Midland: settlement agents call for scrutiny of Landgate’s digital transition

Landgate building in Midland. Picture: David Baylis
Landgate building in Midland. Picture: David Baylis

DIGITAL transition at Landgate has local settlement agents calling for scrutiny of the Midland-based State authority’s business dealings with privatised offshoots amid concern consumers are likely to be worse off.

WA Australian Institute of Conveyancers chief executive Dion Dosualdo, a former Landgate employee, said the Registrar of Titles told the real estate industry from December all registry documents – including transfers, mortgages and caveats – must be lodged electronically by the end of this year.

Mr Dosualdo said the ruling required agents, lawyers, banks and real estate firms to use to the services of privately owned Property Exchange Australia (PEXA) to transfer property.

“Landgate along with four big banks are shareholders in PEXA, the only provider that facilitates electronic lodgement (in Australia) and by mandating now, they pretty much gift themselves a licence to print money in a monopoly market,” he said.

“To be fair, anyone can be a provider, or what they call an Electronic Lodgment Network Operator (ELNO) however, the opportunity to compete will be very hard given PEXA has a head start and come December this year are likely to have the lion’s share of the market.”

He said his association represented buyers and sellers and had no self-agenda in referring the recent changes to the national competition regulator for investigation.

“Morally and ethically we cannot be compliant. Our members are consumer advocates in property transactions and the thought of consumers being taken advantage is unacceptable,” he said.

Mr Dosualdo said with no right to choose between suppliers, costs would rise and electronic conveyancing would result in more job losses.

Opposition spokesman for Lands Peter Tinley said the Liberal-National Government moved the voluntary electronic lodgement system to a compulsory one without consultation.

“The Government has not revealed any details as to what consultation with stakeholders was undertaken, what research was done or the reasons for making the system mandatory,” he said.

He said Parliament would not sit until after the State Election on March 11 and no questions or Freedom of Information requests could be submitted until after that date to determine the extent of job losses across the sector.

A Landgate spokeswoman said the switch from manual to electronic provided faster turn-around and savings through its cloud-based digital land registry system.

“Landgate has been working with industry for almost a decade for a smooth transition to electronic conveyancing that will offer its greatest benefits to Western Australians when all parties participate,” she said.

“The benefits to the WA community include $52 million of projected savings over five years, an improvement in customer turn-around times from 10 to 1.5 days and almost instantaneous electronic lodgements.”

She said Landgate had worked with employees to ensure they were more agile, commercial and digitally savvy.

“There are no additional impacts on our people from these new requirements,” she said.

The transition to a digital register system at Landgate started in 2001 and currently more than 99 per cent of titles are in a digital format.