Why Register Your Land?
WHY REGISTER YOUR LAND? by David Thorp
For those who have had “unregistered land” for many years, there may seem to be little, if any, point in registering title to it. However, there are a number potential problems which can arise in future, especially if a sale or mortgage/re-mortgage is in prospect.
“Unregistered land” is land title to which has not been registered with the Land Registry. In farming circles, this is often the case when land has been in the same family for several generations, or perhaps when farmland has been “traded” without the arrangement being documented.
In these cases, the landowner has to produce “traditional”, unregistered title documents to prove their title. This can cause problems if title documents have been accidentally destroyed or mislaid.
Once title to land has been registered, each parcel of land is given its own unique title number and title plan and this information is stored electronically by the Registry. The traditional/unregistered documents may then become obsolete (although they can retain relevance).
Since 1990, it has been compulsory when buying or mortgaging “unregistered” land for title to the land to be registered. Of course, in the farming world, many land transactions may predate this requirement.
The advantages of registered title includes:
Protection against loss of title documents:
It is not uncommon for unregistered title documents to be lost or destroyed. If this happens it becomes more difficult to demonstrate evidence of title without going through an often painstaking process of gathering other evidence of title. A statutory declaration will usually have to be made, to explain how the deeds became lost or destroyed.
Achieving a quicker property sale:
In the case of a sale necessary reference to traditional, often old and lengthy, title documents may complicate and/or delay the drafting of contracts and slow down the conveyancing process. If, before that process starts, there is a voluntary application for registration of title made to the Land Registry, the increased time and cost of reviewing and interpreting old deeds can be mitigated.
Reducing the risk of fraud
Registered title offers better protection against potential property fraud. For example, fraudsters may attempt to assume a landowner’s identity and sell or mortgage a property without the landowner’s knowledge.
It also affords better protection against acquisition of title by “Adverse Possession”, i.e. Claims for “squatter’s rights” where a third-party may attempt to acquire title by reference to occupation of land, without the documentary title owner’s knowledge or consent, over a period of time.
Once the title is registered, the Land Registry will notify the registered title owner if a third party tries to register a competing title in this way.
Registration of title may also provide an opportunity to avoid disputes and resolve any issues, for example about rights of way, or encroachments, with neighbouring owners.
Or, there may have been land “swaps”, or longstanding sporting rights, which may not have been fully or properly documented.
Often it may be the older generation of farming families who were managing the land when these informal agreements were made, so it’s usually a good idea to resolve any potential problems before relevant knowledge is lost.
These examples provide an insight as to how potential problems and issues can be addressed and, all being well, resolved by an application for registration of title, leaving a “clear” title for future owners.
The process of applying for registration of title can be relatively straightforward and, on the basis that the Land Registry also offers a reduction in fees for voluntary first registration applications, the cost is relatively modest and, if it does avoid potential disputes, is usually money well spent.
For help with applications for registration of title, please contact Bowcock Cuerden LLP on 01270 611106 or email firstname.lastname@example.org