Property Titles – Strata Title

Property legislation in Australia is based on the principle of “title by registration”. Each state and territory maintains a central register that overs all land within their jurisdiction.

The land title is the official record. It can also provide information about mortgages, caveats, covenants and easements. The title itself comes in various forms – Torrens Title, Strata Title, Company Title and Stratum Title.

Torrens Title

Traditionally the most prelevant form of property ownership in Australia. Torrens Title is named after Sir Robert Torrens – the South Australian politician who introduced the new title system in 1858.

Torrens Titles covers almost all residential titles and also most commercial title. Torrens Title is typically utilised for property where there is no shared ownership of common assets. These titles are registered by the state government and are guaranteed.

 

Strata Title

The rapid growth of the major cities coupled with increasing population density has created an abundance of Strata Title properties in Australia. There are now over 270,000 strata schemes in Australia with more in the process of construction.

This prelevance of strata has been driven by demands for more properties that are in proximity to CBDs and amenities. Strata Title is typically created when a property developer obtains approval to sub-divide a Torrens Title property and undertakes to build a new development.

Strata Title allows for shared ownership of property sited on the one parcel of land. It can apply to both residential and commercial properties with either individual free-standing buildings or grouped under the one roof. What they have in common is that they share common walls, roofs, stairwells, lifts and entrance halls. They can also share certain amenities and facilities such as pools, gardens, tennis courts, roads etc.

The owner of a Strata-Titled property owns the inside of their unit but usually not the outside which is termed ‘common property’.

The ‘common property’ is owned by a legal entity called a Body Corporate (which can also be known as an Owners Corporation or Strata Scheme). The Body Corporate governs the compulsory collection of fees for the cleaning and maintenance of the ‘common property’.

Body Corporate fees can be quite a significant total and a potential buyer needs to fully understand them.

 

Company Title

Strata Title was introduced in 1961 in the state of New South Wales. The introduction of Strata Title as a new form of property ownership meant that Company-Titled properties became less common. The main difference between Company Title and Strata Title is that under Company Title you own “shares” in a Company which entitle you to exclusive rights in the apartment/townhouse rather than ownership by the conventional Certificate of Title.

The majority of Company Title buildings in Australia were built before the advent of Strata Title. Under the Company Title system, a company is created specifically to be the owner of the complete complex. Individual owners attain rights to a particular apartment by purchasing and holding the appropriate number of shares in the company.   The main difference is that you own “shares” in the Company which entitle you to exclusive rights in the home unit/townhouse rather than ownership by the conventional Certificate of Title.

The buying and selling of a Company-Titled property requires the transfer of the shares which can be more difficult. Buyers should also be mindful that Company boards may mandate approval for a prospective owner and put in place other limitations.

Company Title properties are governed by the Corporations Act 2001.