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Dig out your deeds – voluntary land registration makes sense

If you own some property or land but all you have to prove it is a pile of old and yellowing deeds, it is highly likely that it has never been registered.

Land and property bought and sold since 1990 is usually registered with the Land Registry, and the title stored electronically. But if you find that yours is not – possibly because it has never come up for sale in that time – then it could be worth taking action.

Although registration is voluntary, and involves some time and expense, it brings a number of benefits which could save you money and hassle in the future:

  • Registration makes your property easier to deal with. Any sale or re-mortgage will be simpler and quicker, particularly helpful where there is a lot of land in question or the title is complex. For example, when a farm has passed down through one family for generations with numerous different parcels of land bought and sold at different times. Identifying the full extent of land from the deeds can be a time consuming job and is best done without the pressure of a transaction;
  • Any buyer will insist on any problems relating to a title or deeds being sorted out before they sign on the dotted line. Dealing with these issues as part of a voluntary registration ahead of any sale means there is less to resolve at an already stressful and hectic time and so the process is speeded up;
  • Because resolution of title issues can involve someone with knowledge of the property giving a statutory declaration or Statement of Truth to the Land Registry, selling is much more straightforward if this has been dealt with, and resolved, during land registration. This is particularly so when the key person has died or is no longer capable of providing the relevant information;
  • Lost unregistered deeds cause real problems when buying and selling. Whilst there are ways round it – for example applying to the Land Registry for a registered title – it is time consuming, adds to your costs and is not a perfect solution because the Land Registry may not be willing to register your land with the best class of title available. Where your property is registered first, the paper deeds are no longer relevant and the risks associated with losing them are vastly reduced;
  • If your land is registered you are better protected against someone claiming ownership solely because they have occupied it for a number of years.
  • For registered land, (where the occupier’s right to be registered was not acquired before 13 October 2003) the occupier is entitled to apply for the land to be registered in their name after ten years but critically the rules applying to that application are more favourable for the registered owner of the land who has more scope to defeat the application.

For further information please contact Heather Jones, Head of Commercial team.

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