What is a Certificate of Title and what does it tell me?
By Danielle Warfe
26 February 2020
Certificates of Title are quite useful little documents and are required for most building projects. They are legal documents of land description and ownership, and building surveyors often use them to confirm ownership of the land and check that the building work is actually occurring on the correct parcel of land. Buildings going up on the wrong land can happen, and this can be particularly important on strata titles where land can be owned by numerous parties.
We also use a Title to work out if there are restrictions or third-party interests to the land. For example, development may be restricted to an envelope within an allotment, or parts of an allotment may need to be kept clear so they can allow others to cross or use the land. These are often shared driveways or rights-of-way for neighbours, or easements for drainage and power lines.
A Certificate of Title also tells you if there are covenants attached to the land. Covenants are like rules that dictate how a property may be used or developed, usually for the benefit or value of the land itself, and they last pretty much forever. The ones most people are familiar with are those that restrict development so as to conserve natural or cultural values. But you can also get some kooky stuff come up in covenants. We’ve seen some that limit the total floor area of your house, or that forbid you to put up a fence, or keep your bins out the front, or operate a commercial business, or have more than two dogs on the property.
Certificates of Title can sometimes carry a surprise or two up their sleeves when it comes to developing a property, so when you’re buying, it’s definitely worth having them checked by a lawyer so you know what your legal requirements are down the track.