June 21, 2016


Ever-increasing incidents of fraud and a move to digital technology are the motivators for important changes to the laws that govern real property sales and transfers in South Australia (conveyancing).

Fraud has long been a concern in conveyancing and it is anticipated that the changes will make the conveyancing system more secure.

Verification of Identity

The changes were kicked off in 2013 with Verification of Identity requirements (VOI). Regardless of whether you’re the buyer or seller, you must have your identity confirmed by showing proof of identity to your conveyancer or lawyer in a face-to-face meeting.

Verification of Authority

There will soon be a Verification of Authority (VOA) requirement: after you have passed the VOI, you must then prove that you have the authority to deal with the land.

This will affect executors of deceased estates and parties to a matrimonial property division. It is also an important consideration when making a will as the beneficiary must be properly identified. If they change address, the will should be updated.

Client Authorisations

Following VOI and VOA, the client must authorise the lawyer or conveyancer to sign documents on their behalf. It is expected that the new process will be more efficient.

Duplicate Certificates of Title

Duplicate Titles have long been a fundamental feature of our property law system, typically used to secure mortgages over properties: the lender holds the title until the mortgage is discharged.

When the new laws come into effect, duplicate Titles will have no legal standing. This will mean that banks, for example, can’t rely on them as security to ensure that mortgages are repaid.

As original Titles will be stored and secured electronically, there will be no need for duplicates. There is also recognition that the duplicate Titles do nothing to prevent fraud because if one is lost or stolen, real property can be transferred fraudulently.

Priority Notices

Priority Notices were introduced in 2015. They are effectively a way of holding a place in a queue. They can be used by anyone who wants to register a dealing concerning the land. The Notices prevent anyone else from registering any dealing with the land until the Notice has been discharged or expires.

It is unclear how banks will react to the end of duplicate Titles, but one possibility is that they may seek to use Priority Notices as a way of securing mortgages. If you have been notified that a Priority Notice will be lodged over your property, please contact us immediately.

If you have paid your mortgage but not discharged it, you may need a Priority Notice pending discharge. As experienced property lawyers and conveyancers in Adelaide, we can provide you with advice about this.

Electronic Conveyancing

The reforms will begin the process of moving all conveyances from a paper-based to electronic system.

This will mean that property settlements are faster and safer.

Part of the process will include Title Watch, an app that allows users to monitor the progress of their transaction. This improves the flow of information to buyers and sellers and also security as any changes to the Title will be notified immediately.

Websters Lawyers will be at the forefront of this change, with plans to implement the electronic system in the immediate future.

Lawyer or conveyancer?

With all of these changes, parties to property transactions will need to decide whether to use a lawyer or conveyancer. Both can deal with property transactions but lawyers also usually have expertise in other legal areas that compliment those skills.

If the transaction is complicated or involves another legal area, you may need the expertise of a lawyer.

Using a lawyer is also an advantage for having documents certified and witnessing statutory declarations.

The upcoming changes to conveyancing laws are the most significant in the 150 year history of the Torrens Title System. They are focussed on preventing fraud, making the system more efficient and improving communication. There may be some hiccups as the industry adjusts, but there is promise that the improvements will be effective.

Websters Lawyers are experienced property lawyers and conveyancers in Adelaide. Contact us with any questions or concerns – we welcome your call.