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Real Estate Terms & Meanings | Real Estate Dictionary | Property Language Explained |    Mar 25, 2023
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Torrens title system

A system for the registration of titles to land, originally introduced into South Australia in 1858 by Sir Richard Torrens, an Irish emigrant to Australia, who devised a system for the registration of titles to land based on the method used to record ownership interests in ships as used by the British Ship Registry. With modification this system has been extended to the other Australian States (although it is not universal in some States as land transfers prior to the introduction of the system have not yet been incorporated within the system, especially in New South Wales and Victoria). The system has been used also as the basis for land registration in New Zealand, the Republic of Ireland, most provinces in Canada, several other English speaking jurisdictions and areas in the United States (notably throughout Hawaii and Massachusetts; in Cook County (Chicago) Illinois; and in a limited form (being entirely voluntary and applied to less than half of all parcels of land) in Minnesota and Ohio. The Torrens system also formed the basis for the system of land registration adopted in 1862 in England and Wales and subsequently in Northern Ireland.

The system is based on the principle that title to a parcel of land cannot pass, and no encumbrance can be enforced, unless it is noted on a land register; registered title is then deemed to be absolute and indefeasible, i.e. it is guaranteed or effectively insured by the State. The Torrens system, or any similar system, provides for the registration of land titles, as distinguished from other systems that merely provides for the recording of evidence of title, and all encumbrances that restrict title, so as to act as a form of notice to any third party who may take an interest in the land. Under the Torrens system the actual transfer of title is effected by registration, i.e. the cancellation of the old certificate and the issuing of a new certificate in the name of the new proprietor. Title deeds are replaced by the official record of the land ownership. This record is evidenced by a Torrens certificate of title (or simply a 'Certificate of Title') issued to the land owner by the 'Registrar of Titles'. The system also provides a means for recording in a systematic way all liens (public or private), court orders, easements, restrictions, encumbrances, leases and rights and claims of third parties (especially those in possession) that affect every recorded parcel of land. As a rule, any item that is not recorded, and thereby noted on the certificate of title, is not binding on a bona fide purchaser of the registered land; although most recording Acts provide for exceptions in the case of minor interests such as short-term leases.

In Australia, although the Torrens system has been adopted in every State, it is by no means uniform and there are significant differences between the States on such matters as forms of co-ownership; the recognition of claims based on adverse possession; the division between the requirements for registration of formal and informal lease; and the recognition of implied easements and restrictive covenants. See also land recording(US)

Anno: 42 ALR2d 1387: Torrens Act—Who Protected.
66 Am.Jur.2d., Registration of Land Titles, §§ 1-22.
D.B. Burke. Real Estate Transactions: Examples and Explanations (1993), Ch. 17 'The Torrens System'.
11 Thompson on Real Property (2d ed. 1994), § 92.16.
B.C. Shick and I.H. Plotkin. Torrens in the United States (1978).
M.A. Stone. Torrens Title (1991).
A.J. Bradbrook et al. Australian Real Property Law (2d ed. 1997), Ch. 4 'The Torrens System'.
P. Butt. Land Law (Australia) (4th ed. 2001), Ch. 20 'Torrens Title'.
S. Hepburn. Principles of Property Law (Australia) (1998), pp. 205-238.
D.A. Whalan. The Torrens System in Australia (1982).
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