‘If your property is not registered, this should have little or no impact on you on a day-to-day basis. However, it could put you at a disadvantage, says Laura Dagnall, Paralegal in the residential property/ conveyancing team with QualitySolicitors Parkinson Wright.
If you have the papers from your original acquisition, these should indicate whether the title to your property is registered. ‘Title’ is the term we use to describe ownership of a property, and the rights which attach to it. If you purchased your property after 1990, then it should be registered, but it is possible the correct formalities were not carried out and so it is always a good idea to check.
Our conveyancers can do this for you, or you can ask HM Land Registry to search the index map which will reveal if it is registered.
Laura highlights several reasons why you should consider applying for the registration of your property if it has never been registered with HM Land Registry.
Easier to prove ownership
Any prospective buyer of your property can quickly and easily check proof of ownership with an official copy of the register, which their solicitor can obtain from HM Land Registry which has examined the title deeds and verified the owner.
In contrast, with a property that has not been registered, you must prove your ownership to the seller. This will usually involve showing a chain of title deeds. As well as being more complicated, this is also inherently risky. Paper deeds can easily become lost or, worse, destroyed. Sometimes a bank or conveyancer will store your deeds for you, which is better than keeping them at home but problems may still arise. For example, following a fire at a national storage facility, one building society lost over 100,000 deeds in a single night.
If you lose your original deeds, you may be able to recreate evidence of your title. However, this is not easy and may not always satisfy a prospective buyer.
With a registered title, you no longer need worry about storage or the possibility of losing your deeds. Proof of ownership is only ever a click away.
Investigating title is simpler and quicker
As ownership of a registered property is clearly set out in HM Land Registry’s record, it is simpler and quicker to check the plan showing the property’s physical extent. A separate part of the register also details most of the relevant interests affecting it which would be of interest to a purchaser.
For a property that has not been registered, a conveyancer will need to trace ownership through a chain of conveyances. They will also have to check those deeds for interests, such as charges or restrictions, which could affect the property. This can be complicated, particularly if your property has not changed hands for many years or once formed part of a large estate.
A state-backed guarantee of title
Registered properties benefit from a class of title. The best, and most common, is ‘title absolute’ which shows that HM Land Registry considers the title is generally acceptable to buyers. Registration also carries a state-guarantee, which means that if there is an error in the register, HM Land Registry will compensate someone who suffers loss as a result. This gives reassurance to a prospective buyer, who can accept the title with impunity and rely on a well-defined process for making a claim if required.
Conveyancing is quicker and more straightforward
In theory, if your title deeds are in order, conveyancing should not be problematical. However, in practice, problems occur more frequently with unregistered properties for several reasons. For example, a deed may be missing, or it may be hard to prove the release of a mortgage. Registration reduces these risks, as the register shows clearly who the owner is, and which rights or charges affect the property. This makes conveyancing simpler and quicker.
If you plan to sell your property at some point in the future, applying for registration now could make good sense.
Third parties may prefer registered land
If your property is registered, you may find it easier to remortgage or to enter into other agreements, for example the so-called ‘rent a roof’ scheme for solar panels. Companies will find it easier to check your title, to confirm they are dealing with the right person, and to get a quick overview of your property.
In contrast, having to obtain your title deeds and then prove your title is likely to be a longer, more complicated process.
Large organisations often prepare their standard documents and procedures for registered land. So, an unregistered title could make it harder to benefit from certain arrangements and offers.
Protection against adverse possession
Adverse possession is where a person with no documentary title to land can displace the legal owner by virtue of their occupation. The rules surrounding adverse possession are complex and, most significantly, the law treats adverse possession of registered and unregistered land very differently. Generally, it is much harder for a squatter to displace the title of an owner of registered land.
In either case, a squatter must show a sufficient period of adverse possession. However, with a registered property, HM Land Registry will notify the registered owner, which gives them the opportunity to object and take steps to evict them promptly.
Many adverse claims are for small strips of neglected garden or waste land. However, one of the most famous cases involved 25 hectares of farmland, so the commercial value can be significant.
Protection against fraud
You can apply for the entry of a restriction against your registered title at HM Land Registry, which can be especially useful if your property is empty or you do not have day-to-day control over it.
For example, a restriction can require satisfaction of an extra condition before the Land Registry will record a change of ownership. Typically, this will require a conveyancer to certify they are satisfied you are the person executing the transfer deed.
With a registered property, you can also sign up for an alert if someone applies to change the register, for example if they try to use your property fraudulently for a mortgage.
There is no equivalent protection for unregistered land, where possession of the deeds can be taken as proof of ownership.
How we can help
Our conveyancers have extensive experience of dealing with both registered and unregistered land. If your property is unregistered, we can apply to HM Land Registry to register it on your behalf. Then you will have all the advantages of being a registered owner, which will also stand you in good stead if you do come to sell.
For further information, please contact Laura Dagnall or a member of the residential property team on 01905 721600 or via email firstname.lastname@example.org
This article is for general information only and does not constitute legal or professional advice. Please note that the law may have changed since this article was published.