Legal experts consult community on land laws

The State’s laws regarding land transactions are being reviewed by the independent South Australian Law Reform Institute (SALRI), which is based at the University of Adelaide, with interested parties and individuals welcome to provide input.

SALRI Real Property Act 1886 team

Project team and participating practitioners L-R: Chris Kelly (lawyer), Dr Sylvia Villios (SALRI), Lisa Harrington (lawyer), Adrian Swale (lawyer), Brooke Washusen (SALRI RA), Dr David Plater (SALRI), Professor Paul Babie (Adelaide Law School), Anita Brunacci (SALRI/lawyer) and Nicole Xenides (conveyancer).

The State’s laws regarding land transactions are being reviewed by the independent South Australian Law Reform Institute (SALRI), which is based at the University of Adelaide, with interested parties and individuals welcome to provide input.

SALRI Director, Professor John Williams, says much of the Real Property Act 1886 is in need of updating to take account of modern conditions.

“SALRI will examine the operation of the Act to identify current issues and concerns and make recommendations for potential improvements, whether operational or legal,” says Professor Williams.

“It is vital that law and practice in this area keeps up with modern demands and technological advances, notably in relation to electronic conveyancing.

"South Australia historically led the way in being the first jurisdiction in 1857 to introduce Torrens title, a landmark system of title by registration rather than by deed; however, whilst the Torrens system remains effective and has proved very influential both in Australia and internationally, the State’s laws may have not kept up with contemporary needs.”

The Act is under review by SALRI at the request of the State Minister for Planning, the Hon Nick Champion MP, via the Attorney-General, the Hon Kyam Maher MLC. The review will be carried out by Professor Williams, SALRI Deputy Director Associate Professor David Plater, Professor Paul Babie, Professor Peter Burdon, Associate Professor Sylvia Villios, Anita Brunacci, Brooke Washusen, and Michail Ivanov.

Interested parties and members of the community are encouraged to provide their input as a part of the consultation process, where SALRI will be holding industry and expert roundtables in metropolitan Adelaide.

SALRI will also be conducting visits to towns in regional South Australia, making stops at:

  • Clare, Port Pirie, Port Augusta, Crystal Brook, and Jamestown from 10 July to 12 July
  • Narracoorte and Mount Gambier from 16 September to 18 September

“The needs in regional and rural communities differ greatly from those in the city,” Ms Washusen says.

“This is why SALRI welcomes and values the input of interested parties and individuals from these communities. We will be carrying out a range of consultation in these areas. Anyone wanting to learn about SALRI or discuss land law issues should get in touch. We are at the Uni Hub in Port Pirie all day on 11 July 2024 and anyone interested in this project or about SALRI’s role should feel free to drop in.”

Associate Professor Plater says: “SALRI is committed to an active and inclusive consultation process and is keen to hear from interested parties, especially those in regional and rural communities.

“SALRI invites input to this project from experts, lawyers, conveyancers, surveyors, property developers, affected agencies, community groups, farmers and any other interested parties and individuals. SALRI is particularly interested in suggestions in how existing law and practice can be improved.”

SALRI will examine a range of issues, including:

  • The role of indefeasibility of title and possible exceptions;
  • Electronic conveyancing;
  • Registerable interests;
  • Equitable interests and the utility of caveats;
  • The role and utility of adverse possession (‘Squatters Rights’).

Associate Professor Villios says: “A particular issue SALRI will consider, drawing on its past work, is how best to address the very real issue of fraudulent transactions involving land, including those under the Powers of Attorney and Agency Act 1984 (SA) and the Family Law Act 1975 (SA).”

The review will draw on the current ‘Modernising the Real Property Act 1886 (SA)’ project being carried out by Professor Babie and Professor Burdon funded by the Law Foundation of South Australia. SALRI will not examine the interaction between the Act and Native Title, as this is outside the project’s scope.

Consultation has commenced and will remain open until 4 October 2024.

Comments in reply to the Consultation Questions can be made by email at salri@adelaide.edu.au or by post to South Australian Law Reform Institute, University of Adelaide, Ligertwood Building, Adelaide, South Australia, 5005.

Further details are available at the SALRI website.

This project is funded by the State Government, with the final report expected in March 2025.

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