The difference between Old Law Land Tenure and Torrens Title – Part 2

The Torrens Land Tenure System operating in Victoria

The Torrens system was introduced into Victoria in 1862 by Sir Robert Richard Torrens. As Robert put it, “land was no longer the luxury of the few, therefore land reform was essentially the people’s question” (Whalan, 1976). The Torrens system was based largely on the provisions of the Merchant Shipping Act and the Admiralty Rules which related to titles of ships and dealings between them. Robert Torrens had long experience in Customs in London and Adelaide, which gave him the ideas for the new system. The new system was significantly more tidy and manageable than the Old Law system which was cumbersome and complex.

The Torrens System was introduced under the Real Property Act of 1862. The act defined that all land that was alienated (subdivided or created parcels) after the 2nd of October 1862 was to come under the act. Old or General Law land was to be brought under the act where possible. This was either voluntarily by the owner or could be by the Registrar making an order. Today we use the Torrens System for land dealings, although not all of Victoria has been brought under the system.

As described by Land Channel in Victoria (2012), “The Torrens title system works on three principles:

  1. The Land Titles Register accurately and completely reflects the current ownership and interests about a person’s land.
  2. Because the land titles Register contains all the information about the person’s land, it means that ownership and other interests do not have to be proved by long complicated documents, such as title deeds.
  3. Government guarantee provides for compensation to a person who suffers loss of land or a registered interest.”

These principles are described in detail as shown below.

The system provides complete registration of ownership, mortgages and transfers of ownership. The main part of the Torrens system is that the certificate of title shows only the registered owner and the mortgages that currently apply to the property. This streamlines the process eliminating the need to search the register through the chain of deeds. What is on the certificate of title can be guaranteed by the Government to be correct and current. The Certificate of Title is a duplicate that is handed to the owner whereas the original (known as the ‘folio’) is kept at the Land Registry.

The folio is currently filed at the Land Registry in electronic format. This makes storage of titles easy to manage and keep orderly.  When folios are amended, the electronic copy at the Land Registry is also amended. The owner will then receive a new Certificate of Title. As the government can guarantee the title, if there is any fraud against the proprietor compensation can be arranged. It is part of the principles that what is depicted on the Certificate of Title is true and correct, so the government needs to stand by this.

The Torrens System has three important principles which it abides to. The Mirror Principle says that whatever is shown on the Certificate of Title is true and correct, as previously described. The Curtain Principle says that all previous interests in the land are negated and not relevant. Previous owners and mortgages are not shown and are deemed unnecessary space. Finally the Insurance Principle dictates that if there are any errors conveyed in the title, then the registered proprietor is sufficiently provided compensation from the Assurance Fund.