The amount of unclaimed or unregistered land (this refers to land, buildings or both) in the UK has rapidly decreased, and according to HM Land Registry more than 85% is now registered. Our commercial property specialist Ian Naylor looks at why it is important to register your home and property.
Ian says: “One of the key reasons to register your land is so that everyone can see who owns it which is key when someone is looking to buy it or wishes to acquire a right over it such as installing a pipe or cable for the supply of services or as a right of way.
“We often come across farmland which has been owned by one family for generations. Often the legal title to the land is unregistered but for many, the land they own is the most valuable thing they will ever have so registration provides important clarity over who owns what.”
What is registration?
The compulsory registration of land with HM Land Registry became a requirement under the Land Registration Act 1925, and later the Land Registration Act 2002.
In England and Wales all land is owned by somebody even if the legal owner can’t be identified. For example, if a person dies without a Will or blood relatives, their land or property can pass to the Crown by law (referred to as Bona Vacantia).
HM Land Registry now has over 25 million registered titles (records of land and property ownership) in England and Wales. Land registration confers benefits and safeguards to property owners and you can take advantage of these by applying voluntarily to have your title registered.
You need your deeds to ‘prove’ your title so if these are lost or incomplete in any way then this can cause difficulties, delays and expense. Registration simplifies this and provides you with certainty and security.
The main benefits of registering your land/property include:
- Protection against property fraud as the Land Registry requires confirmation of identity before registering a transfer of property.
- If you wish to sell your land registering it makes it more marketable as buyers often expect land to be registered before proceeding.
- The amount of land that you own is clearly defined on a Title Plan giving a clear record of who owns and is responsible for verges, for example, which can cause problems in terms of upkeep responsibility, public liability or are sometimes vital to development.
- Your title to the land is held in one place by the Land Registry so you do not need to worry about your deeds being lost or destroyed.
- It is harder for others to claim your land as their own i.e. squatters or neighbours moving their boundaries.
- The legal costs when dealing with unregistered titles can be greater as these are more complex and time consuming to review.
- There is currently a 25% discount for voluntary first registrations.
What’s the difference between unregistered and unclaimed land?
- Unregistered land is likely to be a building, land, or both, that, despite being legally owned has not been bought, sold or had any other transactions for a long time so is not registered with HM Land Registry. The legal owner should have documents, referred to as Title Deeds which prove how the land came to belong to them. To register the land an application can be made to the Land Registry with these Title Deeds.
- Registered land is land that has been registered at HM Land Registry. The Land Registry check the ownership and title to the land by checking the historic title deeds when it is first registered or recorded with them. Once registered, each parcel of land will have its own unique title, reference and plan.
What if I’ve lost the deeds to my land?
You may still be able to register your ownership by producing statements (called Statutory Declarations) concerning your ownership. The Land Registry can then provide you with the Possessory Title if they are satisfied with the evidence you have provided. After 12 years you can apply for Absolute Title which means that your ownership is guaranteed by the Land Registry.
Once registered, if your title deeds are lost or destroyed it’s alright as the Land Registry title deeds are stored on computer so there is no possibility of any future problems with lost title deeds.
How do I claim land that is unclaimed?
You can check with the Land Registry if land has been registered or not.
Just because a plot of land looks abandoned does not mean someone does not own it. There can be legal consequences for anyone who simply occupies an abandoned plot of land or property, but to claim unregistered land a person must first take possession of it by occupying it – known as adverse possession. The adverse possession period is 10 years for registered land and 12 years for unregistered land
How can Bowcock & Pursaill help?
You can instruct us to apply to HM Land Registry for the registration of your title and we can also help in providing more information about a piece of land you may be interested in to avoid any unnecessary disputes.