Registering, and storing, property deeds


Q&A: I understand that all remaining houses will move from the deeds system to the registration system when they are next sold.

Is it possible to move to the registration system without selling the house? I would imagine that, in view of the slack situation on the housing market, the registration authorities might welcome the chance to get through some of the backlog, rather than wait for the next upturn in house sales.

Mr NS, Dublin

You write in relation to a query raised a couple of weeks ago by Mr AO’C, whose mortgage lender and solicitor both refused to hold the title deeds to his home after he had paid off his mortgage.

The issue has triggered a lot of correspondence, informing me both of a number of lenders who no longer offer basic document- holding services and, on the other hand, of solicitors who would be happy to provide the service, some of them free of charge.

The plethora of data-storage businesses now in existence also provide such services.

Another issue raised has been the question of the role of the Property Registration Authority of Ireland. This State body has replaced the Registrar of Deeds and Titles as the “registering authority” in relation to property registration in Ireland.

I am informed that as many as 88 per cent of title deeds have already been registered with the authority and that the rest will be as and when properties are sold.

There is also provision to actively register title with the authority, and it appears this can be done by any person once the required forms are filled out. The process is outlined on the PRAI website,, and, I understand, costs as little as €50.

However, I do not believe the authority will actually store the original documents, though some of my correspondents have suggested it will. To the best of my knowledge, the title is registered and the original paperwork returned to the person presenting it. Still, at least it means that the deeds would be registered if they went missing subsequently, which would make it easier to get access to them.

The site makes clear that the registration process in itself does not guarantee the effectiveness of a deed nor does it interpret a deed; it only records the existence of the deed.

Spouse’s mortgage a risk in absence of life insurance

I am recently married and my wife had an existing mortgage which was taken out in 2007. Due to a serious health problem she was refused life insurance but the bank waived the need for insurance. My question is, in the event of her death would I as her husband become liable for the mortgage debt or would she need to will the property to me?

As there is large negative equity in the property, she would perhaps be wise not willing the property to me!

Mr ES, email

Oh those heady days. Little did your wife’s lender think they would be looking at a situation of substantial negative equity when they made that mortgage offer back in 2007.

The purpose of the life insurance policy, clearly, is to pay the sum insured in the event of death. On mortgages, this sum is equal to the declining balance of the mortgage account.

Most mortgage-related policies will be sold on the basis that they pay out on the death of the first party in the event of a couple purchasing.

You will need to look in detail at the specific terms of the mortgage. Given your wife was single at the time and that the home was likely to be her main asset, did they make any specific provision in the event of her predeceasing the completion of the mortgage contract? It would be most unlikely.

I suspect the bank worked on the basis that, if the worst occurred, they would at least have a property coming to them that they considered very saleable at the time. Now, however, things are different.

Still, the rules in the event of her death would appear to be pretty straightforward. The executor to her estate will have to satisfy any creditors before securing probate. The bank will want their money and, most likely, the only way it can be secured is by selling the property.

Only when probate is secured – the debts having been settled – can the residue be allocated according to any will. Given the negative equity on the mortgage, it’s possible there would be little or nothing left to bequeath.

What to do with shares of mystery oil company?

I hold 2,000 ordinary shares of 10p each in Oil Gas Exploration Limited. They were purchased for me by my father many years ago and the certificates are dated July 17th, 1981, and June 19th, 1988. Could you tell me what happened to the company and are the shares worth anything?

Ms LO’C, Dublin

There was a company registered with that name though it dealt largely with property rather than exploration. As far as I can see, it was dissolved in 1999. I don’t believe the shares are worth anything. As an aside, the only person with your first name on the share register is listed as having only 200 shares in 1991.

Before ditching the certs, however, you might consult with Thomas Montgomery Sons (Solicitors), who are based in Dún Laoghaire and acted for the company, or Phelan Prescott Co, the company accountants. Both are still in existence.

This column is a reader service and is not intended to replace professional advice. Please send your questions to QA, c/o Dominic Coyle, The Irish Times, 24-28 Tara Street, Dublin 2, or to No personal correspondence will be entered into.