Legal Dictionary

Torrens title

Legal Definition of Torrens title

See also

Definition of Torrens title


    Named for Robert Torrens (1814-1884), Premier of South Australia who there in 1858 introduced the first such system.


Torrens title (plural Torrens titles)

  • Title to real estate provided by a government register (as opposed to the old common law system of deeds or chain of title).

Further reading

Torrens title is a system of land title where a register of land holdings maintained by the state guarantees an indefeasible title to those included in the register. The system was formulated to combat the problems of uncertainty, complexity and cost associated with old-system title, which depended on proof of an unbroken chain of title back to a good root of title.

The Torrens title system was introduced in South Australia in 1858, formulated by former colonial Premier of South Australia Sir Robert Torrens. Since then, it has become pervasive around the Commonwealth of Nations and very common around the globe.

In the United States, states with a limited implementation include Minnesota, Massachusetts, Colorado, Georgia, Hawaii, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, and Washington.

In the Dominican Republic, the system was implemented in 1920, and has been in use since.

Overview of the Torrens system

The Torrens title system operates on the principle of "title by registration" (i.e. the indefeasibility of a registered interest) rather than "registration of title." The system does away with the need for a chain of title (i.e. tracing title through a series of documents). The State guarantees title and is usually supported by a compensation scheme for those who lose their title due to the State's operation.

In most jurisdictions, there will be parcels of land which are still unregistered.

Three principles of Torrens system

The Torrens system works on three principles:

  • Mirror principle - the register (Certificate of Title) reflects (mirrors) accurately and completely the current facts about a person's title. This means that, if a person sells an estate, the new title has to be identical to the old one in terms of description of lands, except for the owner's name.
  • Curtain principle - one does not need to go behind the Certificate of Title as it contains all the information about the title. This means that ownership need not be proved by long complicated documents that are kept by the owner, as in the Private Conveyancing system. All of the necessary information regarding ownership is on the Certificate of Title.
  • Insurance principle - provides for compensation of loss if there are errors made by the Registrar of Titles.


  1. Wiktionary. Published under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.


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