The Land Act of 1965, recently repealed, intensified regulation of agricultural land to prevent land holdings being sub-divided and to prevent Irish land from falling into foreign ownership, while, at the same time, industrial policy tried to attract industry.
If you were, say, an Australian, wishing to buy land in a rural area of Ireland to set up a factory and a home, you would need to go through at least the following steps (in addition to getting planning permission):
Make a tentative contract with the proposed vendor;
Apply to the Minister for Industry and Commerce, (or his successor under subsequent departmental rearrangements), for a certificate that you have shown to his satisfaction that you are acquiring the “factory land” exclusively for an industry other than agriculture;
Apply to the Land Commission for their certificate that you are acquiring the “home land” (being less than 5 acres in extent) for private residential purposes;
Get the vendor to apply to the Land Commission for consent to sub-divide his holding;
Get the vendor to execute a deed in your favour, containing certificates referring to the above mentioned certificates;
Get the vendor to apply to the Land Commission for a certificate that he has complied with all the conditions attached to the consent to sub-division;
Produce the deed to the Stamp Duty office of the Revenue Commissioners with the appropriate sum for stamp duty and the appropriate forms for impression of the “Particulars Delivered” stamp;
Lodge the stamped deed, together with the consent to subdivision, the letter of compliance and the registration fee, in the Land Registry for registration, within the time stipulated in the letter of consent to subdivision;
If the time limit has expired, apply to the Land Commission for a letter granting an extension of time, and lodge this with the above papers in the Land Registry.
Clogging the Works
The operation of The Land Act, 1965, helped to clog up the works of the Land Registry,- with thousands of consolidations and queries concerning compliance with the regulations.
These regulations existed side by side with government programmes to induce foreign companies to set up business in Ireland! Not to worry, the Industrial Development Authority and your solicitor will guide you safely through the minefield of regulation.
Dissolution of the Land Commission
The Land Commission was eventually dissolved by the Irish Land Commission (Dissolution) Act, 1992, leaving a considerable amount of its original business as yet undone.
The regulations were abolished by the Irish Land and Conveyancing Reform Act 2010.
Registration of Title and Registration of Deeds
Originally in Celtic Ireland, land was obviously transferred by oral arrangements. In Christian times, there were often grants in writing of land. The ownership of land was public knowledge within each particular Tuath, and, in particular, was within the knowledge of the Brehon and the king.
The arrival of the English, involving owners living at a distance from the land owned, brought the question out from the local community into a wider arena. A grant of land in freehold became universally a matter of writing. As a conveyance was a private contract between two parties, the matter was fraught with doubt. How could a purchaser be sure that the bundle of title deeds being produced to him by a vendor was authentic? How could he be sure that the plot of land being purchased had not already been conveyed to somebody else? The solution is to set up some form of registration system to make dealings in land, or the ownership itself, public.
The simplest form of registration is undoubtedly that of Registration of Deeds. Such a system was set up in 1707. This related to grants of land exceeding 21 years. An index of grantors is kept, which is the only means of searching the records.
Land purchased by tenants under the Land Purchase Acts was required to be registered under the Local Registration of Title Act, 1891. The Registers of Title kept under this Act show details of the tenure, owner and incumbrances of each parcel registered. Encompassing all the (rural) land bought under the Land Purchase Acts, it allowed voluntary registration of other land. The Registration of Title Act, 1964, envisages the extension of Registration of Title by empowering the government to prescribe areas in which registration is compulsory on completion of a conveyance on sale of land. While all the country has now become compulsorily registrable in the Land Registry, some titles remain in the Registry of Deeds.
The conquest of Ireland and subsequent plantations led to the development of pyramid titles. The planters seldom settled on the land themselves, (except in Northern Ireland), but sub-granted or leased to agents, who sublet to tenants.
The the Land Purchase Acts removed these pyramids of title from agricultural land, but they remain in respect of many urban titles. This often leads to difficulty in the buying and selling of property. Sales often involve several layers of the pyramid and the owners of some layers are often untraceable. The Statutes of Limitations, in their current form, do not help, since a lessee cannot bar the title of his lessor, as long as the term of years has not expired.
The Ground Rents Acts
In the 1970s the Association of Combined Residents Associations (ACRA) campaigned for the abolition of “Ground Rents”, i.e., the rent that arises where the tenant or leaseholder has built, or paid for a building, on the land, the rent then being seen as a rent in respect of the ground, but not the building.
A number of Acts were passed, principally The Landlord and Tenant (Ground Rents) (No. 2) Act, 1978, which give such tenants, (as defined in the Acts), a right to purchase the freehold and all intermediate interests. The purchase can be completed even where the owners of some interests in the pyramid are not known. For dwelllinghouses, the purchase can be effected by a Vesting Certificate, issued by the Land Registry.
These Acts have eliminated pyramid titles in many parcels. Ideas for abolishing the remaining Ground Rents have included a proposal for legislation which would automatically convert such tenancy interests into the fee simple, subject to a charge representing the capitalised value of the rent.
Succession to Land in Ireland
The feudal rules of succession were abolished by The Succession Act, 1965. Freehold land no longer passes to the heir at law, but passes in the same manner as personalty, i.e., in shares to the spouse and next of kin. A spouse is given a legal right to one third of the estate of the deceased, which can’t be defeated by the deceased’s Will, and has a right to the family house as part of that share. The deceased’s children are, also, given a right to be provided for, but such provision may be made inter vivos rather than out of the estate.
Property held in joint tenancy passes, on the death of a joint tenant, to the remaining joint tenants. Property held as tenant in common passes to the spouse and next of kin of the deceased. Where some of the next of kin by entering into possession bar the remaining next of kin, they acquire as joint tenants.