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VLRC : Out with the old

Every Issue

Cite as: Jan/Feb 2010 84(1/2) LIJ, p.67


The VLRC has been commissioned to review and update legislation concerning property.

Obsolete and antiquated property laws that originated in Victorian times will be reviewed under a new project by the Victorian Law Reform Commission (VLRC).

Monash University Associate Professor of Law Pamela O’Connor has been appointed as a part-time commissioner to oversee the first stage of the project which will be a review of the Property Law Act 1958. The review will include the operation of easements and covenants as well as provide recommendations to simplify and update the law.

The second stage will involve more detailed consideration of the policy issues underpinning the Torrens system and the Transfer of Land Act 1958.

VLRC chair Professor Neil Rees said the overall aim of the review was to modernise an antiquated set of laws by removing obsolete provisions and simplifying remaining provisions.

He said the Property Law Act was a collection of provisions enacted at various times and currently running to just under 300 provisions on a disparate range of subjects.

Many provisions were carried forward from the consolidation of laws in 1958 and some pre-date the introduction of the Torrens system of land registration 150 years ago.

In relation to easements and covenants, the review aims to provide greater certainty for people buying land that is subject to an easement or covenant.

Under current law, people purchasing property cannot be confident that important information – such as a covenant restricting the use of the land or an easement allowing access to or use of the land by another – is listed on the property title.

The VLRC has begun preliminary consultation and will conduct wide-ranging consultations with relevant government departments and agencies, local government, peak property bodies, town planners and the legal profession.

The VLRC will also have regard to similar reviews in other jurisdictions including the Tasmanian Law Reform Commission’s recent issues paper on easements and the English Law Commission’s current review of easements, covenants and profits à prendre. It will also draw on a 1992 report of the Law Reform Commission of Victoria which tackled similar issues.

In conducting the review, the VLRC is to have regard to:

  • the aims of the Attorney-General’s Justice Statement 2, in particular to simplify and modernise the law, and reduce the costs associated with the justice system;
  • relevant, contemporaneous reviews or policies in the field in other jurisdictions, both within Australia and internationally;
  • opportunities for harmonisation with laws of other Australian jurisdictions;
  • developments in technology, including the availability of electronic conveyancing;
  • the scope for reducing the administrative and/or compliance burden imposed on business and the not for profit sector, in line with the government’s Reducing the Regulatory Burden initiative; and
  • social and demographic trends and new approaches to planning and sustainable land use and risk in Victoria.

The VLRC expects to release two consultation papers in the first half of this year, one dealing with the Property Law Act 1958 and a separate paper on easements and covenants.

The Property Law Act 1958 review is due to the Attorney-General by 30 September 2010 and the Final Report regarding easements and covenants is due by 17 December 2010.

For the full terms of reference, see www.lawreform.vic.gov.au.

Contributed by the VICTORIAN LAW REFORM COMMISSION. For further information, ph 8619 8619 or visit the website www.lawreform.vic.gov.au.

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