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You may want to locate a commercial property deed to determine who currently owns a particular property. Locating a commercial property can be a complex process. As a result, a lawyer will usually complete this process for you. However, if you wish to locate a deed, you can refer to Archives New Zealand which manages the deeds register. If the deed you are looking for is not on the register, it is still possible to locate it. This article will outline what a commercial property deed is, how you can locate one and what to do if the property you are looking for is not on the deed register.

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What is a Commercial Property Deed? 

A property deed is a legal document that transfers the ownership or interest from the seller to the buyer. The deed must be in writing and should include:

  • name of buyer and seller;
  • description of the property;
  • signatures of both parties – signatures must be witnessed by someone not a party to the deed; and
  • details of witnesses – i.e. their name, address, and current job.

Finding a Commercial Property Deed

The deeds system was the primary way of organizing property ownership before the land titles system. Firstly, the property owner will hold a copy of the property deed. Then, they will lodge and register the property in the Deed Register. Archives New Zealand manages the Deeds Register. It contains all: 

  • deeds; 
  • deed registers; and 
  • deed indexes. 

Deed Indexes and Registers

At the core of the deeds system of freehold land ownership are deed indexes. The Land Information New Zealand Register Room holds the Deed Index volumes, which record all registered transactions for the piece of land. Deed Index volumes are organized geographically and then by section number. Therefore, you will need to know the section number of the land you are looking for before contacting Archives New Zealand. If you do not know the section number, then Archives New Zealand may be able to help you find it. 

The deed index will record:

  • time;
  • date;
  • parties;
  • nature of the transaction; and
  • refers you to the register in which you can find the transaction in full detail.

Meanwhile, the deed register will record:

  • full transcript of the transaction;
  • instrument number;
  • type of document;
  • date deed was registered;
  • parties involved; and
  • plan of the land.

It is important to note that the deed index only records freehold land ownership. Furthermore, the index only extends to areas settled by the Europeans before 1870. This means the deed index does not include Maori land and Crown land. Therefore the majority of the North Island land is not recorded in the Deed System but instead will be held by Land Information New Zealand (LINZ) as a title due to the Land Transfer Act.

How to Locate The Deed

To locate a commercial deed through the index or register, you will need:

  • the relevant land district; and
  • Certificate of Title;
  • section number;
  • name of the historical registered owner; or
  • ability to identify land from a historical map.

You can go to the Wall Chart in the LINZ Register Room and find the deed if you know the section number. The Wall Chart will give you the Deed Index volume number, which you can search through to find the deed.

If you know the instrument number, you can check the Primary Deed Indexes arranged by instrument number. This index will state the type of the document and parties to it. Once you have found the instrument number in the index, it will refer you to the location of the documents storage. You might find the document in either of the following:

  • Deeds Register Book;
  • Crown Grant Book; or
  • Wills Book.

Then, if you know the owner’s name, you can search through the Primary Deed Index. The index records the names in initials. Additionally, each name entry will have an instrument that will lead you to the Nominal Primary Index. 

A Nominal Primary Index will refer to other Deed Indexes, which show all dealing for the land you are looking for. You should note that the initials are not in alphabetical order. The first index covers transactions between 1845 and 1868. The second and third indexes will cover the later years. 

Digital Deed Indexes

Most of the deed index volumes have a digital copy. This includes copies of the following indexes:

  • deed indexes; 
  • primary deed indexes; and 
  • nominal primary indexes. 

Therefore, you can locate the deed through Archive New Zealand’s electronic system called Archway.

What to Do If You Cannot Locate the Deed

If you cannot locate the commercial property deed, it is likely that the property you are looking for falls under the Land Transfer Act with LINZ. This is because the Act states that from 1924 onwards, you must register land in the Land Transfer system as a title. The land will only remain in the Deed system if the land ownership has remained the same for a century or more. 

Instead of looking for a deed, look for a property title under LINZ. A property title shows you:

  • property owners;
  • the legal description of the property; and
  • rights and restrictions against the property – i.e. mortgage, easement, or covenants.

Furthermore, you can order a copy of the property title record held electronically. You can use LINZ’s Land Record Search to search and purchase online property records. It will cost you $5 per record. To search, you can use the following:

  • property address;
  • title identifier;
  • survey number; or
  • interactive map to locate the land.

It is important to note that LINZ does not hold Maori land records. Instead, the Maori Land Court will hold them.

Key Takeaways

In short, to locate a commercial property deed, you can search through the Deed Index or Register section number, instruments, owner names, or title certificates. The Primary Index can lead you to the location of the deed you are looking for and which register book the deed is in. However, most deed indexes are digitized, so you can utilize Archway from Archives New Zealand to locate the deed. If you cannot locate the deed, you can try finding a property title record under LINZ using their Land Record Search function. However, you must note that your lawyer may have better access to such information.

If you need help finding a commercial property deed, you can contact our experienced property lawyers, who can help you as part of our LegalVision membership. You will have unlimited access to lawyers who can answer your questions and draft and review your documents for a low monthly fee. Call us today on 0800 005 570 or visit our membership page.

Frequently Asked Questions

Where can I find a commercial property deed?

You can find a commercial property deed in a deed index or register with Archives New Zealand. To locate the deed in the index, you will need to know some information about the land, such as the section number, owner’s name, or instrument number. If you do not have any information about the land, then Archives New Zealand will be able to help you find the section number. Your lawyer will also have better access to the information. 

What can I do if I cannot find the deed?

If you cannot find the deed, you can try looking for a property title record under LINZ by doing a land search. Any land registered after 1924 will be recorded as a title and not a deed due to the Land Transfer Act. You can also ask your lawyer for help in this area.

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