New announcements have revealed upcoming changes to land ownership documents, with laws set to remove the option for physical paperwork associated with dealings of a property.
The Queensland government has recently passed an amendment that will end the legal validity of paper Certificates of Titles, now classifying all options outside of digital documents as “redundant”.
WHAT IS A TITLE DEED?
A paper Certificate of Title (CT), also known as a Title Deed, is an official document which provides evidence of land ownership, including the name of the owner and particulars of a property.
Paper certificates commonly exist for every property in Queensland built prior to 1994, and the document is required in order to deal with many aspects of property ownership.
Traditionally, when purchasing a property, a buyer would receive a physical CT of the property as evidence of your ownership of the particular asset.
The primary purpose associated with obtaining a paper Certificate of Title was to prevent further dealings with the land from being lodged — such as a transfer of title, registration of leases, mortgages and certain charges — without the paper certificate being deposited with that dealing.
Under this system, you could not deal with any home unless you lodged a paper Certificate of Title with the transaction in relation to the property.
After 1994, the Titles Registry converted to an electronic titles register, allowing new owners the ability to have their CT issued digitally, whilst also maintaining old systems and allowing physical documents to be still produced for owners upon request.
Where a certificate of title still exists, the old system currently applies and a Certificate of Title must be physically produced in order for property transactions to be registered. Where a certificate of title exists, sale contracts require the seller to hand it over to the buyer at settlement.
LAND TITLES MADE REDUNDANT
Despite Queensland operating an electronic titling system for many years now, a paper title deed could still be sought for various purposes if the proprietor requested that one be issued.
However, this process is all set to change, with paper titles set to become redundant in Queensland — meaning owners will no longer need to produce a paper title in order to deal with property.
A new amendment to the Land Title Act  now makes a paper Certificate of Title “an item of historic or sentimental value only and will no longer have any legal effect” from 1 October 2019.
As a result, these documents will no longer be required to be deposited with the Titles Registry when a transaction is lodged in relation to a property:
As of that date, there will be a number of changes to existing systems, including no requirement for disposing of any existing paper CT, no need to be destroyed or brought in to the Titles Registry, nor will they need to be dispensed with for a transaction to proceed.
Furthermore, the Titles Registry will be introducing a changed process for dealing with applications for a Certificate of Title, with applications now dealt with centrally after lodgement, instead of the current process for dealing with them at regional offices.
One of the concerns raised in relation to electronic lodgement is the possibility of fraud.
A major purpose of a paper CT allowed lenders or charge holders to keep them as a type of security to ensure that a proprietor of land complied with its obligations, such as repayment of a debt.
The document is also used to ensure that no unauthorized transactions occur over digital systems.
Now, in order to protect a buyer from fraud by the seller or other persons where there is no Certificate of Title, a settlement notice will now need to be deposited.
Until 1 October 2019, existing titles held in the Titles Registry will continue to be the point of truth for ownership and other interests in land in Queensland.
EVERYTHING IS GOING DIGITAL
As we move towards a world characterized by digital documents and identification, we have now also transitioned away from paper Certificates of Title.
This move is symbolic of Australia’s lead towards an approaching digital era, with some states already offering the option of holding digital driver’s licenses and IDs, and many government departments switching to electronic documents over physical representations.
The main force driving this transition is the Digital Transformation Agency (DTA), who are seeking to make identities and individuals more monitored, observable and ‘accountable’.
Behind the scenes, the Australian Government has been hard at work building competing digital identity schemes over the last decade to ensure all aspects of life can be stored digitally.
One example, known as Digital iD, is already operational and has been developed by Australia Post — an Australian government-owned corporation — at an estimated cost of $30-50 million.
The program links allows a number of law enforcements and government authorities direct access to your identity through Australia Post documents, explaining the $11 billion economic opportunity in their white paper: A frictionless future for identity management.
Another program is GovPass, is a scheme being developed by the DTA, which closely resembles the failed Australia Card of the 1980s in Australia.
The program will create a digital identity to access government services by giving 100 points of ID, with features such as uploading a ’selfie’ for checking against passport or driver licence photos.
This is similar to the existing MyGov system used to access programs such as Centrelink and the ATO.
A report from the Australian Strategic Policy Institute found various problems with digital systems, with weak legislative protections, a lack of attempts at communicating the changes to the public, and the potential for how private companies gather details about customers.
Residents have expressed similar concerns in relation to property rights in Australia, in addition to concern about Australians who may be negatively effected or is vulnerable by the changes.
Parties who hold paper Certificates of Title as a form of security should urgently seek legal advice as holding the certificate as security will no longer have any effect from 1 October 2019.
Paper Certificates of Title are changing | Registrar of Titles and Registrar of Water Allocations
Titles Registry: Paper certificates of title | Queensland Law Society
Paper Certificates of Title – a Thing of the Past! | MacDonnells Law
Digital identity explained | Digital Transformation Agency
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