On 17 February 2014, the Land Titles (Amendment) Bill 2014 (the “Bill”) was passed in Parliament. The Bill seeks to facilitate more efficient and optimal use of registered land through the following changes to the Land Titles Act (the “LTA”):
- Empower the court to create easements, and to vary or extinguish existing easements;
- Improve the remedies available to a property owner in response to a caveat lodged on his property by shifting the burden of disproving the caveat from the property owner to the caveator;
- Introduce a new list of dealings that the terms of a caveat cannot override; and
- Make miscellaneous changes for greater clarity or consistency, or better administration of the LTA.
The Bill also makes related amendments to the Building Maintenance and Strata Management Act and the Conveyancing and Law of Property Act (the “CLPA”).
Creating, varying and extinguishing easements
The development of land may lead to a new easement being required or existing easements being impacted, e.g. owners who previously had access to a main road may find their access blocked following development of the neighbouring land.
Currently, the LTA does not empower the court to create, vary or extinguish easements. This will change pursuant to amendments under the Bill which will empower the court to create, vary or extinguish an easement over land if it is reasonably necessary for the effective use or development of other land (whether registered or unregistered) that will have the benefit of the easement.
The court will only make the order if it is satisfied that:
- The use of the land to which the benefit of the easement is to be made appurtenant will not be inconsistent with the public interest;
- The proprietor of the land to be burdened by the easement can be adequately compensated for any loss or other disadvantage that will arise from the creation of the easement; and
- All reasonable attempts have been made by the person applying for the court order to obtain the easement directly from the proprietor of the land to be burdened by the easement.
The court will be empowered to make orders to vary or extinguish an easement if it is satisfied that:
- The continued existence of the easement will, unless varied or extinguished, impede the development of the land for public or private purposes without securing practical benefits to the persons entitled to the easement; or
- The proposed variation or extinguishment will not substantially injure the persons entitled to the easement.
The court may order the person applying for the variation or extinguishment of an easement to compensate any person entitled to the benefit of the easement.
Similar amendments will be made to the CLPA in relation to unregistered land.
Frivolous or vexatious caveats
A caveat generally operates to prevent the registration of any subsequent dealing in the land identified in the caveat. Currently, when a caveat is lodged against a property owner’s land, the onus of removing it is on the property owner. Feedback has been received that this is unfair to property owners as they bear the onus even where the caveats lodged are frivolous or vexatious.
To remedy the situation, the Bill seeks to amend the LTA to place the burden of justifying having an interest in the property on the person who filed the caveat. This is done by making it a requirement for a caveator to obtain a court order stating that the caveat which he filed is valid, failing which the Registrar of Land Titles will remove the caveat.
Notification of dealings in land to caveator
Generally, a caveat prevents the registration of any subsequent dealing in the land identified in the caveat unless the LTA provides otherwise. Currently, the LTA provides for a list of dealings that may be registered despite the lodgement of a caveat against the land, unless the caveat specifically prohibits a dealing on that list. The current situation is unsatisfactory as some of the dealings in the list do not conflict with a caveator’s interest, yet may be prevented by the caveator from being registered.
To alleviate the difficulties, the LTA will be amended to create two lists of dealings: a mandatory list and a permissive list. A caveator will not be notified of any dealings in the mandatory list even if he were to file a caveat that prohibits all dealings. A “permissive list” will also be created where a caveator can choose whether he wishes to be notified of the dealings in this list.
The following materials are available: