Compulsory registration extended to 3 additional counties. Increase in limit for solicitors’ certificate cases on first registration and conversion of title.
Effective law reform as regards title registration primarily requires rapid progress on its extension. It has been a matter of public policy and indeed a legislative imperative since enactment of the Registration of Title Act 1964 that there should be a gradual extension of title registration ultimately covering all land in the State.
There is a number of reasons why it is timely to radically review the present approach to extension of title registration. It is widely accepted that the existing compulsory provisions of sections 24 and 25 of the 1964 Act have not greatly assisted the extension process. There are the ongoing difficulties arising from the simultaneous operation of two systems of registration for the Registry, practitioners, and citizens. For the Registry there is the allocation of scarce staffing, information technology, and accommodation resources to the maintenance of a separate deeds system.
However it is the recent advances in usage of information and communication technologies by the Land Registry and its future potential, as highlighted at the recent UCD Conference, Modernising Irish Land Law and Conveyancing Practices, which is the most coercive reason to review the present approaches.
It is the stated intention of the Government that the extension of title registration should now be accelerated to ensure that the State will, in due course have a complete land register in order to take advantage of the general reforms proposed in the law of property and the inevitable arrival of electronic conveyancing ( eConveyancing).
The Registration of Deeds and Title Bill which has recently passed through the Seanad and is due to be introduced in the Dáil this autumn contains amended provisions which provide that in future the extension of compulsory registration will not be determined solely and exclusively by geographical criteria. It is intended to retain the geographical dimension, which will mean it will be possible to designate a specified area such as a county, and to add two further criteria. Firstly, it will be possible in future to extend compulsory registration to specified types of land, for example, multi-unit apartment buildings either generally or in a specific area. Secondly, a new subsection has been introduced into section 24 of the 1964 Act which will allow the Minister to extend, by order, the type of disposition to which compulsory registration will apply. At present, when registration becomes compulsory, it applies in the case of freehold land to a conveyance on sale and, in the case of leasehold land, to a grant or assignment on sale of such an interest. The new subsection (2)(a) provides that an order under the section may extend compulsory registration to other types of disposition, for example, succession or gifts inter vivos.
At present approx 90% of the landmass of the State and over 85% of the titles are registered in Land Registry. From our research, it is estimated by the Registry that there are between 240,000 and 300,000 properties whose titles remain to be registered in Land Registry at this time. Currently the Registry processes approx. 4000 applications requiring investigation of title annually, circa 500 being by solicitor’s certificate in Form 3 of the Land Registration Rules, as amended, with the balance requiring a full investigation of title. A significant portion of the latter cases could be classed as ‘problematical’, very often having either an element of adverse possession, or where originals deeds are mislaid, lost or destroyed. However it is generally accepted that a significant number of unregistered titles are perfectly good and marketable and would not present any significant difficulties if application for registration were made, particularly by way of certification. It is clear therefore that steps will be required to increase the rate of first registration possibly as much as tenfold – if
• Meaningful progress is to be made within a reasonable timeframe
• Government policy is to be achieved
• Solicitors, financial institutions and citizens are to benefit from the completion of the project to extend registration to all titles
• The full benefits of eConveyancing are to be realised
It is to be noted that significant operational progress has been made in the Registry in recent years. Capacity has grown significantly – largely due to ongoing procedural improvements and to the development and exploitation of new technologies. Examples of this are
• An electronic register is now in place and all registrations are made electronically
• Access to title information is available instantly
• Facilities for on-line searching and requests for all certified copy documents are provided and are widely availed of
• Practitioners can now file applications electronically and can access details all applications from the convenience of their own offices
• The electronic services are available from 8 am to 8 pm
These services have been an overwhelming success – over 2.5 million transactions have been undertaken since the launch of the Electronic Access Service ( EAS) and presently over 4,000 services are being availed of on-line. This progress will continue as a result of the introduction of digital mapping later this year. Of particular note is the increase in production levels over the past five years. During this period output of casework has more than doubled and for the past two years the arrear of cases on hand has been gradually reducing and this trend is expected to continue.
On foot of this progress the Minister for Justice Equality and Law Reform, by Order dated the 23rd September 2005, S.I. No. 643 of 2005 has extended compulsory registration to 3 additional counties, Longford Roscommon and Westmeath. In making the Order the Minister stated: ‘The making of this Order is the first extension of compulsory registration since 1969. I believe that the promotion and extension of registration of ownership of land is a critical factor as we move towards a system of eConveyancing of land. I signalled my intentions with regard to the extension of compulsory registration during the Seanad debate on the Registration of Deeds and Title Bill and the making of the Order gives concrete expression to that intention.’
In order to comply with the provisions of Section 24 of the Registration of Title Act 1964, the operational date for compulsory registration in the three counties covered by the Order is 1st April 2006.
In a further development the Land Registry Rules Committee recommended to the Minister an amendment of Rules 19 and 35 and Forms 3 and 15 of the Land Registration Rules 1972 to 2000, i.e. the solicitors’ certificate cases on first registration and conversion of title. The new Rules provide for an increase in the certification limit from €320,000 to €1,000,000, to take effect from 1st January 2006. The new Rules also provide for additional paragraphs in the Form 3 relating to prior title. The relevant Order has been signed by the Minister and copies of the new rules will be available shortly. An explanatory note as to the use of Form 3 Certification is available on the Land Registry website, www.landregistry.ie, under ‘First Registrations’