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Replacing lost or destroyed paper title documents

Replacing lost or destroyed paper title documents

Last updated: October 2020

What is a title?

In Victoria, most land is owned under a system of title by registration known as 'Torrens title'. A land title is an official record of who owns a particular piece of land.

If you own land under the Torrens title system and your property is not mortgaged, the original title to your land is held by the Victorian Registrar of Titles as an entry in the official Register of Titles. You are entitled to a paper copy of the original title, which is known as a 'Certificate of Title'. A paper Certificate of Title shows your name, the date the certificate was created and all recordings made at the time it was issued, including any warnings that there is a claim lodged against the land, called caveats. Although the Victorian Registrar of Titles will generally issue only one paper Certificate of Title, if you lose your paper Certificate of Title or it is destroyed you may apply to Land Use Victoria for a new one to be issued.

The conversion of paper Certificates of Title to paperless, electronic Certificates of Title is currently in progress in Victoria and is considered the standard practice. This means that, generally Certificates of Title for land in Victoria are in electronic form and eventually, there will be no paper Certificates of Title. If your land title has previously been converted to an electronic Certificate of Title, your lawyer or conveyancer will have control of the electronic Certificate of Title. If the land you own is mortgaged to a major bank, it is likely that the title has been converted to an electronic Certificate of Title and the bank (or the bank’s lawyer) has control of the electronic Certificate of Title. If your land title has been converted to an electronic Certificate of Title, a duplicate Certificate of Title will not be issued to you in paper form unless requested and the Certificate of Title is converted to paper form.

This information sheet only deals with the requirements to replace a paper Certificate of Title for Torrens title land. It does not deal with general law land not subject to the Torrens title system. We recommend that you consult a lawyer with relevant experience in general law land, if applicable. Refer to the Law Institute of Victoria Legal Referral Service website.

When will I need my title?

If your Certificate of Title is a paper Certificate of Title, you will need to produce the Certificate of Title whenever you are required to confirm you are the owner of your land. This may include when you wish to:

  • sell your land
  • lease your land
  • grant a mortgage over your land, as the person loaning you money will want to hold the paper Certificate of Title as security for repayment of the loan. If the person loaning you money is a bank, your paper Certificate of Title will be converted to an electronic Certificate of Title when the mortgage is registered.

How do I keep the Certificate of Title safe?

You should keep your paper Certificate of Title safe because it is evidence of your ownership of land in Victoria and you will need it when you are dealing with your land. It is also time-consuming and expensive to replace your paper Certificate of Title.

There are many ways to store a Certificate of Title safely. The method you choose depends on your own circumstances. For instance, you may choose to use:

  1. A safety deposit box with a bank or other company;
  2. A facility that your solicitor or accountant may provide for you to store your paper Certificate of Title; or
  3. Your own personal safe or secure deposit box at home.

If you choose to store your paper Certificate of Title at home, make sure you know exactly where it is, that it is secure in the case of a break-in, and that you take it with you if you need to evacuate in case of a bushfire. Alternatively, you may wish to consider converting your paper Certificate of Title to an electronic Certificate of Title.

What do I need to do?

Try to find the Certificate of Title

First you should check whether you or someone else holds the paper Certificate of Title. If your land is subject to a mortgage, the Certificate of Title is usually held by whoever loaned the money to you, often your bank.

Land Use Victoria has recently converted all paper Certificates of Title held by banks (and other authorised deposit-taking institutions) to electronic Certificates of Title. This means that unless your property is mortgaged to a company or other person who is not a bank, there won't be a paper Certificate of Title.

If you have recently repaid your mortgage, the electronic Certificate of Title held by the bank may have been converted into a paper Certificate of Title because there is no longer a mortgage and you will receive a new Certificate of Title. If this is the case, it may still be held by your bank for safekeeping.

If you have any concerns or cannot remember whether you have repaid your mortgage, speak to your bank.

How do I identify the Certificate of Title?

There are two types of paper Certificates of Title in Victoria:

  1. Older Certificates of Title produced on heavy, cream-coloured paper, in either A4 or B4 sizes. The words 'Certificate of Title' are printed at the top of the title and the volume and folio numbers in the top right-hand corner. Usually these titles will also include a map or a diagram. These titles record all transactions with the land and are endorsed with printed or handwritten details.
  1. Newer, computerised Certificates of Title in A4 size. These are printed on blue security paper with a hologram and blue seal on the front page and a watermark. The words 'Certificate of Title' may be printed vertically in a light ink on the left and right sides of the page using degrees of shading. The volume and folio numbers are also printed in the top right-hand corner. These titles only record the current land ownership and any mortgages or other things that affect the land at the time of print, and do not include a map or diagram.

If you do not have a mortgage and cannot find your paper Certificate of Title, you should conduct the following enquiries:

  1. Do a 'title search' at Land Use Victoria to confirm that the paper Certificate of Title is not an electronic Certificate of Title, for a small fee.
  2. Check all your personal documents, as these may contain the paper Certificate of Title or a copy of it and a letter advising who is holding the original.
  3. Check the contents of any safe deposit boxes and safe custody envelopes, and look in any other place where you keep important documents.
  4. Ask the lawyer or conveyancer who acted for you when you purchased the land or had any other dealings with it. Often important documents are held for safekeeping by your lawyer or bank until you need them. Even if the lawyer or conveyancer does not hold the paper Certificate of Title, if your file is less than seven years old you may be able to obtain copies of the title and, from the contents of that file, confirm what last happened to it.
  5. Do an 'issues search' at Land Use Victoria to identify the last person the paper Certificate of Title was issued to, for a small fee.

You should make a note of all of the searches you have made, as this information will be required in connection with your application to replace the paper Certificate of Title.

How do I replace the Certificate of Title?

Provided that your Certificate of Title is not an electronic Certificate of Title, you can make your own application to replace your paper Certificate of Title. To do this, you will need to:

  1. Complete an 'Application for a New Certificate of Title in Place of One Lost or Destroyed', which is available from the Department of Environment, Land Water and Planning.
  2. Arrange for a statutory declaration to be completed by you and any other current owner of the land explaining what happened to the Certificate of Title after it was issued by Land Use Victoria. A statutory declaration is also required from any other person who has dealt with the Certificate of Title, such as your lawyer or conveyancer. A copy of the form of statutory declaration required is available from the Department of Environment, Land Water and Planning.
  3. Undertake a 'verification of identity' check to confirm your identity. Formal verification of identity checks were introduced by Land Use Victoria to reduce the risks of identity fraud and are undertaken by Australia Post, for a small fee. The check involves a short face-to-face interview at your chosen Australia Post outlet and requires you to bring along certain original identity documents, such as your driver licence and passport. A copy of the application form for a verification of identity check is available from the Australia Post website or from the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning.
  4. Provide a copy of the title search and issues search you obtained.
  5. Obtain a copy of your most recent rates notice, showing the rated owners and council valuation.
  6. If you own the land in the name of a company, obtain a copy of a company search identifying the company's officers (one of which will be making the statutory declaration and undertaking the verification of identity check referred to above).
  7. Lodge all of the documents at Land Use Victoria along with the applicable fees. If you have a lawyer or conveyancer representing you, they will lodge the documents electronically via the electronic lodgement network called PEXA. In certain circumstances where documents cannot be lodged via PEXA or where you do not have a lawyer or conveyancer acting for you, you may make a request for Land Use Victoria to accept paper lodgement.

Further details about this process can be found in the 'Guide to replacing a lost or destroyed Certificate of Title', available from Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning. Other information may be required depending on the circumstances of the loss or destruction of the Certificate of Title, as Land Use Victoria is required by law to satisfy itself as to certain evidence before approving an application for a replacement paper Certificate of Title.

You may wish to instruct a lawyer to prepare the application on your behalf. If you decide to do this, you should advise the lawyer of the searches you made for the paper Certificate of Title and, if possible, the volume and folio numbers. If you do not have a record of the volume and folio numbers, the lawyer will need the full names of the owners of the land and the property address in order to identify the correct title and to obtain a title search to help them prepare the application. Your lawyer will undertake the verification of identity check directly with you.

What will it cost?

Lawyers’ fees

These will depend on the amount of work involved. If the total legal costs excluding GST and disbursements (which are your lawyer’s out-of-pocket expenses such as photocopying fees) are likely to exceed $750, lawyers are required by law to write to you providing details of their costs.

Title searches and fees payable to Land Use Victoria

As at the financial year commencing 1 July 2020, the current fee for replacing a lost or destroyed Certificate of Title is $397, which includes a flat Assurance Fund Contribution (similar to insurance) of $200.  

Insurance

If the contents of your property were destroyed, for example by a fire at that property, the cost of replacing documents may be covered by your insurance policy. If you do not have a copy of the policy to check, you can contact your insurer to find out if the cost is covered by your insurance. Some insurers may also provide emergency assistance if your property has been destroyed or damaged by a bushfire. You should contact your insurance provider to seek reimbursement of these replacement fees.

Insurer contact details

Insurance company

Website

Contact number

Suncorp Metway Ltd

www.suncorp.com.au

Claims: 13 25 24

Allianz

www.allianz.com.au

Claims: 13 10 00

RACV Insurance

www.racv.com.au

Claims: 13 19 03

CGU Insurance

www.cgu.com.au

Claims: 13 24 80

GIO

www.gio.com.au

Claims: 13 14 46

OnePath (formerly ING Insurance)

www.onepath.com.au

Claims: 13 20 62

QBE Insurance

www.qbe.com.au

If you are insured via an insurance broker and your claim is during business hours, you should contact your insurance broker before contacting QBE.

Claims: 13 37 23