AN expert in property registration has warned that the Government must act quickly to improve Ireland's property registration system and increase online access to title deeds.
John Deeney, land registration consultant at the legal firm of McDowell Purcell and former deputy registrar in the property registration authority, highlighted that Ireland's outdated property registration system is affecting its global ranking for ease of doing business and could be deterring commercial buyers.
Ireland is ranked 53 out of 185 countries for registering property in the latest World Bank Ease of Doing Business (DB) Report for 2012.
Trailing Botswana, 51 and Colombia 52, the ranking lowered Ireland to 15th place overall on the DB Index. Significant elements in the low rating include timescales of up to 20 days from contract to completion and up to a further 21 days for registration.
Commenting on the results, Deeney said: "A high ranking on the DB index is critically important in attracting inward investment."
Just this week researchers identified Irish commercial property as an investment opportunity which could help aid economic recovery, yet there are huge swathes of prime inner city properties in Dublin and Cork languishing on the old registration of deeds system dating from 1700s.
This system is entirely paper based, has no supporting map, and requires the title to be reinvestigated on every dealing with the land causing undue delays to contract completion and registration – and potentially dramatically increasing costs.
Established in 1707, The Registry of Deeds was set up to provide a system of voluntary registration for deeds and conveyances affecting land and to give priority to registered deeds over unregistered registerable deeds.
While over 90pc of Ireland is covered by the more up-to-date, map-based Land Registry introduced in 1892 to provide a state guaranteed title to property, because the Land Registry was originally designed as a system for vesting agricultural land, much of the prime land in old urban centres remains as Registry of Deeds title.
Deeney added: "We have the peculiar situation where great pains have been taken to provide an online Land Registry backed up with OSi maps which are readily accessible at a low cost to anyone with a computer and the €5 fee, yet some of our most valuable assets and prime retail properties remain on the old paper-based system where every dusty deed, assuming it can be found, must be considered as to its validity, construction and legal effect.
Closure of the registration of deeds system is long overdue and will require concerted action on behalf of legal practitioners and pubic bodies to expedite the deployment of e-Registration and e-Conveyancing to bring Ireland into the 21st Century and in a position to maximise potential returns on our inner city commercial property portfolios.