Registering land – why should I bother?


By Sam Read

What is ‘registered’ land?

Until 1926 and the introduction of the Land Registration Act, all land in England and Wales was unregistered and titles comprised long lists of conveyances, assents, deeds and other documents. Since then, however, it has become possible to show title by the production of a single document known as a ‘register of title’.

When one refers to property as being ‘registered’, it simply means that the documents relating to a property are contained within the one document and can be accessed easily from anywhere for a small fee and so eradicating the need to hunt high and low for deeds and conveyances that often cannot be found.

Registers are far more concise than their unregistered counterparts, known as epitomes, and so the introduction of the 1925 Act gradually implemented a compulsory requirement for registration which, as of 1998, is now a prerequisite for any transfer of land. As a result, recent figures suggest that as much as 85-90% of the land in England and Wales is now registered.

This is one reason why property lawyers are particularly fond of registering properties if they are not already registered.

Why bother registering?

Notwithstanding the higher legal fees associated with transfers of unregistered property, being the proprietor of unregistered land does not offer the same guarantee of title which is available with registered land. Having the peace of mind that the validity of your title is clearly illustrated by one document and under one title number is encouraging more and more landowners to register their titles voluntarily and without delay.

Adverse possession is the term used to describe cases where a squatter (in some circumstances a person who has no rights whatsoever to be on a piece of land) can make an application to be registered as the possessory owner of a piece of land if they can prove that they have been in ‘exclusive possession’ of it for a period of twelve years; doing so defeats a person who only has title to the land by written deed. Admittedly this is of more concern to landlords of larger estates but the issue is still very real for house owners with gardens or fences where the neighbours cannot agree on boundaries.

If land is registered, however, any application for adverse possession will be referred to the registered owner by the Land Registry. The owner then has the opportunity to object and take steps to expel the squatter from their land.

How do I know if my land is registered?

It is likely that, if you are unsure as to whether or not your land is registered, it is not. If you are in any doubt, contact the Land Registry or check with a solicitor.

If you have any concerns and wish to find out more about the nature of your land, our experienced property team can help.

Sam Read is a paralegal in the Property Team at Barker Gotelee, Suffolk solicitors.

Property Solicitors – for more information on our range of legal services, please call the team on 01473 611211 or email bg@barkergotelee.co.uk