Understanding your record of title

You should check what all of the restrictions on your record of title mean when you are planning your building work or activity.

Your record of title (previously referred to as a computer freehold register or a certificate of title), is the official document showing ownership of the land described in it.  A record of title also provides a list of all the rights and restrictions (recorded individually and referred to as ‘instruments’ on the title) that apply to the land.

With the exception of some Maori land, most privately owned land in New Zealand is held under the land title system of the Land Transfer Act 1952.

One of the important early steps in planning a project is to carefully check your record of title to see if there any rights or restrictions that may affect what you would like to do.  Land Information New Zealand (LINZ) is responsible for keeping title records and you can order a copy of the title directly from them, or alternatively your surveyor, land agent, or solicitor may be able to do this on your behalf.  Normally when you order a record of title you will not automatically receive copies of all of the instruments (documents providing full details of the rights and restrictions) that are registered against the title.  These will need to be specifically ordered from LINZ.

The Quality Planning website contains useful information on reading and interpreting titles.  We also recommend that you take advice from a professional if you are unclear on the rights and restrictions that apply to your land.

Below are some common restrictions that are found on titles:

Consent Notice under s221 of the RMA

A consent notice is a form of covenant between the council and the land owner that is imposed through a subdivision consent.  A consent notice relates to a condition of a subdivision consent that must be complied with on a continuing basis by the owner and subsequent owners.  You can find many examples of consent notice restrictions on titles within the Kaipara District, ranging from minimum building floor levels to address flooding, to design requirements to address landscape and visual effects, to exclusions on cats and dogs to protect flora and fauna.   Because a consent notice is an agreement between the council and the land owner, the council will enforce any non-compliance.

Encumbrance / Covenant

Your title may have an encumbrance or covenant recorded against it and it is important that you understand what that means.  A land covenant may be a private agreement or it may be imposed by the Council, for example under a land use consent.  For private agreements in particular, you should seek advice from a professional before you go too far with planning your project.  Generally, we will not get involved with the enforcement of private covenants.

For Council imposed covenants there will be records available from Council to help you understand the reasons why the restrictions have been imposed.

Common types of restrictions in Kaipara that may be imposed through covenants include:

  • colour and type of materials for buildings in sensitive landscape areas
  • number and/or size of buildings, including height and floor area
  • protection of native bush, wetlands, etc. under a conservation covenant
  • requirement for ongoing pest management, and/or exclusion of cats and dogs
  • protection of historic buildings and features
  • requirement for approval of landscape plans, implement and maintain planting
  • the use of minor dwellings or multiple dwellings on a site

Easements and Rights of Way

An easement is a right to use the land of another without owning that land. The land subject to the easement is the ‘burdened land’ (previously known as the 'servient tenement').  An easement may be:

  • for the benefit of the owner of other land, when it is said to be 'appurtenant to' or attached to the ‘benefited land’ (previously known as the 'dominant tenement') or
  • an easement 'in gross', meaning it is for the benefit of a specific person or corporation, e.g. Council.
The ‘grantor’ of an easement is the registered owner of the burdened land. The ‘grantee’ is the registered owner of the benefited land, or the person who receives the benefit of an easement in gross.  

Some common easements deal with:

  • rights of way – the grantee can walk or drive a car etc over the burdened land, such as a shared driveway
  • drainage – the grantee such as an adjoining owner can drain water over the burdened land 
  • right to convey electricity/gas/telecommunications and computer media – the grantee can run utilities through pipes or lines through the grantee’s land.