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Tuesday, 17 Oct 2006

Land and Conveyancing Law Reform Bill 2006: Presentation.

I welcome everyone to this important meeting at which representatives of the Law Reform Commission, together with Professor JCW Wylie, will give a presentation on the Land and Conveyancing Law Reform Bill 2006. I welcome Professor Wylie, Ms Patricia Rickard-Clarke and Mr. Seamus Carroll from the Department. I also welcome the president of the Law Reform Commission, the Honourable Mrs. Catherine McGuinness, who is in the Visitor's Gallery, and the representatives from the sheriff's office.

The joint committee heard a submission from the Law Reform Commission on this topic in November 2004 and a consultation paper was published. The substantive Bill has since been published and is about to be dealt with in the Seanad. Before inviting the Law Reform Commission to make its presentation I draw attention to the fact that members of the committee have absolute privilege but the same privilege does not apply to witnesses appearing before the committee.

Ms Patricia Rickard-Clarke

We are very pleased to be here. This is a joint effort between the Commission on Law Reform and the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform. As a result of our work in producing the report and the draft Bill, the Government asked that we work together to produce the Government Bill. I will ask Professor Wylie to introduce the sections and go through the detail.

Professor John Wylie

I propose to highlight the main aims of this Bill and identify how each is achieved. This Bill is designed to get rid of obsolete law. It is surprising that in the 21st century so much of our basic land and conveyancing law is rooted in feudal concepts introduced by the British Crown hundreds of years ago. One of the objects of this Bill, therefore, is to get rid of that old feudal nonsense. It does that by abolishing the notion of feudal tenure. It revises considerably the sorts of estates one can have in land. Estates are what one owns in land. One of the basic principles of our land law is that one does not technically own the physical entity of the land. What one owns is some estate or interest in the land. One has a freehold interest or a leasehold interest. This Bill aims to simplify the concept of estates and interests. It retains that but it gets rid of the notion of feudal tenure. It gets rid of ancient estates such as fee tail estates which are rooted in old feudal concepts. There is no place for such things in Ireland in the 21st century. It also gets rid of old rules that were essentially based on the feudal system, such as the complicated rules that govern how far one can settle one's property in the future and the rule against perpetuities. It may not mean much to members of the committee, but every lawyer's heart sinks when the rule against perpetuities is mentioned because it is an exceptionally complicated rule that is very difficult to apply, is not easily understood, and traps lawyers and their clients in all sorts of places where, really, it should not exist. When drafting a trust, a will or a settlement of any kind relating to property, one must keep in mind this wretched rule against perpetuities. Most people take the view nowadays that it no longer serves any useful purpose and that the simplest thing to do is to get rid of it. That is what this Bill does.

In addition to getting rid of obsolete law, the Bill also replaces hundreds of old statutes that still underpin much of our law. These are primarily statues passed by the British Crown before 1922 and applied to Ireland over the centuries. We ploughed our way through all of these old statutes with a view to identifying which of them served any useful purpose in modern times. We took the view that the vast majority did not serve any sensible purpose, so the Bill simply repeals them. However, some of them serve a useful function, particularly those that were enacted in the 19th century such as the Conveyancing Acts of 1881 to 1890 and 1911. These Acts still underpin much of our basic conveyancing laws, so we identified the provisions within those Acts that are still relevant and we drafted the provisions that would replace them. We hope to replace them in a more simplified form, but I will come back to that issue later.

This is an exercise in consolidation rather than codification. This Bill is not intended to try to put all the law relating to land and conveyancing into one statutory form. It does not attempt to do that because our law is made up of a whole mixture of things in this area. These include statute law and a great deal of common law, by which I mean law which was developed over the centuries by the courts. A large part of that law is known as equitable jurisdiction, which is where the courts exercise an ancient jurisdiction to try to temper the rigidity of the law. A consequence of this is that in recent times, the courts have recognised that people have property interests that are often not easily identifiable. For example, somebody is a legal owner of a property, but when that property was purchased, it may be that some other person, such as a spouse or relative, paid a substantial proportion of the purchase price. However, the legal title is in the name of only one person. Due to the direct financial contribution of the other person to the purchase of this property, the courts would find that he or she should be regarded as having an equitable interest in the property commensurate with his or her contribution. If the person contributed 50% of the purchase price, he or she would be regarded as having a 50% share in the property, even though the legal title of the property would be in the name of the person who was put in the legal title. That person would be regarded as holding the legal title on trust for both people.

Such an example shows how the courts exercise their equitable jurisdiction and build up a body of law. We would not wish to restrain the courts in exercising that sort of equitable jurisdiction. This Bill preserves that jurisdiction and we are not trying to embody all the law in it. We have gathered up all the statutory provisions that hitherto have been scattered throughout these old statutes. It is a consolidation, but it does not codify the law as it not a complete statement of what the law is.

I wish to deal with the aspect of the Bill that deals with reform and modernisation and which was the subject of the consultation paper and the subsequent report to which the Chairman referred earlier. We are engaged in a simplification of the substantive law. As one would expect with centuries of development, the law has become extremely complex and this Bill aims to simplify various aspects of the law. Parts 2 and 3 of the Bill deal with estates and interests that one can hold in land, future interests and so on. Part 4 is headed "Trusts of Land". That Part which I think includes only five sections replaces in their entirety the Land Acts of 1882 to 1890. It is, therefore, a considerable simplification of the law.

Part 7 of the Bill is headed "Appurtenant Rights". It deals with matters such as rights of way, the right to cut turf and so forth, what are known in law as easements and profits. We aim to simplify the law particularly; for example, the law dealing with the way in which one can acquire these rights by lone user, what is known as prescription. It replaces the Prescription Act 1832 which was applied in Ireland by the Prescription (Ireland) Act 1858. It has the reputation of being the worst drafted statute ever to appear on the Statute Book. If members wish to give themselves a headache, they should try reading it. Even lawyers cannot quite understand it. Part 7 of the Bill will replace the Act with a much more simple and straightforward measure.

With regard to simplification of the substantive law, Parts 9 and 10 of the Bill deal with mortgages and judgment mortgages. This is an attempt at simplifying the law. We have decided that all mortgages will essentially be regarded as charges on land; there will no longer be this ancient system, whereby the person borrowing the money transfers the title of the property to the lending institution and when the mortgage is paid off, it is transferred back to the borrower. There is no need for this because under the registered land system, it has always been the case that all one has is a charge on the property, as the title remains with the borrower. Under Part 9, this will now become the general rule, whether it is registered or unregistered land. The law relating to judgment mortgages is exceptionally complicated and we are attempting to simplify it.

The next aspect of reform and modification is what I call the correction of defects or the filling in of gaps in the law. Because our law has been developed in a haphazard way with the courts from time to time pushing through new developments but not necessarily doing so in a comprehensive way, it does not always develop in the way it should. I refer to the law relating to freehold covenants where somebody sells a piece of freehold land. He or she wants to impose a covenant because he or she may be retaining adjoining land and wishes to govern what use is made of the land he or she has sold. He or she, therefore, imposes a covenant, saying, for example, it can only be used for private residential purposes or that no more than one house can be built on it. This is very common. However, the law governing the matter was never developed properly. As a consequence, it is often difficult to enforce such covenants against a successor in title, whereas generally leasehold titles will always bind a successor in title, a landlord or tenant. We will modernise the law in that respect. Various other provisions to deal with the matter are scattered throughout the Bill to fill in gaps and correct defects.

I refer to simplification of language. We have tried in the Bill to recast the law in simple and straightforward language. However, there were occasions when we faced something of a dilemma. We are replacing statutory provisions such as the ones in the Conveyancing Acts and certain Land Acts which I mentioned. Often such provisions are still relevant today and we want a replacement provision that continues to reflect that relevance. They have been subject to interpretation by the courts during the years. There is, therefore, a danger that if the language is changed too much, it will create uncertainty. People will wonder if the language used or the law has been changed. Where we are preserving the basic law, we feel constrained to preserve the existing language because it has been subject to interpretation. In the case of the very old statute provisions, we have changed the language used because it is often completely outdated. It was sometimes the case that provisions were so complicated that we could not possibly stomach reproducing them.

I can give the committee a good example of that. The provisions in section 7 of the Conveyancing Act 1881 deal with conveyance of title, which are implied in conveyances of land. I defy anybody in this room, lawyer or otherwise, to make any sense of section 7 of the 1881 Act. It runs to hundreds of lines of verbiage and even the most skilled conveyancing lawyer would find it very difficult to make sense of it. We have not reproduced that, I assure the committee. We have recast it considerably. In essence, that is what the Bill is all about.

One other point is that the Law Reform Commission is engaged in several projects, one of which is known as the e-conveyancing project. This project is designed to simplify the whole conveyancing process so that it can be done electronically and, generally speaking, without using much paper. We have always regarded this Bill as a forerunner to that. E-conveyancing is concerned with speeding up the process of land transactions but there is no point in doing that until one sorts out the law that deals with such transactions in the first place. That is the substantive law. That is what this Bill is concerned with — it is tidying up the basic law first and then one can move towards considering things like the development of an e-conveyancing system.

I thank Professor Wylie for his excellent presentation. He has made it so concise but it is obvious that the system is hugely complicated. In Dublin South-Central the item that mainly comes up concerns boundary walls and the hassle that little sheds bring about when people try to buy or sell. The boundary wall problem is monumental but is it solved in this Bill?

Professor Wylie

That is dealt with in the Bill. We have provisions dealing with what we call party structures. We use the word "structure" because these boundary issues do not necessarily concern walls; one may have boundary fences and all sorts of constructions that separate adjoining properties. The Deputy is correct. As the law currently stands there is no effective way of resolving disputes between parties over these things. If one party wants to do work on it, can they do so or do they need the agreement of the other party? How does one sort those things out? The provisions in the Bill dealing with party structures provide a mechanism whereby in future one can resolve those sorts of disputes. One will be able to go to the District Court and get what is called a works order, whereby the court authorises one to carry out the proposed works and decrees the conditions upon which one has to do that, in the sense that one must compensate the relevant person if one does any damage to their adjoining property in the process. If the other person will get a benefit from this, that may be taken into account in fixing any compensation. To some extent, this is based upon local law. There are such provisions in an often forgotten statute, which is the Dublin Corporation Act 1890. That Act contains provisions along those lines, although they are perhaps not as effective as they might be. Hardly anyone seems to be aware that these provisions exist. I drew attention to them when I wrote my book Irish Land Law in 1975 but people still do not seem to have paid any attention to the existence of these matters. It only applies to the Dublin area. The point about the provisions in the Bill is that they will apply universally throughout the State. They are a more effective way of dealing with these sorts of problems.

The Bill does not just deal with boundary wall disputes it also deals with a not uncommon situation where one has a property built right up on the boundary line. How does one get around to repair a gable or gutters above it? The only physical way to get to it is to go on to the neighbour's land. If he or she refuses permission to do so, what does one do? The provisions of this Bill will deal with that situation because if a neighbour will not co-operate, one will be able to get a District Court order. The District Court would lay down conditions, such as requiring minimal disruption to the neighbour or the payment of compensation for any damage done, but it would at least be possible to fix the gable.

What about a gutter hanging over the adjoining land?

Professor Wylie

That raises an interesting legal problem. Technically, if the gutter is overhanging, it is trespassing in the neighbour's airspace, which should not be done.

We are very fortunate to have the advice and assistance of the leading land law experts in these islands on the legislative reforms that need to be made to land conveyancing. Professor Wylie's advice has been ably supported by Ms Rickard-Clarke and Mr. Carroll. This is a very important Bill, although I do not think we will fight the next election on it. It is clear from the amount of research conducted on the background to the Bill that even the darkest recesses of legislative history have been investigated. I recognise legislation, from the Statute De Donis Conditionalibus 1285 to the Maintenance and Embracery Act 1634, which I vaguely recall being mentioned in passing when I was a law student. I will not ask for a description of the purpose of the aforementioned laws. I support this project and greatly appreciate the efforts made by the Law Reform Commission and Professor Wylie.

The issue of the simplification of language has been clarified by the professor and I fully understand the danger to which oversimplification may give rise in terms of judicial interpretations. Have consultations taken place during the preparation of this project with the Law Society, of which I am a member, the Bar Council, academic institutions and other interested parties?

Ms Rickard-Clarke

A working group has been in operation since 1987, on which a number of stakeholders were represented. This project is the culmination of the work of that group. We also conducted a formal consultation process at each stage of our work.

Have all the issues which arose been addressed?

Ms Rickard-Clarke

Work is ongoing in respect of issues that have been raised for clarification.

I take it the same support and assistance will be available in guiding our faltering footsteps through the parliamentary process. I refer in particular to any issues that may emerge on Committee Stage.

The Chairman asked several questions in respect of urban issues, so I would like to raise some questions that may be of greater relevance to rural dwellers. Has the area of ancient but important privileges such as commonage rights, turbary rights, fishing rights or riparian ownership been considered in the context of this Bill?

Professor Wylie

Yes, in that things like turbary and fishing rights come within the appurtenant rights section of the Bill. Turbary and fishing rights are what are known as profits à prendre, to give them their full title. There are various provisions dealing with them in general terms.

We have not dealt directly with commonage rights, partly because such rights are to some extent dealt with under the old Land Acts. We have had discussions with the Department of Agriculture and Food which has succeeded to the Land Commission's role under the Acts.

There is some movement towards the division of commonage.

Professor Wylie

The provisions dealing with commonage and so forth — there are various provisions in the Land Acts dealing with them — would have to be dealt with in the round in looking at all the Land Acts. The Land Commission has been wound up and various residual powers under the Acts are currently exercised by the Department of Agriculture and Food. I suspect that many of the old Land Acts could be repealed because they have served their purpose. It is a case of going through them all and identifying what is still relevant. Some of the provisions relating to commonages would still be relevant.

Does Professor Wylie envisage a further project in regard to these Acts?

Professor Wylie

Yes, there probably will be. Whether it is done by the Law Reform Commission or the Department of Agriculture and Food is not for me to say. We have had preliminary discussions with officials in the Department on this point and they have said, in effect, that they recognise there is a project and that they need to think about how they might be involved in it. It is loosely connected with another Law Reform Commission project on the reform of landlord and tenant law because many of the old Land Acts had to do with landlord and tenant matters, allowing tenants to buy out the freehold of their agricultural land and so on.

The Wyndham and Ashbourne Acts.

Professor Wylie

Exactly. For that reason, therefore, we have not included it as part of the Bill. It will be a major project because there are dozens of old Land Acts, both pre and post-1922 which will have to be combed through to see which are still relevant to modern times.

Would it not be appropriate to do that work as an add-on to the present project?

Professor Wylie

I think not. It would take a lot of time.

I welcome Professor Wylie, Ms Rickard-Clarke and Mr. Carroll. It is approximately two years since Ms Rickard-Clarke and Mr. Carroll were here when they informed the committee of the procedure about to take place. I commend them for the work they have done in the meantime. We welcome it. We understand there has been much research and enormous consultation with a wide variety of groups.

I have two questions. As a person without a legal background, what will this mean for the ordinary person who now waits between three and five years for the Land Registry to deal with matters of title in cases where property is inherited or being bought? Has the issue of ground rent on local authority houses been addressed in the legislation?

Professor Wylie

I will take the questions in reverse order. The question of ground rents will need a thorough investigation. The problem is that not very long ago there was a High Court case on the constitutionality of the ground rents legislation. It has since been appealed to the Supreme Court which has not yet heard the appeal. The preliminary work of the commission on the ground rents legislation, which is part of the landlord and tenant project I mentioned, has been put on ice for the simple reason that until the Supreme Court gives its verdict on whether the ground rents legislation is constitutional, we cannot make progress. We have not forgotten the subject of ground rents; it must be put on ice for the moment. The Bill does not deal with it for that reason.

In regard to delays in registering title, that is a matter dealt with by legislation already enacted, namely, the Registration of Deeds and Title Act 2006. Mr. Carroll is probably the best person to say something about it.

Mr. Seamus Carroll

This Bill should be seen as ancillary to the Registration of Deeds and Title Act 2006, which sets out to modernise the structures and procedures of registration. It was enacted earlier this year and part of it has already come into force. The major part comes into effect on 4 November 2006, which is the establishment of a property registration authority to manage the Land Registry and the Registry of Deeds and to promote the registration of title to land. The structures have been updated and modernised and that will hopefully lead to a greater emphasis in the future on the registration of title system by extending compulsory registration on a more accelerated basis than has been the case heretofore.

The Bill also seeks to simplify the substance of law, so that it will be easier to register that which needs to be registered, in terms of the clarification of interests in land and so on. While a case dealing with ground rents is currently before the Supreme Court, the existing ground rent purchase scheme continues to operate. That scheme is operated by the Land Registry for dwelling houses. That scheme is still in place and we will have to await the outcome of the Supreme Court case.

How much time will it take in future, instead of the current three to five years? I am not holding Mr. Carroll to his estimate.

Mr. Carroll

A practitioner like Ms Rickard-Clarke——


Ms Rickard-Clarke

Other projects deal with e-conveyancing and a key to e-conveyancing is e-registration. We produced a report on e-conveyancing in April 2006 that was launched by the Taoiseach. We identified hundreds of pieces of paper and paper trails. One of the issues highlighted in that report dealt with the delay in registration, especially the first registration. As a result of the recent legislation, the Land Registry is developing an e-registration project with the purpose of speeding up registration. This development will feed into the e-conveyancing project. If we look at other jurisdictions that have embraced e-conveyancing, we see that conveyancing and registration can happen in a couple of weeks. The whole purpose of e-conveyancing is to get around these paper trails and to simplify and modernise the procedures.

The Revenue Commissioners also have a project on e-stamping which is feeding into e-conveyancing. The financial institutions are looking at electronic charging, discharging and so on. We are working with these groups and they feed into our project. The next stage of the project is to bring a recommendation to the Government within 18 months on the e-conveyancing model that would be appropriate for Ireland, how it should be achieved, who should run it and so on. The commission is also working on a project on multi-unit developments, which cause grief for many people because there is no definite structure at the moment. We hope to produce a consultation paper on that issue soon.

The Land Registry may be of relevance to the Bill. There are two main problems with the Land Registry. One of them is a mechanical issue and relates to the transfer of parts of folios and it may have something to do with digital mapping. This has nothing to do with the law. However, there is a problem with section 49 issues and the difficulty of getting a first registration through the Land Registry. What should we be doing in our law to improve that process? Many of the delays in the Land Registry arise in dealing with section 49 and first registration applications.

Professor Wylie

To some extent, the Bill will help to speed up the process. It will do away with a number of matters required on first registration. It is a question of how the Land Registry is operated. The new authority will need to consider whether it should adopt the attitude that 99% of applications are fine and ought to be processed speedily. It should allow for the fact there may be the odd one that is not right and that there should be a mechanism for dealing with such applications and making corrections. The other applications should be registered as quickly as possible. The attitude has been that because the Land Registry operates a State guarantee of the title, one must be scrupulously careful about whether every application is absolutely perfect. They are all scrutinised, resulting in long delays before a title is first registered. One of the issues the new authority will need to consider is whether in the interests of having as many land titles registered as possible, the process will need to be reversed. It will need to have a strategy for processing applications speedily.

A process of education is also involved, as I do not wish to appear to be laying all the blame on the Land Registry. I suspect some of the fault lies with solicitors who do not fill in application forms properly or do not submit the forms with all the necessary documents. It is in everybody's interests to speed up the process. The new authority will need to develop a strategy to achieve this.

Mr. Carroll

Self-certification of title by a solicitor or conveyancer is a possibility. There had been a monetary limit of about €350,000 which the Minister increased when he extended the system of compulsory registration to three further counties late last year. The self-certification limit has now been increased to €1 million. I understand, however, from the Land Registry that there has been no appreciable improvement in the level of self-certification. Even where process is relatively straightforward and simple, those who have already looked at the title for the benefit of their clients still seem unwilling to certify it, even though it would greatly speed up the process of registration.

Does this apply to both the section 49 and first registration applications?

Mr. Carroll

I understand it does but I am subject to correction.

Ms Rickard-Clarke

One other point identified in our research last year on e-conveyancing was that mapping caused huge delays in the Land Registry. As it now has a digital mapping project, I foresee great improvements in the next 18 months. Mapping caused the biggest delay in the case of first registrations.

And in the registration of costs.

Ms Rickard-Clarke


Is it the opinion of the delegation that it will take another 18 months to complete the process?

Ms Rickard-Clarke

The project is only beginning but we should see the benefits within a short period.

Deputy O'Keeffe raised a point about commonage and fishing rights. The ordinary punter dealing with legal people in the matter of land transfers hopes the Bill will improve the situation. However, because of problems in the Land Registry, waiting time may not decrease.

The delegation referred to the mapping of land. I have been informed by members of local authorities that as many as 50% of registered properties are incorrectly registered. It may only involve a couple of feet but when a measurement was made, it was found that some of the properties registered over 100 years ago had been incorrectly measured. There are such difficulties. The ordinary punter is involved in the transfer of holdings, lands or buildings — moving, selling or buying. They would have hoped the Land Conveyancing Law Reform Bill would improve the situation but, given what Professor Wylie has said, there is still a major blockage in the Land Registry or elsewhere. We need the legal people but sometimes one's business may lie there for a long time while seeking someone to map a property properly in a sub-division before the lawyers can move on it. There are difficulties in that respect but I am not sure how fast matters will move with the new legislation. Professor Wylie has outlined the huge number of changes that had to be made in the Bill to try to reshape the older legislation. While these changes are welcome, there will still be major delays for ordinary people.

Professor Wylie

I agree. I regard the Bill as simply one step along what will be a lengthy road to improving matters for the ordinary punter, for whom e-conveyancing will be a dramatic change. If we get a proper e-conveyancing system operating, land transactions should only take a matter of days to complete rather than weeks or months. In fact, in straightforward transactions it should not even take that long. At the end of the day, the conveyancing or land transfer process is about lawyers gathering all the information they need on a property and the person who is purporting to sell it. If one has all that information available at the touch of a computer button, one does not have to spend weeks trying to track it down from various bodies. E-conveyancing is about having available at the touch of a button all the information one needs on the property, whether it is held by local councils, registration authorities, the Courts Service, financial institutions or the Revenue Commissioners. One simply has to type in the address of the property and the name of the person who purports to be the vendor and the solicitor acting for the poor old punter trying to purchase has the data at his or her fingertips. The solicitor is then linked directly to the Land Registry. Under a self-certification scheme, he or she ought to be able to register the purchaser as the new owner of the property electronically at the touch of a button. That is what we are aiming for. That is what will be a dramatic change for the punter. The problem is, however, that we have to get to that stage. I regard the Bill as one step along that road.

Another step is the reorganisation of the Land Registry, which is what the Registration of Deeds and Titles Bill is about. That is what the new authority will have to grapple with. There are other matters such as the mapping system with which the Land Registry is dealing and primary information held by local authorities, including planning permission. The various elements must be put together to create the system about which I am talking. The system for which we are aiming in Ireland will be more sophisticated than most systems of which I am aware anywhere elsewhere in the world.

Ms Rickard-Clarke

Even as it is, if one wants information from a local authority on a planning matter, whether it has to do with a derelict site or roads and services, one has to make three inquiries for three separate pieces of information from the one local authority. That is ridiculous.

I have a final point regarding the purchase of properties. Professor Wylie has referred to a property that adjoins another and to which there is no access. Will that fact have to be specifically registered under the new legislation? Will it have to be stated when a property adjoins another, that for maintenance purposes the owner may access the adjoining property? There is some ground between many new properties which are not overhanging. Professor Wylie commented earlier that access to deal with chutes on roofs of old properties may only be through another person's property. Must that now be spelled out clearly in property purchase?

Professor Wylie

Under the Bill one will have rights automatically which apply to any property which exists at present. Automatically, one will have the right to go to the District Court if necessary to get an order to enter the property and make repairs.

My question has possibly been answered as part of the e-conveyancing aspiration. The growing number of Irish people buying property abroad impacts on solicitors' offices. I would welcome Professor Wylie's comments on EU arrangements and those in countries such as South Africa, Australia and other places where Irish people buy property.

Professor Wylie

This Bill does not purport to deal with land outside the State and could not do so.

I speak as a person with no legal background. When people buy property abroad, surely they are registered here as property owners in Spain or wherever.

Professor Wylie

Land acquired overseas is not registered in this State. People who buy property abroad are governed by the jurisdiction in which they buy, which is why they must be careful. One must ensure one understands the law which applies as it may be different to that which applies here.

This Bill deals with one particular practical problem which frequently arises. Under our law one requires a seal to have a deed. Many overseas companies which buy land here do not have a seal because in their jurisdictions the notion of a seal does not exist. This has caused many practical difficulties as to whether a document executed in this country without a seal can be regarded as a deed under our law for registration purposes. This Bill solves the problem by providing that a document regarded as a deed in the jurisdiction from which the company comes will be accepted as a deed here and the transaction can be registered. Multi-jurisdictional issues arise from time to time. However, by and large, this Bill will only be concerned with land in the State.

This issue may have been raised by other members. I was requested by a person involved with an Irish genealogical society to ask whether the 2006 Bill adequately removes feudal baronies and manorial lordships. Apparently, they have been used as a scam in the past.

Professor Wylie

Yes. This area of the law is not well understood. I suspect many people have been taken for a ride because they bought what they thought were baronies and assumed they would automatically be given rights to land. Almost certainly that is not the case because those types of manorial rights never applied in Ireland. While people may have had titles, they did not necessarily have land attached to those titles.

Under this Bill anybody who claims he or she has a title providing rights to land must establish how that land was acquired. Simply stating that one received a title will not be enough. One must show the land was conveyed by virtue of a previous transfer of a leasehold or freehold title. One must show not only that one has a title but also that one has an estate or interest in the land. As I said at the beginning, a person does not own the physical entity, but an estate or an interest in the land, such as the freehold, a lease or fishing or turbary rights. The person must be able to establish how he or she came by that by virtue of a previous transaction. Merely having some title is not enough and never has been in Ireland.

Mr. Carroll

We have received correspondence in the Department on this matter but the solution proposed was the abolition of incorporeal hereditaments. That simply is not feasible because it would abolish profits and easements and other forms of rights over other people's lands.

I thank the witnesses for an interesting and insightful look at the Bill and look forward to hearing from them again, particularly on e-conveyancing and other aspects of the current work. As someone who is not a lawyer, I find it exciting and look forward to a resolution of the situation.

The joint committee went into private session at 2.55 p.m. and adjourned at 3 p.m. until 11 a.m. on Wednesday, 18 October 2006.