Unregistered Property Titles - What to do?
Part two of our Conveyancing Week Blog posts by Peyton Hughes Hewer
Since 1925, there has been registration of new properties in England and Wales. In 1990 however compulsory registration was triggered by the transfer of any land. Many properties have fallen through the gaps and remain unregistered due to the property not being sold since 1990 or if a mortgage has not been required. This is why sometimes selling a property can become complicated.
At Marlborough Law we are currently working through what should have been a straightforward case of selling a property, which has now become a more complicated matter of proving that the property is our client’s to sell before we can start the selling process. It has been aided by the fact the owner kept the old files safe, however, sometimes documents can get lost, which can complicate the matter even further.
When selling unregistered land, the conveyancer must create an Epitome of Title. This is a bundle of the documents from the root of title. The root of title is a conveyance deed; it must be dated back more than 15 years ago, have a clear plan attached to outline the property, and contain all the easements and benefits of the land. The other documents following this conveyance deed such as any land charges or other conveyance deeds, will then go into the Epitome of title in order to prove that the land is yours to sell.
Land which is unregistered usually occurs when a sole owner has died, and it is then left to the executors to find the documents to sell the property on. This is extra work which can be avoided if the is land was registered.
How to check if your property is registered with the Land Registry
If you have not taken out a mortgage or if you bought your house before 1990, it is a good idea to check to see if your property is registered. First you should check to see if your property is registered with The Land Registry. You can do this by looking at your title deeds; if your property has a title number, your property has been correctly registered.
If you do not have a title number, or the Epitome of Title, it is likely that your property is unregistered. If you discover that your property is not registered you are under no obligation legally to register it, as registration is only triggered by certain events such as the sale or a mortgage. However, you can voluntarily register your land if you wish.
What are the advantages of registering your property?
There are many advantages to registering your land; security of title; giving you greater protection over any adverse possession claims; a clear outline of the property boundary; and a clear picture of any benefits or easements you may have on your land. The main benefit is when you either decide to transfer the property or when, upon your death executors sell the property. Because then the conveyancer can see all the details on the online register, and it is a smoother transition for all parties.
If you are selling unregistered land then there are extra steps your conveyancer must go through to ensure you can sell, which adds to your costs. If you happen to be buying the unregistered land, you will have to complete the first registration which, again, adds time to the process and is an extra step your conveyancer must complete.
Do I have to Register my Property with the UK Land Registry?
Even though you do not legally have to register your property unless it has been triggered to be registered, it can be an advantage to have it registered to ensure that your land is protected, you are aware of any benefits or easements on the land, and it can have smooth sale when you decide to sell.