Conclusiveness Provision

Section 31(1) of the Registration of Title Act 1964 provides that the Register of Titles is conclusive evidence of the ownership and of all rights, privileges, appurtenances and burdens recorded. However, "the boundary and extent" of the land is excluded from this provision, and Section 72 of the act provides that certain matters will affect land, even though not registered, - the so-called "burdens that affect without registration."

Meaning of “Conclusiveness”

To say that something is conclusive does not mean that it is true or accurate, but that we (within the given context) are not allowed to question its truth.

If it is enacted that a matter is conclusive, then a court is not allowed (within the given context) to hear evidence contradicting the matter. If a matter is not conclusive, then the court can hear contradictory evidence.

Glover’s error

In discussions on the conclusiveness of the Register of Titles, in Ireland, there has often been confusion deriving from the desire for accuracy in the Land Registry’s records, on the one hand, and the meaning of conclusiveness on the other. Famously, Glover, in his book “A Treatise on Registration of Ownership of Land in Ireland,” (1935)  misstated the position in relation to registered boundaries.

In his discussion, the questions of accuracy and conclusiveness are unfortunately mixed up. Glover, as Registrar of Titles, had a desire to see that the Land Registry map would be accurate and reliable, and as chief officer of the Land Registry, correctly laid down standards for officials to follow. The Land Registration Act also lays down mapping standards for the Land Registry.

Glover stated that the provision of the Local Registration of Title Act  1891 excluding the map from the conclusiveness of the register only related to such minor deviations as would come within the phrase “or thereabouts” in a conveyance of land. This is an incorrect interpretation. The Act stated simply and clearly that the boundary and extent of the land are not conclusive, which means exactly what it says, i.e., that the Land Registry map is not conclusive evidence of the boundary, and the area stated in the register is not conclusive evidence of the area of the land. This means that, in both cases, other evidence can be presented to  establish the true position of the boundary and the true area of the land. Having heard such other evidence, a court would have the authority to order the Land Registry to amend the map and/ or the statement of area.

It would have been correct for Glover to express the wish, and the policy objective, of ensuring that the Registry Map would be accurate to the extent that it could be trusted in all matters except such minor deviations as would come within the "or thereabouts" provision. To achieve such a policy would involve the Registry sending out surveyors to check the actual positions of boundaries and, in all cases, to examine the deeds of all adjoining owners  to check for over-lapping claims. But the Land Registry never engaged in such activities, (which would have added enormously and rather pointlessly to the cost of registration and the delays that occur).
To ensure that the area stated on the Folio was correct and accurate (in the days before computer maps) would involve the Land Registry officials computing the area of every plot. This was done originally, but discontinued because of the expense. Of course, with a computerised map, the area can be automatically calculated by the mapping software giving an exact area for the plot as mapped.

Resource implications of Accuracy

Achieving accuracy has resource implications, and, in the decades following Glover’s book, the resources necessary to maintain a high quality map were not forthcoming. There was a hiatus between the verbalised mapping standards and the actual quality of the map.

Conclusiveness v. Accuracy

The question of conclusiveness in relation to the map is separate from the question of the accuracy of the map. The Registration of Title Act clearly excludes the map from the conclusiveness provision, i.e., the Registry Map is expressly stated not to be conclusive evidence of the boundary or area of a plot of registered land.

Registry map no better evidence than unregistered owner’s title deed

The boundaries of plots on the Land Registry map are taken from maps submitted by applicants for registration. The Land Registry Map is no better evidence of the boundaries than the submitted maps. If a dispute as to a boundary arises, the Court may look at other evidence of the boundary.

If, for example, an applicant for First Registration, correctly representing his title deeds, includes Plot X as part of his holding, and the Land Registry, as a result, includes Plot X in his holding when registered, this fact does not preclude another person from going to court to have Plot X taken out of the holding, on the basis that he has a superior claim to it.

Of course, it sometimes happens that a plot, falling at the boundary between two holdings, is encompassed in the title deeds of both holdings. This might be a disputed hedge or ditch, but it could, also, be an entire field or farm-building.

Whether registered or not, the Court can look at all the evidence in order to determine the correct position of that boundary.

The Registry map may be the Best Evidence

Bear in mind that, while the Land Registry Map is not conclusive evidence, it is, however, evidence, and is very often the best evidence available.

Acquiescence in registered boundary strengthens its evidential quality

The fact of registration strengthens the evidence, because of the public nature of the Land Registry Map. If an adjoining owner has taken no step over a period of years to rectify the Land Registry Map, he may be seen to have acquiesced in the position of the boundary and be estopped from disputing it subsequently.

This will be stronger evidence of acquiescence in the future, where, due to the easy access to the Registry Map on the Web, the map will be increasingly accurate, reliable and open to inspection.

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