If a property isn’t ‘registered’ you could be in for a nasty surprise!

Unregistered properties

The vast majority of UK property is ‘registered’.

This means that ownership is officially recorded at the Land Registry in London and guaranteed by the State. But on rare occasions it may turn out that a property only has ‘unregistered title’.

This occasionally arises where a house hasn’t changed hands for the last 40 years or more, and means there may be little satisfactory record of ownership. So how can you buy such a property in confidence? The answer is, your solicitor has to turn detective and carry out additional legal work to prove ownership or ‘title’ by searching through old records.

In practice, this involves delving through a bundle of old title deeds known as an ‘Epitome of Title’ to prove a continuous link in ownership going back at least 15 years.

Conveyances of earlier sales provide evidence of past changes of ownership, which in the case of some period properties could span several centuries.

It should also unearth details of old mortgages and may show the result of any land charge searches made against previous sellers. References to ancient dust-encrusted deeds may provide further clues to how and when old legal obligations (such as hidden rights of way) were originally brought into being, and will need to be carefully checked.

Hunting through elderly documents may also unearth old plans, which are sometimes of dubious accuracy.

Needless to say, all this burrowing around through a lot of crumbling old papers can add considerably to the time and expense involved in the conveyancing process, which is why when you get a conveyancing quote it is assumed the property is registered.

Some key additional records are kept at the Land Charges Department based in Plymouth. These include details of the following charges and interests:

*           ‘Second charge’ mortgages or loans secured against it.

*           The dates when any restrictive covenants were first registered against the property.

*           Matrimonial claims or notices of a spouse’s right to occupy the property (usually registered where divorce proceedings are anticipated).

Crucially, some of the above information is registered against people’s names, rather than against the address of the property as you might imagine.

So when your solicitor makes the final pre-completion searches they search against the names of people contained in the title as well as against the sellers’ names.

With unregistered properties, there is one important additional check that’s required. This is the search of the Index Map, the only check that needs to be made with the Land Registry. This is to ensure that no one has beaten you to it and already registered the title to any part of the land (it also reveals any ‘cautions’ where the land has been registered without a formal reference to them).

Here you can search the Land Registry and download Title Deeds from just £3.00

Our next blog – coming soon …….

What exactly is a ‘registered property’?


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