Roots of property title-the essentials

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All property title must start somewhere, but where? What is the starting point? Last year? 20 years ago? 50 years ago? The last century?

In Ireland if a vendor can show a deed which has certain characteristics it will be accepted by conveyancers, legal professionals, and the Property Registration Authority as a good root of title.

A good root of title, therefore, for unregistered (Registry of Deeds) properties has certain characteristics:

  1. It must be a document or instrument of disposition
  2. It must deal with the whole ownership of the whole legal and equitable estate in the property
  3. It must not need any extrinsic evidence
  4. It must contain a description of the property
  5. It must be at least 15 years old
  6. It must not show anything which would cast doubt on the title of the disposing party

A good root of title for a registered (Land Registry) property is the PRA folio.

The root of title for a leasehold property is the lease itself, regardless of age.

Once a good root of title is established all subsequent deeds transfer ownership of that same title.

Regarding the age of title it used to be a requirement that the root of title be at least 20 years old. 

Section 56 of the Land and Conveyancing Law Reform Act 2009 provides that:

56.— (1) Subject to subsections (2) and (3), after the commencement of this Chapter, a period of at least 15 years commencing with a good root of title is the period for proof of title which the purchaser may require.

Thus, 15 years is the minimum age of a root of title now.

The most common good roots of title in daily conveyancing practice in Ireland are:

  1. A conveyance or lease for value
  2. A sealed and certified copy Land Registry folio with title Absolute

Bad roots of title include:

  • A voluntary conveyance
  • A general devise in a will
  • A deed of appointment of trustees
  • Possessory title in the Land Registry
  • A deed of assignment

The lists above are not exhaustive, merely examples.

If you are a purchaser you will not need to worry about what is a good root of title or not, as your solicitor will do that as part of the conveyancing process and the review of title documents furnished with the contract.