Basics of Land Registration

The old system of retrieving manuscript Official Copies and other deeds and documents such as transfers, conveyance, agreement and deed of grant, legal charge etc. at HM Land Registry have now become redundant. As time has evolved and with the advancement of technology, like the rest of us, HM Land Registry has also adopted the new online system for accessing deeds and documents through their online portal.  For a small fee, the Land Registry will supply an Official  Copy of the title register for any registered property.  Anybody, including a prospective buyer or lender, can request an official copy of the register which allows them to check the ownership of any registered land. The documents are easily made available online and the turnaround for a request is prompt, with the PDF version title documents usually being downloadable instantly.

This updated practice is less time consuming than it used to be (the first incarnation of this required a postal application or telephone call to the Land Registry and them posting out the documents) and a more efficient and effective way to a more concise guide which can assist buyers  and lenders in making important decisions on purchasing/lending on a good and marketable property. 

The Land Registry keeps a register of all registered land, which is in turn indexed on a map. This register contains information on approximately 24 million properties.

Each registered property is allocated a unique title number.  In turn, each individual Title is contained within a register which includes three sections:

  • the ‘proprietorship register’, which contains ownership information; 

  • the ‘property register’, which contains a description of the property, linked to a map; and

  • the ‘charges register’, which contains details of any mortgages or charges affecting the property.

A property’s individual register may also show other information, such as whether there are any rights of way or restrictive covenants which affect the property.

In other words, the title register has details about the property or land in a PDF format which includes the following:

1) the title number

2) who owns it

3) what they paid for it (if available)

4) any rights of way

5) whether the property is ‘charged’ by a mortgage or other lending

You can also view or download a PDF format of the Title plan of the Property which is a map showing the property’s location and the general boundaries.  

Official Copy Entries, title plan and other Deeds and documents cost no more than £3 each which is a reasonable amount and also an effective way of getting information about registered properties and land in England and Wales. 

All of the above only applies to registered land in England and Wales and not unregistered land and properties.  You can establish whether a property is registered via a search of the Land Registry’s index map or via their ‘Map Search’ facility online. This will reveal whether land and properties are registered or unregistered. 

If land and properties are unregistered, in the absence of personal knowledge, it can be hard to find out who owns it.  There are no central records of ownership to search and no documents are recorded at HM Land Registry for unregistered land. In the event of Deeds being lost or destroyed, the information cannot be retrieved.  In contrast, for registered land there is a central, permanent, record which anyone can access online or by making a postal application where the forms are easily accessible online as well.

Compulsory Registration was gradually introduced in England and Wales with all of that area becoming compulsory by 1990.  The registration process is relatively straightforward and the Land Registry’s fees are based on the value of your property. 

If you believe your property not to be registered, it is worth considering registering it now. Not only is there a 25 per cent reduction for voluntary first registrations, but registering your property now could save you time and expense when you come to sell it and pre-empt issues in the future. Registration is also by far the best way possible of protecting your interest and ownership as well, as you would have the reassurance that all documents are securely stored and saved by HM Land Registry and also easily accessible online. Further, if property is registered you can take advantage of the Land Registry’s fraud alerts scheme which we discussed in our article.

If you own unregistered land, you should consider applying for voluntarily registration.  Prince Evans would be delighted to assist you with this, so if you have a query regarding Land Registration please do contact our Residential Conveyancing Team.