Victoria’s Property Law Act is arcane and needs a complete overhaul according to the Victorian Law Reform Commission.
In its Review of the Property Law Act 1958 released by the Attorney-General today, the Commission says that the current Act has been amended 65 times and any further changes will make it even more unwieldy.
The Commissioner leading the review, Associate Professor Pamela O’Connor, said that the current Act contains many references to outdated concepts and practices and is difficult to read, navigate and understand.
“Some of the provisions baffle even the specialists in the field, so I don’t know how the average property owner would be expected to understand it.
“At least 25 per cent of the existing provisions in the Act are ripe for repeal. They reflect discontinued practices, or refer to legislation that has already been repealed.
“We recommend replacing the current Act with a new one in simpler, plainer language. Overall, we make 58 recommendations in the review, but all contribute to the core recommendation of creating a new Act,” Professor O'Connor said.
The Commission recommends giving the courts additional powers to deal with disputes about buildings that encroach onto neighbouring land. It also recommends changing the way the law deals with improvements made to someone’s land by mistake because the owner of the land, or the land itself, was incorrectly identified. The changes will bring Victorian law into line with the law in other states.
The Commission did not review the provisions of the Property Law Act concerning co-owned lands and goods, which it reviewed in 2001–02, or those that deal with mortgages, leases and land held on trust, which need to be reviewed under wider terms of reference.
The report is the first component of a reference received from the Attorney-General in August 2009. The second component is on the law of easements and covenants and will be completed later this year.
Commission Chairperson, Professor Neil Rees, thanked Professor O’Connor for leading the reference and bringing her extensive knowledge of property law and flair for modernisation to the task.
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