What is a title?
In Victoria, most land is owned under a system of title by registration known as “Torrens title”. A land title is an official record of who owns a particular piece of land.
If you own land under the Torrens title system and your property is not mortgaged, the original title to your land is held by the Victorian Registrar of Titles. You are entitled to a paper copy of the original title, which is known as a “Certificate of Title”. A paper Certificate of Title shows your name, the date the certificate was created and all recordings made at the time it was issued, including any caveats. Although the Victorian Registrar of Titles will generally issue only one paper Certificate of Title, if you lose your paper Certificate of Title or it is destroyed you may apply to Land Victoria for a new one to be issued.
If the property you own is mortgaged to a major bank, it is likely that the title has been converted to an electronic Certificate of Title. In this case, no duplicate paper Certificate of Title will be issued. The conversion of paper Certificates of Title to electronic, paperless Certificates of Title is currently in progress in Victoria. This means that, eventually, there will be no paper Certificates of Title. If your land title has previously been converted to an electronic Certificate of Title, a new Certificate of Title will not be issued to you in paper form.
This information sheet deals only with the requirements to replace a paper Torrens Certificate of Title. It does not deal with general law land not subject to the Torrens title system. We recommend that you consult a lawyer with relevant experience in general law land, if applicable. Refer to the Law Institute of Victoria Legal Referral Service website.
What do I need to do?
Try to find the Certificate of Title
First you should check whether you or someone else holds the paper Certificate of Title. If your land is subject to a mortgage, the Certificate of Title is usually held by whoever loaned the money to you, often your bank.
Land Victoria has recently converted all paper Certificates of Title held by banks (and other authorised deposit-taking institutions) to electronic Certificates of Title. This means that unless your property is mortgaged to a company or other person who is not a bank, there won't be a paper Certificate of Title.
If your property is mortgaged and you have recently repaid your mortgage, the electronic Certificate of Title held by the Bank may have been converted into a paper Certificate of Title (because there is no longer a mortgage). If this is the case, it may still be held by your bank for safekeeping.
If you have any concerns or cannot remember whether you have repaid your mortgage, speak to your bank or their lawyers.
How do I identify the Certificate of Title?
There are two types of paper Certificates of Title in Victoria:
- Older Certificates of Title produced on heavy, cream-coloured paper, in either A4 or B4 sizes. The words "Certificate of Title" are printed at the top of the title and the volume and folio numbers in the top right-hand corner. Usually these titles will also include a map or a diagram. These titles record all transactions with the land and are endorsed with printed or handwritten details.
- Newer, computerised titles in A4 size. These are printed on blue security paper with a hologram and blue seal on the front page and a watermark. The words "Certificate of Title" may be printed vertically in a light ink on the left and right sides of the page using degrees of shading. The volume and folio numbers are also printed in the top right-hand corner. These titles only record the current land ownership and any mortgages or other things that affect the land at the time of print, and do not include a map or diagram.
If you do not have a mortgage and cannot find your paper Certificate of Title, you should conduct the following enquiries:
- Do a "title search" at Land Victoria to confirm that the paper Certificate of Title is not an electronic Certificate of Title, for a small fee.
- Check all your personal documents, as these may contain the paper Certificate of Title or a copy of it and a letter advising who is holding the original.
- Check the contents of any safe deposit boxes and safe custody envelopes, and look in any other place where you keep important documents.
- Ask the lawyer or conveyancer who acted for you when you purchased the land or had any other dealings with it. Often important documents are held for safekeeping by your lawyer or bank until you need them. Even if the lawyer or conveyancer does not hold the paper Certificate of Title, if your file is less than seven years old you may be able to obtain copies of the title and, from the contents of that file, confirm what last happened to it.
- Do an "issues search" at Land Victoria to identify the last person to whom the paper Certificate of Title was issued, for a small fee.
As explained below, you should make a note of all of the searches you have made, as this information will be required in connection with your application to replace the paper Certificate of Title.
How do I replace the certificate of title?
Provided that your Certificate of Title is not an electronic Certificate of Title, you can make your own application to replace your paper Certificate of Title. To do this, you will need to:
- Complete an "Application for a New Certificate of Title in Place of One Lost or Destroyed", which is available from the Department of Environment, Land Water and Planning.
- Arrange for a statutory declaration to be completed by you and any other current owner of the land explaining what happened to the Certificate of Title after it was issued by Land Victoria. A statutory declaration is also required from any other person who has dealt with the Certificate of Title, such as your lawyer or conveyancer. A copy of the form of statutory declaration required is available from the Department of Environment, Land Water and Planning.
- Undertake a "verification of identity" check to confirm your identity. Formal verification of identity checks were introduced by Land Victoria to reduce the risks of identity fraud and are undertaken by Australia Post, for a small fee. The check involves a short face-to-face interview at your chosen Australia Post outlet and requires you to bring along certain original identity documents, such as your driver licence and passport. A copy of the application form for a verification of identity check is available from the Australia Post website or from the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning.
- Provide a copy of the title search and issues search you obtained.
- Obtain a copy of your most recent rates notice, showing the rated owners and council valuation.
- If you own the land in the name of a company, obtain a copy of a company search identifying the company's officers (one of which will be making the statutory declaration and undertaking the verification of identity check referred to above).
- Lodge all of the documents at Land Victoria along with the applicable fees.
Further details about this process can be found in the "Guide to replacing a lost or destroyed Certificate of Title", available from Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning. Other information may be required depending on the circumstances of the loss or destruction of the Certificate of Title, as Land Victoria is required by law to satisfy itself as to certain evidence before approving an application for a replacement paper Certificate of Title.
You may wish to instruct a lawyer to prepare the application on your behalf. If you decide to do this, you should advise the lawyer of the searches you made for the paper Certificate of Title and, if possible, the volume and folio numbers. If you do not have a record of the volume and folio numbers, the lawyer will need the full names of the owners of the land and the property address in order to identify the correct title and to obtain a title search to help them prepare the application. Your lawyer will undertake the verification of identity check directly with you.
What will it cost?
These will depend on the amount of work involved. If the total legal costs excluding GST and disbursements (which are your lawyer’s out-of-pocket expenses such as photocopying fees) are likely to exceed $750, lawyers are required by law to write to you providing details of their costs.
Title searches and fees payable to Land Victoria
As at the financial year commencing 1 July 2017, the current fee for replacing a lost or destroyed Certificate of Title is $189.10, plus an "indemnity contribution" (similar to insurance), which is calculated by Land Victoria at the time your application is made based on the value of the land and the circumstances under which the paper Certificate of Title was lost or destroyed. Broadly, the contribution is calculated using the following scale for cases assessed by Land Victoria to be low to normal risk:
for land valued up to $200,000, a contribution of $100;
for land valued between $200,000 and $500,000, a contribution of 0.1% of the value of the land; and
for land valued over $500,000, a contribution of up to $600.
If the risk of fraudulent use is considered to be higher than normal, the indemnity contribution may be increased to cover the risk.
If the contents of your property were destroyed, for example by a fire at that property, the cost of replacing documents may be covered by your insurance policy. If you do not have a copy of the policy to check, you can contact your insurer to find out if the cost is covered by your insurance. Some insurers may also provide emergency assistance if your property has been destroyed or damaged by a bushfire. You should contact your insurance provider to seek reimbursement of these replacement fees.
Some contact details provided by insurers are as follows:
Why should I replace my title?
If your Certificate of Title is a paper Certificate of Title, you will need to produce the Certificate of Title whenever you are required to confirm you are the owner of your land. This may include when you wish to:
- sell your land;
- lease your land; or
- grant a mortgage over your land, as the person loaning you money will want to hold the paper Certificate of Title as security for repayment of the loan. If the person loaning you money is a bank, your paper Certificate of Title will be converted to an electronic Certificate of Title when the mortgage is registered.