The Property Registration Authority (PRA)
The Property registration Authority is the State Agency for registering property transactions in Ireland and maintaining the national database of land ownership. Since its inception with the Registration of Deeds and Title Act 2006, the PRA has managed the Registry of Deeds in operation since 1707, and the Land Registry in operation since 1892.
The National Database of Land Ownership comprises around 93% of Ireland registered in Land Registry in 2020, with the remaining 7% of the State recorded in the Registry of Deeds. Its goal is to create and maintain a complete and accessible registry of all property transactions in Ireland within the Land Registry by registering the remaining 7 percent in Land Registry and eventually closing the Registry of Deeds.
The PRA has made significant strides in the last two decades in converting all their records to digital which is available through their on-line portal www.landdirect.ie. However, electronic databases are only as good as the data they contain, so it is in everybody’s interest to ensure this data is accurate, reliable and reflects the current situation on the ground to facilitate the implementation of an e-Conveyancing system.
The Irish System
However, there is no State guarantee for the boundaries and areas of the properties to which these titles apply, since minimal checks are applied to the mapping submitted for registration. The OSi and the PRA issued a joint statement on the official mapping in 2011 (download here). The development of Land Registry mapping processes is now only beginning since the completion of the digital mapping project, and consequently, many chartered surveyors consider that the PRA mapping system is still not fit for purpose, and is not yet ready for eConveyancing.
It is unusual, but not surprising that the information on boundaries from the National Database of Land Ownership is considered by the courts to only be the tertiary evidence for boundaries. In many countries around the world, this would be the primary evidence for boundaries and could be used to reliably mark boundaries on the ground in the case of disputes.
With a multitude of evidence types available to try to solve property boundary disputes, it can be difficult to interpret the precedence of each type of evidence to find solutions. The Irish courts clarified this priority in 2016 and again in 2019 as follows:
- Primary Evidence: Deeds and deed maps provide information on the legal boundary
- Secondary Evidence: The location of physical boundaries on the ground
- Tertiary Evidence: The boundary registered in the Land Registry
Although there is a priority, they should not be viewed in isolation, and PBI considers that correspondence checks between each evidence type are essential.
Ordnance Survey Ireland (OSi) surveys physical features (not property boundaries) for their large scale maps at scale of 1:1000, 1:2500, and 1:5000 which are now surveyed substantially using aerial photography. OSi has published a number of statements since 2005 for the accuracy of these maps (download accuracy statement here) .Land Registry are required by statute to use OSi maps as the mapping base for their national database of property boundaries, and do so by associating the registered property boundaries with physical features in the OSi base map. This situation is compounded by the PRA recommending using PRA mapping or OSi mapping as suitable for land registration purposes.The inaccuracy of OSi maps is one of the main reasons why chartered surveyors consider they are not suitable for land registration, and that the national database of land ownership based on OSi maps is not fit for purpose. Property Boundaries Ireland seldom uses Land Registry Compliant maps for land transfers or for land registration.
Importance of Accurate Boundaries
Since the registered boundary is created from the legal boundary in the deed & deed map submitted for registration, one would expect the location of these two boundaries to be identical. However, Land Registry mapping procedures allow for the adoption of nearby OSi physical features where the PRA consider it is “necessary and obvious” to do so, so differences regularly occur due to the use of non-rigorous procedures.
Surveying and mapping technology and procedures have been substantially modernised over the last few decades with corresponding significant improvements in accuracies readily achievable. It is now high time for the PRA mapping procedures to be radically overhauled to significantly enhance their recording of property boundaries to prepare for the introduction of e-Conveyancing.
Property Boundaries Ireland believes that the contract maps used for conveyancing often lack the necessary detail needed to properly record the intent of the parties. Solicitors follow a very detailed proforma for conducting Requisitions on Title to provide a quality service and their duty of care to the clients. However, the various professions supplying the corresponding maps do not follow a detailed script and the standard of service supplied has been quite varied.
At PBI, we recommend using the international norm of Ground truth survey (GTS) to record physical boundaries accurately. These GTS provide a quality of information significantly better that mapping currently available from OSi and the PRA, and PBI recommends their use as contract maps for all land transfers to permit the intent of the parties be clear and properly defined and recorded.
The higher the quality of the contract map used, the clearer all parties’ intentions become, resulting in fewer disputes later, because these maps will be used for registering the properties and be available from the PRA in the future if a query arises.
When a boundary issue arises, chartered surveyors will always check the primary evidence, the contract map/deed map originally submitted when the property was first registered. The sooner the Property Registration Authority and the professions such as the Law Society of Ireland and the Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland recommend the adoption of high quality GTS as contract maps for all land transfers the sooner significant benefits will be follow in the PRA national database of land ownership.
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