Seven reasons to register your property

Nearly 10 per cent of land in England and Wales has never been registered at HM Land Registry, usually because the owner bought the property a long time ago or inherited it.

If your property is not registered, this should have little or no impact on you on a day-to-day basis. However, it could put you at a disadvantage in the future, for example if you decide to sell or remortgage, and it also increases the risk of fraud or adverse possession.

If you have the papers from your original acquisition, these should indicate whether the title to your property is registered.  We use the term ‘Title’ to describe ownership of a property, and the rights which attach to it. If you purchased your property after 1990, then it should be registered, but it is possible the correct formalities were not carried out and so it is always a good idea to check.  If your property is registered then it will have been given a unique title number by the Land Registry.

Our residential property team can check for you to confirm if your property is registered.

Nicola Cawthorne highlights several reasons why you should consider applying for the registration of your property if it has never been registered with HM Land Registry.

Easier to prove ownership

Any prospective buyer of your property can quickly and easily check proof of ownership with an official copy of the register, which their solicitor can obtain from the Land Registry which has examined the title deeds and verified the owner.

In contrast, with a property that has not been registered, you must prove your ownership to the buyer. This will usually involve showing a chain of title deeds. As well as being more complicated, this is also inherently risky. Paper deeds can easily become lost or, worse, destroyed. Sometimes a bank or solicitor will store your deeds for you, which is better than keeping them at home but problems may still arise. For example, following a fire at a national storage facility, one building society lost over 100,000 deeds in a single night.

If you lose your original deeds, you may be able to recreate evidence of your title. However, this is not easy and may not always satisfy a prospective buyer.  In these circumstances a buyer is likely to request that you apply to register the property before you can exchange and/or complete and this is likely to cause delays with the progression of any sale as well as increasing the legal costs involved with your sale.

With a registered title, you no longer need worry about storage or the possibility of losing your deeds. Proof of ownership is only ever a click away.

Investigating title is simpler and quicker

As ownership of a registered property is clearly set out in the Land Registry’s record, it is simpler and quicker to check the plan showing the property’s physical extent. A separate part of the register also details most of the relevant interests affecting it which would be of interest to a purchaser.

For a property that has not been registered, a solicitor will need to trace ownership through a chain of conveyances. They will also have to check those deeds for interests, such as charges or restrictions, which could affect the property. This can be complicated, particularly if your property has not changed hands for many years or once formed part of a large estate.

A state-backed guarantee of title

Registered properties benefit from a class of title. The best, and most common, is ‘title absolute’ which shows that Land Registry considers the title is generally acceptable to buyers. Registration also carries a state-guarantee, which means that if there is an error in the register, the Land Registry will compensate someone who suffers loss as a result. This gives reassurance to a prospective buyer, who can accept the title with impunity and rely on a well-defined process for making a claim if required.

Conveyancing is quicker and more straightforward

In theory, if your title deeds are in order, conveyancing should not be problematical. However, in practice, problems occur more frequently with unregistered properties for several reasons. For example, a deed may be missing, any plan from the title deeds showing the property may not be Land Registry compliant or clear due to the age of the conveyance within which it is contained or, it may be hard to prove the release of a mortgage.

Registration reduces these risks, as the register shows clearly who the owner is, and which rights or charges affect the property. This makes conveyancing simpler and quicker.

If you plan to sell your property at some point in the future or you wish to get all matters in relation to your property in order, applying for registration now could make good sense.

Third parties may prefer registered land

If your property is registered, you may find it easier to remortgage or to enter into other agreements, for example the so-called ‘rent a roof’ scheme for solar panels.  Companies will find it easier to check your title, to confirm they are dealing with the right person, and to get a quick overview of your property.

In contrast, having to obtain your title deeds and then prove your title is likely to be a longer, more complicated process.

Large organisations often prepare their standard documents and procedures for registered land. So, an unregistered title could make it harder to benefit from certain arrangements and offers (for example, if you were thinking about an equity release scheme).

Protection against adverse possession

Adverse possession is where a person with no documentary title to land can displace the legal owner by virtue of their occupation. The rules surrounding adverse possession are complex and, most significantly, the law treats adverse possession of registered and unregistered land very differently. Generally, it is much harder for a squatter to displace the title of an owner of registered land.

In either case, a squatter must show a sufficient period of adverse possession. However, with a registered property, the Land Registry will notify the registered owner, which gives them the opportunity to object and take steps to evict the squatter promptly.

Many adverse claims are for small strips of neglected garden or waste land. However, one of the most famous cases involved 25 hectares of farmland, so the commercial value can be significant.

Protection against fraud

You can apply for the entry of a restriction against your registered title at the Land Registry, which can be especially useful if your property is empty or you do not have day-to-day control over it.

For example, a restriction can require satisfaction of an extra condition before the Land Registry will record a change of ownership. Typically, this will require a conveyancer to certify they are satisfied you are the person executing the transfer deed.

With a registered property, you can also sign up for an alert if someone applies to change the register, for example if they try to use your property fraudulently for a mortgage.

There is no equivalent protection for unregistered land.

How we can help

Our solicitors have extensive experience of dealing with both registered and unregistered land.  If your property is unregistered, we can apply to the Land Registry to register it on your behalf. Then you will have all the advantages of being a registered owner, which will also stand you in good stead if you do come to sell.

For further information, please contact us.

Nicola Cawthorne is a property executive in the property team at Barker Gotelee Solicitors.

Property Solicitors Ipswich – for more information on our range of legal services, please call the team on 01473 611211 or email

This article is for general information only and does not constitute legal or professional advice. Please note that the law may have changed since this article was published.