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Land registration generally describes systems by which matters concerning ownership, possession or other rights in land can be recorded (usually with a government agency or department) to provide evidence of title, facilitate transactions and to prevent unlawful disposal. The information recorded and the protection provided will vary by jurisdiction.
In common law countries, particularly in jurisdictions in the Commonwealth of Nations, when replacing the deeds registration system, title registrations are broadly classified into two basic types: the Torrens title system and the English system, a modified version of the Torrens system.
Australia and New Zealand
The Hong Kong Land Registry administers the Land Registration Ordinance and provides facilities for search of the Land Register and related records by the public and government departments. It has responsibility for the registration of owners corporations under the Building Management Ordinance.
The system in Ireland follows the English system, but with features typical of the Torrens system (for example, anyone can inspect the register). Robert Torrens himself drafted the Record of Title (Ireland) Act, 1865 in order to record titles conveyed. The Landed Estates Court a register, the "Record of Title". While the record was not open to the public, the index could be inspected by anyone, today the index and folios can be viewed by anyone with an administration charge. Recording of title under the Act was voluntary and this was one of the reasons why the Act proved ineffective.
The Land Registry has been dealing with the registration of all transactions (purchase, sale, mortgage, remortgage and other burdens) concerning registered land since 1892, and issued land certificates which are a state guarantee of the registered owner's good title up to 1 January 2007. Land Certificates have been abolished by virtue of Section 23 of the Registration of Deeds and Title Act, 2006. Every piece of land in the register — which is arranged by county — is granted a folio number, under which all transactions pertaining to the land can be examined on request and after payment of a fee. Approximately 90% of land by area, and 85% of title, is registered.
The Registry of Deeds has since 1708 dealt with the registration of wills, title deeds, mortgage documents and other documentation concerning granting of title over land. It was originally set up to enforce the legislation regarding ownership of land by Catholics. A registered deed took precedence over an unregistered deed. Original deeds and their schedules were not retained by the registry, but rather detailed summaries (called "memorials") of conveyancing and mortgage documents are stamped and filed by the registrar. These documents are generally signed by at least one of the parties and one of the witnesses of the deeds. No certificates or guarantees of title are issued: the registry merely endeavours to provide information concerning the deeds lodged against a certain property — and, crucially, the order in which they were lodged — such as the last named owner or the latest mortgage to be lodged.
Both registries are managed by the Property Registration Authority and have offices in Dublin, Waterford and in Roscommon. Since most of Ireland gained independence in 1922, the registries have dealt with the land in the 26 counties of the Republic of Ireland (formerly the Irish Free State, 1922–37) only, the registers of land in Northern Ireland now being administered by the Land and Property Services in the Northern Ireland Department of Finance and Personnel.
Recording of title under recent legislative changes is now compulsory. Public access to the index and folios is limited to individuals who have an account with the Property Registration Authority.
The Property Registration Authority in Ireland is connected to the European Land Information Service EULIS.
England and Wales
A national system of land registration was first attempted in England and Wales under the Land Registration Act 1862, a register having operated for the county of Middlesex (excluding the City of London) since 1709. This voluntary national system proved ineffective and, following further attempts in 1875 and 1897, the present system was brought into force by the Land Registration Act 1925. It is operated by HM Land Registry.
Over time various areas of the country were designated areas of compulsory registration by order so in different parts of the country compulsory registration has been around longer than in others. The last order was made in 1990, so now virtually all transactions in land result in compulsory registration. One difference is land changing ownership after death, where land is gifted rather than sold; these became compulsorily registrable only in April 1998. Similarly it became compulsory to register land when a mortgage is created on it in 1998.
The Land Registration Act 2002 leaves the 1925 system substantially in place but enables the future compulsory introduction of electronic conveyancing using electronic signatures to transfer and register property.
The Land Registry is connected to the European Land Information Service EULIS.
Details of registrations are available to any person upon payment of the prescribed fees. Precautionary measures have been introduced in recent years to verify the identity of persons attempting to change records of title. No details will be on record for any land which has not had a relevant transaction recorded as will often occur if, for example, ownership was last transferred before the introduction of compulsory registration in a particular area. Public access to the title and file plans is available at Land Registry of England and Wales.
A legal boundary deals with the precise separation of ownership of land. It is an invisible line dividing one person's land from another's. It does not have thickness or width and usually, but not always, falls somewhere in or along a physical boundary feature such as a wall, fence or hedge. The exact positions of the legal boundaries are almost never shown on registered title plans and are not shown on Ordnance Survey maps.
In a joint statement between Land Registry (England and Wales) and Ordnance Survey they state that:
|“||This title plan shows the general position of the boundaries: it does not show the exact line of the boundaries. Measurements scaled from this plan may not match measurements between the same points on the ground.||”|
Scotland is one of the first countries in the world to have a system of land registration. Land registration commenced in Scotland with the creation of the "Register of Sasines" by the Registration Act 1617.
Today, almost all land in Scotland is registered in the Register of Sasines making it possible (but, because of the mapping limitations of that register, sometimes difficult) to determine who owns what.
Since 1981 the Register of Sasines is being replaced by the Registers of Scotland, although certain deeds can continue to be recorded in the old register for the time being. The Registers of Scotland agency is responsible for maintaining both the Register of Sasines and the new register.
The governing legislation is the Land Registration etc. (Scotland) Act 2012, replacing the earlier Land Registration (Scotland) Act 1979. The Land Registration (Scotland) Act 1979 introduced a new system which now records all changes of ownership of land and creation of new titles.
Scotland is divided into 33 registration counties. The Land Register was introduced in a rolling programme beginning with Renfrew in 1981 and finishing in 2003 with Banff, Caithness, Moray, Orkney and Shetland. The scheme is that, once a county becomes operational for the Land Register, properties switch from the Sasine to the Land Register on the first occasion that they are transferred. The switching process is known as first registration. According to the latest figures, some 55% (1.4 million) of all properties are now on the Land Register. This represents only 21% of the land mass although there is considerable variation throughout the 33 registration counties. In Glasgow and its conurbation the figure is over 50%, reflecting both its urban nature and the relatively early date at which it was brought on to the Register.
Land registration in Northern Ireland is operated by Land and Property Services, an executive agency within the Department of Finance and Personnel for Northern Ireland. Prior to 1 Apr 2007 it was dealt with by the Land Registers Northern Ireland government agency.
United States of America
Land registration is a matter for individual states in the USA. Thus each state will define the officials, authorities, and their functions and duties with respect to the ownership of land within that state, as is more fully described in the specified main article.
- Land Law In Ireland; Andrew Lyall; ISBN 1-85800-186-2; Chp 24
- Mayer & Pemberton (2000) p6
- Mayer & Pemberton (2000) p10
- Arruñada, B. (1996). Institutional Foundations of Impersonal Exchange: The Theory and Policy of Contractual Registries. Chicago. External link in
- Mayer, P. (1996). Ten Chief Land Registrars. London.
- — & Pemberton, A. (2000). "A Short History of Land Registration in England and Wales" (PDF). London: HM Land Registry. Retrieved 2010-10-19.
- Offer, A. (1981). Property and Politics: 1870-1914. Cambridge.
- Pemberton, A. (1992). HM Land Registry - An Historical Perspective. London: HM Land Registry.
- Riddall, J.G. (2003). Land Law. 7th ed., Lexis-Nexis Butterworths. ISBN 0-406-96743-1. Ch.26 for current law in England and Wales
- Rowton-Simpson, S. (1976). Land Law and Registration. Cambridge.