British Columbia has been able to develop one of the best land survey and title registration systems in the world.
British Columbia, including the colonies before the province came into existence, has always maintained a system for recording ownership and interests in private land. For a short while, the colonies maintained Deeds Registries. However, a Deeds Registry results in a complicated, unreliable system for recording interests in land. In order to gain an opinion on ownership of interests in land, an unbroken chain of documentary evidence over long periods of time or possibly from the original granting of the land from the Crown is required. If any one of those documents was not properly executed, or if all documents in the chain cannot be obtained, then a shadow of doubt is cast upon the claim of ownership.
The Torrens system of title registration, which is how title is registered in British Columbia today, was formulated to combat the problems of uncertainty, complexity, and cost associated with the Deeds Registry system. Use of the Torrens system in British Columbia is significant because it results in a very secure and transparent system of recording interests in land. The cost to convey land, register interests in land, and update and refresh ownership records is minimal.
Under our Torrens system, security of title—meaning ownership of land—is based on the principles of “indefeasibility". A title that is “indefeasible” cannot be defeated, revoked, or made void. The person who has title has a right, good against the world, to the land. Under the British Columbia Torrens system, evidence of the right to land is constituted by the record on the Land Register: The record includes the name of the owner and the names of any others who have interests in the property. Other interests include, for example, mortgages, agreements for sale, leases, easements, covenants, rights of way, and certificates of pending litigation. To establish an indefeasible title, the documents that transfer legal ownership or create an interest in land must be filed and registered in the Land Title Office. Registration has the effect of passing the estate or interest in land. While registration is not mandatory in British Columbia, failure to register means that the estate or interest claimed by an owner cannot be enforced against a third party.
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A bit about myself. I am a member of the British Columbia Notaries Public Society. I want to answer some of the most common questions that my clients have through my blog. Hope you find it useful.