Legal advice: To register or not to register land?
Barnard Castle-based legal specialists Tilly Bailey & Irvine explain how to register your land
To register or not to register
HM Land Registry keep a record of all registered properties in England and Wales which includes information about the current legal owner of the property together with all benefits, burdens and charges to which the property is subject. It is now compulsory to register property following the occurrence of certain events, the most common of which being transfers of properties and grants of leases for a term in excess of 7 years. Around 85% of properties are currently registered, meaning that 15% of properties are still unregistered. Many people will not be aware that their property is unregistered, or of the importance of keeping their title deeds safe. A lot of agricultural land is currently unregistered as the land will have been owned by the same people for many years without any transfers triggering a compulsory registration.
As a result of this, there is still a large amount of unregistered land in Teesdale.
Being able to successfully register title to a property is dependent upon producing satisfactory title deeds (Conveyances, Assents, Legal Mortgages etc.), also known as a 'good root of title'. A good root of title requires you to have title deeds which are at least 15 years old and which show evidence of current and (if applicable) previous ownership of the property, together with the covenants affecting the property and evidence that any previous mortgages have been redeemed. If you are the owner of any unregistered land, it is imperative that the title deeds are kept safe, as a loss of title deeds could result in difficulties proving ownership.
What are the risks of owning unregistered land?
There is no central register of unregistered land, and it can therefore be extremely difficult to discover who owns a piece of land or prove ownership of it. As legal title to unregistered property is evidenced by way of paper title deeds, the main risk of unregistered land is the possibility of the loss, theft or destruction of the deeds.
Another risk is the possibility of a third party claiming title to your land through adverse possession, commonly known as “Squatter’s rights”. If an application is made to register title to a piece of land based on adverse possession, the Land Registry will make contact with the registered owner of the land to give the legal owner the opportunity to object to such an application and to remove the applicant from the property. If the title to the property is not registered, then the Land Registry will not usually have details of the owner of the land and no notification of the application can therefore be given.
Do I have to register my land?
Unless the property is subject to one of the trigger events there is no requirement for the property to be registered. However, registering the property reduces the risk of an application being made in respect of the property without your knowledge and removes the requirement to produce paper title deeds on a dealing as everything is recorded electronically. As unregistered land is not very common these days, some purchasers will insist that it is registered before they will complete the purchase which can lead to a delay if you are selling the property. It is possible to voluntarily apply to the Land Registry to register your property which will be beneficial in any future dealing with the property as well as providing the benefits mentioned. Once you have a registered title you can also ask the Land Registry to let you know if anyone makes any applications in respect if the Property which can help protect against property fraud.
What happens if my title deeds have been lost or destroyed?
If you find yourself in a position where either some or all of the title deeds have been lost or destroyed, then it is possible to make an application to register the title on this basis. However, the application is not guaranteed to be successful and the registered title is likely to be qualified to reflect the fact that the Land Registry has not seen all or any of the title documents.
How do I go about registering my land?
You can voluntarily apply to register land at the Land Registry, and voluntary applications (that is, not as a result of a trigger event which make registration compulsory) will attract a 25% discount in respect of the Land Registry application fee.
We at Tilly Bailey & Irvine have a wealth of experience in dealing with such applications, and if you find that the title to your property is not registered, please contact our Teesside solicitors on 01833 638326 and we can advise and assist you with your application.