On 11 October 2021, the Real Property Amendment (Certificates of Title) Act 2021 commenced, which abolished the Certificates of Title (CTs) and the control of the right to deal (CoRD) framework. All existing CTs have been cancelled and CTs will no longer be issued. Existing CTs will not need to be produced, and CoRD holder consent will not be required, for a dealing or plan to be registered. All existing Guidelines subject to this change are currently being reviewed and will be updated to reflect these changes. For further information regarding the abolition of CTs, please see https://www.registrargeneral.nsw.gov.au/property-and-conveyancing/eConveyancing/abolition-of-certificates-of-title

Old System land

Since the first grant of land from the Crown in 1792, land ownership in NSW was based on the English Common Law System of conveyancing, now known as 'Old System'. Each time land was sold or mortgaged, a separate deed was drawn up and when lodged for registration given a Book and Number identification e.g. Book 1234 No 567. To prove ownership to title there must be an unbroken series of these deeds i.e. Grant, conveyance, mortgage, re-conveyance, acknowledgment, discharge of mortgage, etc. This is known as the chain of title.

Due to loss of documents, imperfect deeds or the intrusion of de facto owners in hostile possession adverse to the documentary holders, a perfect chain of title is often difficult to achieve. However, s.53 Conveyancing Act 1919 directs (with certain exceptions) that in the matter between a vendor and a purchaser a minimum period of 30 years is required to establish good title. This is known as a good root of title.

The Public Records Section of NSW LRS contains most of the early land records of NSW. The section maintains copies of grants of land alienated from the Crown between 1792 and January 1863 (when the Torrens Title system was introduced) and all deeds registered in the General Register of Deeds.

The Office of the Registrar General was established with introduction of the Registration of Deeds Act 1843, which commenced on 1st January 1844. Under this Act the Registrar General was required to maintain the deed register by filing a full sworn copy of every deed registered. A similar system of registering old system deeds is still in use to-day.

Searching Old System title

Search from a land description

It is usual to commence a search with the inspection of the Parish Map and/or other relevant plans to locate the land and ascertain the particular Crown grant of which the subject land forms part. If the grant was made prior to the Registration of Deeds Act 1825 (which commenced on 16 November 1825) the search should be commenced in the Grants Register against the name of the grantee from the date of the grant. If no conveyance of the subject land is found the search should be continued in the Vendors Index until reference to the next conveyance is found. Similarly if a conveyance in the chain is known, the search may be commenced at this point using the name of the transferee.

Search is then made against the Purchasers Index and continued in the same manner until title is traced to the present owner and continued against such owner until the present day. The Purchasers Index commenced in 1896. Purchaser details prior to this date were recorded in the Vendors Index. Where a mortgage is disclosed, search is made against the mortgagee to a discharge, re-conveyance or other dealing by the mortgagee with the land.

Automated Deeds Indexing System (ADIS)

Computerisation and integration of the Vendors and Purchasers Indexes, together with other registers that make up the General Register of Deeds, commenced in 1992. All deeds from that date are indexed at time of lodgment in the Automated Deeds Indexing System (ADIS). Clients are required to provide all index particulars with new deed lodgments. ADIS now provides searchers with an almost immediate single search of all relevant indexes from Deed Book 4000 Number 1 to date.

Register of Causes Writs and Orders

Constituted by the Conveyancing Act 1919, the Register of Causes, Writs and Orders commenced on 1 July 1920. Entries are made:

  • in the name of the person whose land is affected
  • where no owners name is disclosed, under a short title of the Act under which the charge was imposed, together with any other facts as are applicable.

Since 1 July 1970 bankruptcy orders are no longer entered in the Register and searches are made in the Commonwealth Bankruptcy Office.

Quit Rents

Quit rents, often only nominal in quality, were imposed on Crown Grants made up to 1831. By the Crown Lands (Amendment) Act 1964 the requirement for redemption of the money value was abolished and since then Quit Rents have not been a consideration in the investigation of a Primary Application.

Crown Grant Reservations and Conditions

Crown Grants normally contain certain conditions and reservations. Some of these are in fact 'exceptions'. The first title from the Grant is always subject to such of these reservations and conditions as have been lawfully imposed. The following reservations are not carried forward on new titles:

  • reservation of mines of Royal metals (gold and silver)
  • reservation of all running waters
  • reservation of the right to take and remove stone and/or gravel
  • conditions in respect of land being within a proclaimed goldfield
  • conditions that proper drains be constructed to the nearest common drain or sewer

See Minerals page for information on exception of minerals by the Crown Grant.

See Landward boundary of road or crown reservation abutting a waterway page for information on reservation of 100 feet (30.48 m) from the High Water Mark.