Strata Title or Torrens Title for My Newly Built Duplex Property in NSW?

8 min read

In the realm of property ownership, understanding the nuances of property titles is crucial, specially when it comes to duplexes. This guide focuses on contrasting Strata and Torrens Titles in NSW, highlighting the differences in ownership, maintenance responsibilities, and decision-making processes. Strata Titles often involve shared responsibilities and collective decision-making through owners corporations, while Torrens Titles offer more individual autonomy. Essential for duplex buyers, owners, and those interested to purchase a property, this article provides valuable insights into the legal and practical distinctions between these property titles, aiding in informed decision-making when choosing the right title for your duplex.

Table of Contents

Understanding Property Titles

A property title is essentially a bundle of rights and rules associated with a piece of property. It provides detailed legal information about a lot, such as ownership details, any existing easements, and other pertinent aspects of the land. When a property is sold, the title is updated to reflect the change in ownership. Sometimes, titles have restrictions that are challenging to modify without going through extensive legal processes.

There are different types of property titles, each with its unique characteristics. In this article, we will look at two such property titles to determine which is right for you – a Torrens duplex or a Strata duplex.

Strata Title for Duplex Property

Commonly used for apartment buildings, unit complexes, housing developments, or retirement villages that feature shared areas like driveways, laundry facilities, pools, gyms, and gardens. In a strata title, no individual owner has a superior claim over these shared spaces than any other. The land on which the buildings are constructed is not owned by any individual owner but rather by or under the management of an entity often referred to as the ‘owners corporation’. Everyone has ownership of their own unit or house, but there may be restrictions on alterations or usage. The owners corporation makes major decisions about the property, and residents pay quarterly strata fees for the upkeep of shared spaces. The amount of these fees can vary depending on the unit and tend to increase over time. Living under a strata title may also require obtaining permission from the owners corporation for significant renovations or developments, and there could be limitations on the use of shared outdoor spaces. A duplex can be registered under a strata title as a two-lot strata scheme.

Torrens Title for Duplex Property

Regarded as the highest form of property title in Australia, a Torrens Title establishes you as the sole or joint owner of the property. Holding a Torrens Title confirms your status as the rightful owner in all scenarios. It is also the most common property title in Australia. Under a Torrens Title, you have full autonomy over renovations and changes to your property, as long as they comply with local council guidelines. All repair and maintenance costs for the property fall solely on you. This title system is managed by a centralised land registration system. Duplexes can be registered under a Torrens Title as individual residential units.

Difference Between Strata and Torrens Properties – Which is Right for Your Duplex?

 ParameterStrataTorrens
MaintenanceOutsourcing the majority of property maintenance to the Owners Corporation offers a significant lifestyle benefit, as it reduces the amount of personal responsibility and effort required in managing the property. This arrangement can provide more leisure time and less worry about the upkeep of the property. In contrast, if you are the sole resident in a duplex, the responsibility for maintenance and repairs falls entirely on you. This means that all decisions, costs, and efforts related to the upkeep and repair of the property are your sole responsibility, which can be more time-consuming and demanding compared to a shared responsibility.When you are the sole resident in a property like a duplex, you bear the full responsibility for both the cost and the work required for maintenance. This means handling all aspects of property upkeep, from minor repairs to major renovations, and covering all related expenses without any shared responsibility or financial contribution from others.
RenovationsFor both minor and major renovations to a property in a strata scheme, you will typically need to seek permission from the owners corporation or the strata committee. This process ensures that any changes made are in compliance with the rules and regulations of the strata scheme and do not adversely affect the property or other residents.As a property owner, you have the freedom to make changes to your property as you desire. However, it’s important to obtain approval from your local council if it’s required. This step ensures that your renovations or modifications comply with local regulations and standards, maintaining legal and community standards.
ResellingStrata properties are often easier to sell due to their high demand. This attractiveness can be attributed to features like shared amenities, community living, and the convenience of maintenance and security often associated with strata living. These factors contribute to making strata properties appealing to a wide range of potential buyers.Torrens titled properties might face more challenges in selling compared to strata properties. This difference can be attributed to various factors, including market trends, buyer preferences, and the specific attributes of Torrens titled properties, such as the responsibility for all maintenance and the lack of shared amenities, which might not appeal to all potential buyers as much as the features of strata properties do.
Privacy and RestrictionsIn a strata property, adherence to the by-laws is mandatory. These by-laws govern various aspects of living in a shared environment. Additionally, since the common area is shared between the lots in a strata property, this arrangement can sometimes impact privacy, as these shared spaces are accessible to all residents within the strata scheme.Torrens properties typically provide greater privacy due to their standalone nature, and they are not subject to the same type of restrictions that are common in strata properties, such as by-laws. This lack of shared spaces and collective rules offers more autonomy to the property owner, allowing for a more private and unrestricted living environment.
Voting Deadlock  In a strata title duplex, if one unit owner has more unit entitlements, they can potentially win any vote on strata scheme matters that only require a simple majority. However, if this power is used unfairly, the New South Wales Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NCAT) can intervene to support the minority owner. NCAT has the authority to appoint a managing agent to manage disputes, removing this responsibility from the owners. While this can be beneficial for a minority owner who feels oppressed by the majority owner, it’s important to consider that this process can incur legal costs for making the NCAT application. Additionally, there will be ongoing expenses associated with paying the fees of the appointed strata manager. This situation and its implications were notably observed in the case of Bradshaw v Cooke and The Owners – Strata Plan No 91905 [2021] NSWCATAP 156.In a Torrens titled property, the issue of majority ownership impacting decision-making, as seen in strata title arrangements, does not arise. This is because, with a Torrens title, you are the sole owner of the property. This sole ownership grants you complete autonomy over decisions regarding your property without the need to navigate the dynamics of shared ownership or deal with the complexities of strata schemes.
Compliance RequirementsTwo-lot strata properties are subject to several compliance requirements, which include:           Completing annual strata reporting.          Holding Annual General Meetings (AGMs) each year.  Maintaining a compulsory administrative fund to cover recurrent expenses and property upkeep.           Establishing a capital works fund, unless the Owners Corporation (OC) unanimously decides it’s unnecessary. Obtaining building insurance, although the OC may permit owners to individually insure their lots under certain conditions. Meeting quorum requirements for decision-making, where both owners must be present to make valid decisions.For Torrens titled properties, many of the compliance requirements applicable to two-lot strata properties do not apply. The notable exceptions are related to building or home insurance, which may be required in certain situations such as when applying for a home loan, mortgaging the property, or other similar circumstances. In these cases, securing insurance is often a condition set by the lender or financial institution. Apart from these specific scenarios, Torrens property owners generally have fewer regulatory obligations and more autonomy compared to those in strata properties.
Extent of Ownership   In a strata title arrangement, ownership does not extend to the full ownership of the land on which the property is built. For example, if you own one of two units in a strata property, your ownership extends to half of the land. Additionally, there’s common ownership of shared spaces among the strata owners, meaning areas like gardens, driveways, or pools are jointly owned by all members of the strata scheme.   Furthermore, a strata title includes the concept of cubic air space, which is particularly significant as it allows for the division of property both above and below ground. This means that the ownership of units in a strata title can be delineated vertically as well as horizontally, accommodating various configurations of apartments, townhouses, and other types of residential and commercial buildings.Under a Torrens title system, you have complete ownership of both the land and any building developed on it. This type of title is concerned with the horizontal division of land. For instance, in the case of a residential apartment block, the land on which the block is built was once a single piece under Torrens title. This means the entire land parcel, along with any structures on it, was owned outright by a single entity or individual before potentially being subdivided or developed into individual units or apartments. In a Torrens title property, there are no shared ownership aspects as seen in strata titles, offering the owner full control and autonomy over their land and property.
Costs and ApprovalStrata titles often have the advantage of easier approval processes, which can be an attractive factor for developers and homeowners. Additionally, in terms of infrastructure costs, strata titles can be more economical compared to Torrens titles. For instance, a Torrens titled property typically requires each lot to have its own sewer connection point. In contrast, a strata titled property, with its shared infrastructure and common property elements, might not require individual sewer connections for each unit or lot. This shared approach to infrastructure in strata developments can lead to cost savings, as the expenses for such utilities are distributed among all the owners in the strata scheme.The process of obtaining approval for Torrens titling can be more time-consuming and involve higher infrastructure costs compared to strata titling. This is due in part to the requirements for individual infrastructure connections and amenities for each lot. For instance, each Torrens titled property typically needs its own connections to utilities like sewerage, water, and electricity, which can add to both the complexity and expense of development and maintenance. These requirements contribute to the overall time and cost involved in establishing and maintaining Torrens titled properties.

Conclusion

Choosing between Strata and Torrens Titles is pivotal in shaping your property ownership experience. Strata Titles involve shared ownership and management of common areas, suitable for those who prefer a sense of community and collective responsibility. Torrens Titles, on the other hand, offer complete individual ownership and control, ideal for those seeking autonomy. This article clarifies these distinctions to help you decide what is right for your duplex. For detailed guidance through the complexities of property titles, reach out to us for expert advice tailored to your property needs.

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Picture of Authored By<br>Raea Khan

Authored By
Raea Khan

Director Lawyer, PBL Law Group

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PBL handled my late mothers estate, they were very obliging and patient with any and all questions that we had, thank you to David , Sharon and the other staff that we dealt with, everyone was so easy to talk to and friendly .David came to the home where my Mother was living and helped her to get her will in order, Sharon helped us through the process of executing her wishes when the time came even doing a house call which was so much easier, thank you all so much
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I have experienced an excellent service from PBL (especially from Anita) during the sale of my recent property on Central Coast, and during the purchase of our current property in Sydney. Throughout many challengers, especially with the sale, Anita presented her very professional and knowledgeable conveyancer, positively solving all obstacles. "Above and Beyond" Award going to Anita!!! :-)
Amanda Reitzin
The five-star reviews are well-deserved. I needed a motion and a bylaw drawn up for urgent repairs of my strata unit and the AGM was in two weeks' time. My solicitor was friendly, efficient, knew what documents to ask for, and had all the paperwork prepared well within the timeframe. She also took the time to run through all the legalese and the different possible scenarios with me to make sure I understood. I am so glad to have found this firm and I will not hesitate to use their services again in future if the need arises.
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Tricia Wheatstone
For almost 18 months I have been a client of Alex Ilkin. Alex is very knowledgeable and professional and has consistently provided me with thorough, honest and well set out advice, including steering my case through appeal proceedings. He always worked for my best interests with integrity and compassion. I recommend Alex and his team at PBL.