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Registered Land, also referred to as Torrens Land, was first developed as a way to trace the ownership of sailing vessels. The concept of Registered Land was conceived in the 19th century with the establishment of private title insurance companies. These companies guaranteed a clear title to prospective buyers of real estate. This guarantee also protected lending institutions and their investors as well. It was first introduced in Australia by Sir Robert Richard Torrens (from County Cork, Ireland) in the mid 1800’s; was transformed to deal with title to land; and spread to other English speaking nations over the next sixty (60) years. In the United States only twenty (20) states ever adopted the system and only eleven (11) still have a Torrens system.
This concept evolved into law with the Torrens Act in 1913 that was adopted by the State of Ohio. Under this Act, any property owner could voluntarily petition to have his land "registered". Registered Land was surveyed, and the boundaries were guaranteed correct by the state. It was also subject to specific codes set by law. The title was guaranteed by a state insurance fund against loss to the property owner from land examiner and/or Recorder errors. Adverse possession could not be claimed against Registered Land, and property owners had to be notified of any involuntary liens within a specified time. All parcels that were registered under the provisions of this law had a document known as a Certificate of Title that showed ownership. A Registered Land Examiner approved by the court handled most of the paper work involved with a Certificate of Title. Changes to Registered Land had to be approved by the court.
A recent survey of the 88 Ohio counties shows that 48 counties have never had registered land. Of the counties that have had Torrens parcels, 26 counties have chosen to abolish the system in a manner consistent with the dictates of ORC 5310.31 et seq. This group includes all of the counties in northeastern Ohio that surround Cuyahoga County.
In Cuyahoga County, Registered Land was first introduced in 1913, thus creating a dual system for recording ownership to land, either by Court action to register the land (Torrens), or by the common practice of recording the transfer of title by document. The Registered Land System was abolished by a resolution of the Board of County Commissioners, in accordance with Ohio Revised Code 5310.31, et seq., (H.R. 161, effective 2/28/1991) on October 27, 1992. This statute left the abolition of Registered Land as an option to be pursued by the individual Ohio counties. By terms of the statute and the Cuyahoga County Commissioners’ resolution, all registered land ceased to exist in Cuyahoga County after December 31, 1992. Per the resolution, no further actions on Torrenized Land were permitted, with the exception of continuing Torrens Certificates of Title while they were updated to reflect transactions occurring prior to 1/1/1993 and the recording of duplicates of the continued certificates in the non-registered land index per ORC 5310.50. As of the date of abolition, the statute provides that the Certificate of Title is now conclusive as to all conveyances and encumbrances pertaining to that property. At the time of abolition, there were approximately 23,184 parcels of Torrens land in the county, which were approximately 4.7% of all total recorded tracts.
The Cuyahoga County Recorder’s Office has recently undertaken the project of updating our Torrens records and it is our intent to make the Certificates of Title available to the public via our Landtrak system and the internet in the near future.