The Land Registry have, over the last several years, attempted to increase the number of applications being made by land owners to voluntarily register their land holdings at the Registry. But why? First, some background.
In England and Wales we have two land systems – registered land and unregistered land. Registered land is where land and ownership of it is recorded on the Land Register. Once a property is registered, the title is “guaranteed” by the Land Registry. The Register is open to public inspection. If land is unregistered it has yet to be recorded at the Land Registry, because it has not been the subject of any transaction which has triggered an application for compulsory registration, and as such evidence of a person’s title is through their title “deeds”.
Despite the introduction of compulsory registration, and the increase of land which is registered, approximately some 15% of England and Wales is still unregistered land.
So why are the Land Registry keen to push voluntary registrations? What advantages does it have over unregistered land?
- Security of title. Once title is registered by the Land Registry it is “guaranteed” by them as being a secure title.
- If title deeds to unregistered land are lost, an owner’s proof of ownership is lost and only a lower class of title can be granted in that situation. Once land is registered, it is the entry on the Register that is an owner’s proof of title and if documents relating to a registered title are lost, copies can be obtained easily from the Land Registry.
- This is particularly helpful if you own land but do not visit it frequently, for example woodland, or land in another county etc. Unregistered land that is capable of being accessed is at risk of being occupied by “squatters” who may subsequently try to make a claim of ownership, known as “adverse possession.” If land is unregistered, then any person making such a claim may be registered as an owner if they can satisfy the Land Registry of certain criteria (which they may try to do fraudulently). With registered land the application is not so straightforward, and can be stopped by the registered proprietor even if the registered proprietor has given up possession. In short, it is much more difficult for a squatter to claim possession of registered land.
- Once a title is registered, any onward sale or other transaction is made much more straightforward.
There are undoubtedly situations where it will be advisable to apply for voluntary registration of land and if you have any unregistered land holdings and would like to discuss possibility of getting them registered, please do get in touch.