Certificates of Title
Remember when you bought a property and the lawyer gave you a handwritten title on paper that was thick and waxy and felt really important? You could see the history of the land you were buying from the many entries on the title. It was treasured and when it wasn’t kept at the bank you’d file it away in a deeds system for safe-keeping.
Then those titles were replaced with something that was not quite as grand, but still a solid piece of paper, still with a history and still something to look after.
Progress meant that in 2002, with a swipe of the pen, those documents became redundant. People punched holes in them and stuffed them in files. Banks sent them back to borrowers so they didn’t need to store them. They became more of a nuisance than anything else as a computerised system did away with the need for a paper copy of the records.
At the same time the language changed, and although we still refer to the title documents as a certificate of title, the correct name for the electronic version is actually "computer register".
Registration at the LTO
A little bit later and the way we signed and registered documents changed. It used to be the documents themselves were signed, usually in front of a lawyer. They were then posted to an agent who completed a lengthy abstract and delivered the documents to the Land Transfer Office. The documents were processed and checked before registration was completed. Registration would take anything from a week to a couple of months.
It’s all different now. Now the person who wants a document registered signs an authority to a lawyer telling them to electronically complete the registration. The client can send that authority by fax or by email, so long as they are properly identified. The lawyer does the registration themselves and once registration happens it is instantaneous. Settlement and registration often happen within minutes (rather than weeks) of each other and a scanned image of the title replaces the waxy page.
Despite the concerns of fraudulent behaviour, computer breakdowns and hacking, none of that has transpired as a real threat to the electronic system. For the likes of me (who can remember the daily trek to the Land Transfer Office, the patient waiting in line with a list of titles, the pleading involved if anything a little bit out of the ordinary was needed from LTO staff), things seem so easy now. Progress has mean that registration is much faster, there is more certainty on settlement, searches of titles are accessible by all and very easily and cheaply obtained.
It’s got cheaper.
Costs have been streamlined too. In the past fees varied depending on the type of document. A transfer cost more than a mortgage. A guaranteed title search cost more than a regular search. Now it’s all very simple. Very recently all registration costs have been simplified. (Almost) all documents now cost $51 to register and $4 to search.