Real Estate & Property

Property Titles – Now You See Them, Now You Don’t

TGB's Giles Kahl writes about electronic conveyancing and what it will mean for property titles in South Australia.

At some time this year we will witness the end of a very long era in South Australia.

For generations, home owners have looked forward to the day when, having made a final payment to their bank or other financial institution, they can hold the title to their home in their hands for the first time. If you still have that ambition, you’d better find a way to pay of the balance of your loan as soon as possible, because soon, the title document you’ve been craving won’t be “worth the paper it’s written on”.

Paper titles will be a thing of the past – perhaps framed and displayed, but not needed for the purposes of dealing with an interest in land.

According to the current timetable, before the end of this year we will see the first use of a new system of “electronic conveyancing”, that is lodgment of changes to land ownership, mortgages and discharges of mortgages etc. by electronic means, without any document (and in particular, without the “paper title”) being lodged at our Lands Titles Office in Grenfell St., Adelaide. The LTO has announced that before that system goes live, paper titles will cease to have any relevance in the process of registration of interests in land (whether or not the dealing itself is electronic or still by the traditional method).

It is clear that paper titles will have no role to play in any system of electronic conveyancing. The purpose of electronic conveyancing is to allow property settlements and other land dealings to happen without any person going to the LTO, and without any documents being lodged at the LTO. The parties to the transaction will produce evidence of their identities to their lawyers or conveyancers and sign authorities (on paper) to allow them to do whatever is necessary online to complete the process.

On the day of settlement, at the given time, if all parties (including financial institutions) have electronically confirmed that they are satisfied with the arrangements, and the money (if any) to change hands is in the appropriate trust account, the official computer system will transfer the funds and notify the LTO to change its title records accordingly. Paper titles are inconsistent with this process, and hence will be of historical interest only.

Don’t burn your paper title (if you have one) just yet – at this stage it is still just as important as ever. The winds of change are however stirring, and your paper title will be blown away!

For advice about your property legal issue, contact your nearest TGB office or register online for an appointment.