What is land registration?
The Land Registry are the institution that record all registered property covering England and Wales. They record the legal owners, any mortgages that are secured against the property and any covenants or restrictions over the property.
Compulsory registration was first implemented in 1926, and was introduced in stages throughout the country, the majority occurring between 1960-1980, whereby if an event that triggers first registration occurs, i.e. a house purchase, new mortgage etc then the property is required to be registered with the Land Registry. If however, none of these events happen to a property they can remain unregistered.
Where a property remains unregistered then the original deeds are required to be able to identify a ‘good route of title’ i.e. showing a line of legal ownership. Sometimes this proves difficult if certain documents are missing, and also, where the deed plans are not accurate enough to identify the property and its boundary. In these cases an application would need to be made to the land registry explaining the issues surrounding the case and providing evidence in the form of statutory declaration as evidence to back up the claim of ownership- this can be a lengthy process
If someone has used unregistered property without objection from, permission of, or payment to the true owner for an uninterrupted 12 years or more, then they can claim Adverse Possession (also known as ‘Squatter’s Rights) over the whole, or part of the property. Without knowing who the registered owner is, the Land Registry cannot inform them if an application for Adverse Possession is received, leaving the property open to fraudulent claims.
Unregistered property – what can you do to safeguard yourself
An unregistered property can be more open to action by fraudsters than registered property as there is no clear record of who owns it. That’s when the Land Registry’s Property Alert service (https://propertyalert.landregistry.gov.uk/) comes in handy as it provides a layer of security by alerting owners to activity taken against the property.
Whilst compulsory registration only becomes necessary when a triggering event occurs, you are able to apply to the Land Registry for voluntary registration at any point.
If you are thinking of selling, charging or transferring your unregistered property soon then we would suggest that you look to get the property registered as soon as possible so as to avoid any future delays.
If you require any advice with unregistered land, or would like to voluntarily register your property, then please do contact us and we would be happy to help.
Alex is a Solicitor of 14 years’ experience, specialising in Conveyancing, who has been with Alfred Newton since 2019.