This series was created to register freehold land titles, granted after 2 October 1862, into the Torrens System of land registration. Freehold land is land that has been alienated from the Crown, sold by the government and granted to an individual or other entity.
The Registrar of Titles under the provisions of the Section 5 (1) of the Transfer of Land Act 1958 is responsible for registration and management of land titles in Victoria under the Torrens system.
The Registrar records leases, property ownership, changes in ownership, mortgages, property transactions and new subdivisions and protects the security of property ownership via the State Government guarantee to title under the Torrens system.
A land title under the provisions of the Transfer of Land Act 1958 is an official record on who owns or leases a piece of land in Victoria. Generally speaking there are two types of land titles under this Act in Victoria - Freehold land and Leasehold land.
Freehold land is land that has been alienated from the Crown; sold by the government and granted to an individual or other entity. The freehold interest is the least restricted interest in land and is usually known as 'ownership' of land. Unlike leasehold (VPRS 17028 and VPRS 17075), the land is no longer called Crown land after the freehold interest has been granted. The terms 'freehold' and 'fee simple' mean the same thing and are usually both called 'ownership' of land.
Land Titles (Freehold) is registered as a separate record series of the land Register, as title numbers are duplicated with the Mining (see VPRS 17028) and Crown Leases (see VPRS 17075) titles record series.
A system of recording and registering land ownership known as the Torrens system was introduced in Victoria in 1862 under the Real Property Act 1862 and subsequently the Transfer of Land Act. Its purpose was to introduce and maintain a single register of information about land in private ownership (freehold land). Under this system, the State Government took control of land registration and guaranteed title ownership in the Torrens land Register (historically known as the Register Book).
The system had been devised in South Australia by Robert Richard Torrens. Providing government guarantee of title through the Torrens system and a government operational central land Register, known as the Titles Office, continues to operate today in an electronic form, known as the Victorian Online Titles System (VOTS). The Torrens system replaced the General Law system for all new land alienated or granted after the 2nd of October 1862.
Under the General Law system, land ownership was based on a set of deeds, which traced the history of ownership. Title is proven by producing the collection of deeds which has been held by successive owners eventually, all held by the person now appearing to be the owner. Every time land changed hands, the chain of deeds needed to be produced and new transfer deed needed to be drawn up by lawyers. This process added to the record of deeds, which was kept by the owner, resulting in an ever increasing collection of ownership documentations and the risk of deeds being lost or destroyed. Land ownership in the General Law system was not guaranteed and is still today not guaranteed by the Victorian Government.
The Torrens system, with its one title and Government guarantee created an 'Original' title which was held securely and permanently in the land Register and a 'Duplicate' title that was issued to the owner. Any successive land transactions on title needed to be lodged at the Titles Office for registration of the transaction. The land transaction such as transfers, mortgages, discharge of mortgages etc, are lodged as Instruments together with the 'Duplicate' title at the Titles Office for registration and updating on both the 'Original' and 'Duplicate' titles. Once registered, the updated (or new) 'Duplicate' title issued back to the current owner and the Original title was securely re-filed into the land Register. The system fundamentally still operates the same way today as it did at the time of its introduction in 1862. The major difference today is that the land Register has been fully automated through the electronic conversion of the paper Register into a computerised Register and transactions are now performed and registered electronically.
The information that is generally contained in a freehold Land Title are: proprietor or ownership details, land description, registered plan reference, a diagram of the parcel, north point and encumbrances affecting the land such as covenants, conditions, mortgages, appurtenant rights and easements.
The growth of the land Register is generally through:
- General Law Conversions: The Government guarantee as to ownership through the introduction of the Torrens system encouraged many property owners who held title under the General Law system, to proceed with converting their ownership to the guaranteed Torrens title. The conversion process was through an Application to convert their land, resulting in an issue of a new Land Title under the Torrens system.
- Alienation of Crown Land: A Crown Grant is the first freehold Land Title that was alienated or sold by the Crown, either under the General Law system or the Torrens system. Parish and Township plans known as Record Plans are subdivisions of Crown land, used mainly for the purpose of granting or leasing Crown land. The Record Plans provide the details of the granting of Crown land within each parcel on a plan, a grantee's name and date of issue is shown. It is this date that determines if the land was granted under General Law system or the Torrens system and identifies which system the Crown Grant was issued under. Land that was granted after 2nd of October 1862 was granted under the Torrens system, where the Crown Grant is registered and forms part of the Torrens land Register.
- Certificates of Titles: Under the Torrens system, the land Register shows changes in ownership and the land transactions affecting each title. These changes are shown by endorsement on the back of the title. Once there is insufficient room for further endorsements, a new Certificate of Title was prepared, resulting in the cancellation of the previous title. As land owners transferred part of their land by dividing or subdividing their land, it also required the creation of new Certificates of Titles to show the new created parcel as they were transferred. An example of this is; a Crown Grant that was divided into 2 or more parcels required the creation of 2 or more new Certificates of Title, cancelling the Crown Grant. These two or more new Certificates of Title could then be further divided or subdivided requiring the creation of 2 or more further Certificates of Title.
The preparation of new Certificates of Title in the land Register shows reference to the previous title, known as a 'parent title and on the 'parent title' reference by endorsement is shown to new created Certificates of Title, known as a 'child title'. Linking the parent and child titles creates references from the first title (either a Crown Grant or conversion Application) to the current live title or titles, this is known as a 'Chain of Title', were it is possible to search Land Titles forward from the first title or back from the current title in searching for historical ownership in land.
Land Titles in paper format that were not digitally converted were updated by endorsement on the paper Land Titles through the registration of land transaction up until 2002. The endorsement of paper Land Titles ceased with the introduction of the Victorian Online Title System in 2002.