Owning property in WA
If you are going to buy a house, land, or other real property, you might want some information about ownership.
If more than one person (or trust or company) is going to own the property, you will need to decide if you are going to be tenants in common or joint tenants.
There are also different types of property that you can own, such as Fee Simple (sometimes called freehold) and strata property.
- how you can find out who owns land in WA
- the differences between tenants in common and joint tenants
- what a strata title is
- what a caveat is, and
- where you can get help and more information.
How do I find out who owns land in WA?
In Western Australia, the owner of land is usually registered on the certificate of title and is the registered proprietor of that land. The certificate of title is held in a central register at Landgate.
What is the difference between owning property as a joint tenant or tenant in common?
If you are a tenant in common, each co-owner has a defined share of the property (for example, 25% or 50%), rather than owning the whole property together.
As a tenant in common, you can transfer your share to someone else without needing permission from the other owners. This means you can sell your share of the property or leave it to someone in your will.
I am on the title as a joint tenant. What does that mean?
If you are a joint tenant it means:
- you and the other owners jointly own the property,
- there are no specified shares,
- if one owner dies, the other living owner/s automatically acquire that person's interest, and
- no part of the property can be sold, given away or willed without the agreement of all the owners.
Unless stated otherwise on the certificate of title, it is presumed in WA that co-owners hold land as joint tenants.
What is a strata title?
Strata title is a form of ownership for grouped housing, such as apartments, units, villas, flats and townhouses. With strata title schemes there are individual lots (such as an apartment) and common property that everyone can use (like stairwells, gardens and common driveways).
When you own property on a strata title you own an individual lot plus a share in the common property. The common property is managed by a strata company, which is formed by the owners of the individual lots.
What is a caveat?
A caveat is a notice registered on a certificate of title that prevents someone dealing with or registering transactions against the land (for example, buying, selling, or registering a mortgage). A caveat can be used to:
- stop other people being able to register transactions against your property (called an improper dealings caveat), or
- warn the owner of a property that you may have a claim against their land.
If you have a mortgage on your property you may need your lender's permission before you can lodge a caveat to stop improper dealings.
A caveat on someone else's property can only be used to protect an interest in the land. Lodging a caveat does not actually give you a claim against the property. The types of interests that can be protected by a caveat are varied and complex.
You should get legal advice before lodging a caveat on someone else's property. If you had no proper reason to lodge the caveat you may be ordered to pay legal costs or damages.
Legal Aid WA does not give advice about conveyancing, strata titles or general property issues. Information about where to get help with mortgages, including court action for repossession, is found under the topic Borrowing money.
- Citizens Advice Bureau - (08) 9221 5711 to see if you can get legal advice on your problem.
- Law Society of WA for the names of private lawyers who can help with your legal problem.
- Property ownership
- A guide to strata titles and FAQs
- Lodge a Caveat: A guide to preparing the documents
- Landowner's caveat (improper dealings)
Reviewed: 28 September 2022