A title search is an examination of public records to confirm a property’s legal ownership and identify any claims on that property.
In New South Wales, it’s a requirement to attach a Certificate of Title to a contract of sale when selling a property. The NSW Land Registry Services (LRS) create and maintain land title records on behalf of the NSW Government.
Historically, Certificates of Title were physical pieces of paper; today, most title searches are conducted electronically. A title search will provide information about:
- The property owner(s). This might be an individual, multiple individuals or a company. A title search will confirm that the parties selling a property are entitled to do so.
- Mortgages over the property. If there’s a mortgage associated with a property, this means that the financier – rather than the property owner – holds the Certificate of Title. If you’re buying a property with a mortgage, the vendor must pay the mortgage in full prior to settlement.
- Easements on the property. An easement on a title means that another party has the right to use a part of the land. The most common easements in NSW are for utility providers to access their services (pipes, power poles, etc.). Easements can affect your use of the land so you should understand what they mean before you buy a property.
- Covenants on the property. Covenants are guidelines that may limit what can be built on a property, where it can be built, and what building materials can be used. New estates often have covenants to provide consistency in the look and feel of a neighbourhood.
- Caveats on the property. A caveat means that someone other than the current owners or mortgagee has an interest in a property.