Land registration is now compulsory in the UK thus, if your property is currently unregistered, any change in ownership or mortgage will trigger a requirement for you (or any purchaser) to make an application to Land Registry to register the title.
Currently, it is estimated approximately 15% of properties in England and Wales are unregistered, meaning the Land Registry have no record of who the legal owners are, rights over the property, covenants or, any charges or restrictions affecting the property.
When is voluntary first registration possible?
Title to the following can be voluntarily registered (subject to some exceptions):
- Unregistered freehold
- Lease — more than seven years to run
- Rent charges
- Discontinuous leases
- Land covered by internal waters adjacent to England or Wales
Why should I register my property?
Once your property title is registered, Land Registry will have a record of your address to enable them to contact you should anyone make any application which effects your property or land which, is arguably the biggest benefit to having the title registered.
Other advantages of applying for voluntary registration
- It is more difficult for squatters to claim adverse possession of registered land, compared to unregistered land. Upon receipt of an application from a squatter to be registered as a new owner, the Land Registry will notify the registered owner of the squatters claim. The Land Registry also gives the owner of a registered title 65 business days to respond to the squatter’s application. If an application is rejected as a result of a counter notice being given by the registered owner, and if none of the three conditions set out in paragraph 5 of Schedule 6 of the Land Registration Act 2002 are met, the squatter will need to wait a further two years before resubmitting their application. During this time, the registered owner can take steps to evict the applicant. The three conditions set out in paragraph 5 of Schedule 6 of the Land Registration Act are:
1) It would be unconscionable because of an equity by estoppel for the paper owner to seek to dispossess the applicant and the circumstances are such that the applicant ought to be registered as the proprietor. The squatter will need to show that (a) the registered owner encouraged or allowed the squatter to believe that they owned the land, and (b) this caused the squatter to act to their detriment to the knowledge of the registered owner, such that it would be wrong for the registered owner to deny the squatter the rights which he believed he had
2) The squatter is for some other reason entitled to be registered as the proprietor
3) The squatter has been in adverse possession of land adjacent to their own for at least 10 years under the mistaken but reasonable belief that they are the owner of
- Registration of land will make title investigation easier for potential buyers and it can speed up the conveyancing process.
- Where title deeds are missing, registration can make a title more acceptable to a potential purchaser.
- If the title deeds are missing or have been destroyed, upon registration you may only be awarded possessory title (the lowest class of registered title) by Land Registry which, would mean third parties can make claims that they are the true owners of the property. This may prevent lenders offering a mortgage on the property until the ownership is upgraded (to title absolute) which, can take 12 years after date of first registration.
- Registered title provides a state-backed guarantee securing the title to the Property. This means that you are likely to be compensated if you are deprived of the title to your property because of an error or omission in the register.
- Reduced fees apply on voluntary application – the Land Registry fee is discounted for voluntary applications.
- Registration makes it easier to buy and sell a property as all the property title information necessary for conveyancing is held centrally by the Land Registry. As a result, it is easier to check who owns property and what benefits and burdens are attached to the land. If the land isn’t registered, the conveyancer has to spend time and money to obtain the deeds from the client or mortgage lender.
- You have absolute proof of ownership and a clear plan showing the extent of that ownership will be provided by the registry giving an accurate reflection of the extent of the land from the ground. Many unregistered properties either don’t have plans or have unclear questionable plans which are no longer land registry compliant.
- The Land Registry holds evidence of the title electronically, which mitigates the effect of losing or destroying an old deed.
- Registration prevents fraud which can occur from copying or withholding title deeds or from a person seeking to claim ownership of another person’s land.
- Registration will help simplify any subsequent transactions whether in your lifetime or by your executors and beneficiaries in the event of your death.
- Property can pass to the Crown if legal ownership cannot be established following the death of the legal owner – if a property is registered, this would be avoided.
- You would be able to sign up to the Land Registry “Property Alert Service” which would provide further protection against the risk of fraud and is of particular assistance, where you do not reside at the property.
What do I need to do to register my property?
Ideally, you need to hold the title documentation to evidence an unbroken chain of ownership for at least 15 years, which is usually evidenced through title deeds and documents. It is however still possible to make an application to register a property, where the title deeds have been lost or destroyed.