Land titles and property ownership

Most buyers and sellers in the property market have heard the term land title and have a vague understanding of its meaning and relationship to ownership.

But how many of those have a true understanding of land titles and know exactly what title their property is under, exactly what it is they own and exactly what they can do with their property?

The type of title a property has can affect a potential buyer’s ability to get through a successful loan application.

Buyers and sellers need to know what type of title their property has and there are two types which are most common, Torrens and strata.

Torrens title

Torrens title is a system of land title in which a register of land holdings maintained by the state guarantees an indefeasible title to those included in the register. Land ownership is transferred through registration of title instead of using deeds.

Most freestanding homes in Australia are under a Torrens title, and under a Torrens title a Certificate of Title proves the owner owns both the land and property.

Owners who own their property under a Torrens title have less restrictions on what they can do to their property but at the same time are responsible for that property’s maintenance.

Strata title

Strata title is a form of ownership devised for multi-level apartment blocks and horizontal subdivisions with shared areas. The term ‘strata’ refers to apartments being on different levels, or ‘strata’.

Units and townhouses are commonly registered under strata title. It based on Torrens title but instead the property is divided into lots which are sold separately.

If your property is a strata lot, it means you own everything inside the building’s external walls, balconies, outdoor areas and parking spaces. But you share ownership of the common living spaces such as gardens, external walls, driveways and stairwells with the other owners.

All owners in a strata building are members of the owners’ corporation which is responsible for the common property.

As an owner of a strata title, you have to obey the building’s rules and pay levies into an administrative fund for maintenance and a sinking fund to pay for larger capital works.

By having to obey the building’s rules, the owner of a strata title can be told whether they can or can’t keep pets, where they can park, whether they can install cable television or internet connections and whether they can carry out renovations.

Community title

Community title adopts some of the characteristics of both Torrens and strata title.

Under community title, you own your own home and land but you also are part owner in a scheme that owns and maintains common areas to other owners. Good examples of these are roads and gold courses.

Company title

Company titles are where you buy shares in a corporation that owns the building. Having bought the shares, the owner has the right to exclusively occupy a unit in the property and they share use of common areas like gardens and stairwells.

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