In all countries, there is a difference between the land register a nd the cadaster.
Technical mapping and land survey is usually documented in the cadaster, while the land
register is competent for the legal state of affairs, i.e. registering ownership and charges
on the land. In some states the cadaster also has tax purposes (in particular in the Code
Napoleon countries, such as Italy and Spain). Typically, both registers are run by separate
offices. Even if there is only one agency handling both registers in the Netherlands,
Hungary, the Czech R epublic and Slovakia, these are nevertheless clearly distinguished
by the law in most cases. Finally, the land register is part of the court system (in most
countries) or runs as an administrative authority.
Nowadays, registration of property transactions is mandatory in the land regist er in a
majority of countries, at least as regards the transfer of ownership. Therefore, registration
of land covers most of the land in all count ries (in most countries more than 95% of all
In Europe, there are two b asic types of land registers: either real rights in land are
registered or documents are registered. Within the EU, the registration of titles enjoys a
slight majority by countries and by population:
• The registration of rights is used i n the Central European ‘land book’, the new
British Isles ‘land register’, the Nordic system and i n the Hispanic subgroup of the
mortgage register. It is thus usual inter alia in Austria, Denmark, England, Finland,
Germany, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Scotland, Spain, Sweden and
• The mere registration of documents i s being used in the ‘mortgage register’ of
the French type and in the old common law ‘register of deeds’ (e.g. in Belgium,
France, Greece, Italy and Luxembourg). The registering authority is called
‘mortgage register’ (c onservatoire des hypothèques). Whereas t he Polish,
Portuguese and Spanish registers are also called ‘mortgage register’, they contain
rights, not only documents.
As regards the basic formats for registration, the registration of rights is always done in
the form of a realfolium (i.e. ordered by t he land registered), whilst the registration of
documents is normally done in the form of a personalfolium (i.e. ordered by the name
of the respective owner). This means that finding information on the legal stat us of a plot
of land is normally more difficult for consumers and other interested parties.
An important distinction refers to the substantive effects of the registration.
Registration may be either constitut ive, meaning that the transfer of ownership or the
contractual creation of a real right in land will be completed only with registration, or
merely declaratory. The first system may be found in countries influenced by the German
and English legal systems; the second is typical of the countries of the French legal family.
In a system with declaratory registration, a transfer or a real right is usually opposable
to third parties (third party effect) only af ter registration. Moreover, the time of
registration (or the time of filing for registration in the Code Napoléon countries)
determines the rank among different rights. Other effects of registration may be the legal
presumption that registered rights really exist (and, conversely, that non-registered rights
do not exist) and, even further, the protecti on of good faith, i.e., that a bona fide
purchaser may rely on the content of the register (the so-called positive as opposed to a
negative system). The protection of good faith acquisition is dominant in countries with
constitutive registration whereas no such protection exists in the countries of the French
legal family. In the English system, registration in itself grants the right of disposition
irrespective of the good faith of the other party to the transaction. In addition, in some
countries, registration is merely declaratory for the transfer of ownership, but constitutive
for the creation of limited rights in land such as mortgages or easements (Italy, Poland
and Spain, only for mortgages).