacting the appropriate land or title registry in your state or territory, as I am not able to confirm this.

    Default Gravatar
    JohnJanuary 17, 2023

    I am in a complex that was originally two dwellings. One of the dwellings had three garages and the other (mine) two garages, with brick divisions between the two. Over time the larger residence turned part of the dwelling into a small apartment. When this was done they turned my two garages into one each and the retained the three others. My question is can I lay claim to my second garage? if so how? Also am I still rated on the second garage if so how can I prove this?

      AvatarFinder
      RebeccaJanuary 27, 2023Finder

      Hi John,

      I’m afraid this is quite a specific set of circumstances and while we can provide some answers to general questions, it is probably best to contact your local council or talk to a conveyancer for assistance in this instance.

      Kind regards,
      Rebecca

    Default Gravatar
    PamelaNovember 19, 2022

    Can I trace the changes to a title where one person has always been part owner and others have inherited, sold and bought part ownership and does titles office information include prices paid

      AvatarFinder
      RebeccaNovember 22, 2022Finder

      Hi Pamela,

      Our Finder guidehas a list of sites and contains guidelines that could help you trace the property’s past sale history including its price. Feel free to browse through it for more details.

      I hope this helps.

      All the best,
      Rebecca

    Default Gravatar
    GaryJanuary 2, 2022

    Hi there,

    If I buy a house which has Medium Density Zoning and want to construct 2 additional townhouses behind the existing house,then in this case,do I need to have 3 seperate titles in order to sell them individually?Also how much is the cost of creating 3 different titles.

    Cheers
    Gary

      AvatarFinder
      RichardJanuary 11, 2022Finder

      Hi Gary,

      We don’t have the information to help you here, as this is quite a specialized question. You could reach out to your local council or talk to a conveyancer.

      I hope this helps.

      Kind regards,
      Richard

    Default Gravatar
    MartinNovember 25, 2021

    i lost my title , how do i get a new one made up
    how do i fnd out who has my title

      AvatarFinder
      RichardNovember 29, 2021Finder

      Hi Martin,

      If you want a copy of your property title you can conduct a title search. There should be a website for your state or territory (in VIC it is called landata.vic.goc.au and in NSW it is called the NSW Land Registry Services).

      I hope this helps.

      Regards,
      Richard

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