A conveyance is the legal term for the process of transferring property title from one party to another.
Conveyance duties and laws in Australia vary with the state or territory where the property is situated, but the information below generally applies.
Property conveyance in Australia is usually done by a solicitor (lawyer) or a conveyancer (sometimes called a settlement agent), although you can do it yourself. In the ACT, Queensland and Tasmania, solicitors have a monopoly on conveyancing, and in Victoria a conveyancer must work with a solicitor, but in other states you can engage a specialist conveyancer, i.e. a legal specialist who only works in the area of property law and conveyancing.
There are two main stages in the conveyance process in Australia:
- Property searches and Contract of Sale due diligence prior to an exchange of transfer contracts; and
- The completion of the sale, when you become the new owner.
Conveyance includes carrying out ‘searches’ to ensure that proper title is obtained, arranging the necessary registration of the title, checking whether the land has been registered and the existence of any restrictive covenants, enquiring about any planned developments that may affect the value of a property (such as a new airport runway or motorway at the bottom of the garden), checking that land tax, council and water rates have been paid by the previous owner (if not, the new owner must pay them), and drawing up a contract of sale. Searches will include the following:
- Checking the title deed.
- Checking the zoning certificate issued by the local council which specifies what purposes the surrounding land may be used for, eg solely residential or including industrial or commercial etc.
- A strata records search (for strata title properties), which includes checking that a building is adequately insured, identifying charges/levies, identifying any limitations or restrictions on the use of the property, and whether animals are permitted.
- Enquiries with the local council and utility companies as to whether the property is clear of debts.
Checking the building inspection report.
- Checking the drainage or sewerage service diagram.
- Checking the pest certificate, which confirms that the building is free of pests, including termites.
There isn’t a fixed fee for conveyancing work, which can range from around $500 to $2,500. Shop around for the best rate for you, as some solicitors and conveyancers negotiate.
Conveyance companies are generally cheaper than solicitors and usually levy fixed fees with no hidden charges. Always check what’s included in the fees and whether a quoted fee is ‘full and binding’ or just an estimate. A low basic rate may be supplemented by much more expensive ‘extras’ (called disbursements). Ask your colleagues, friends and neighbours if they can recommend a solicitor or conveyancer and try to obtain a binding quotation in writing. It isn’t wise to use a solicitor or conveyancer who is acting for both the borrower and the lender, as conflicts of interest could arise.
Contact us to obtain resources or information about your legal needs for property in Australia.