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Title and Land Registry

Title is the legal word for ownership in the UK. When buying a property, you have to establish that the title of the property actually belongs to the person you are buying it from. Of course, this should be established by your solicitor during the initial searches, when making a property purchase. Likewise, when you are selling your property, your buyer will have to establish whether you truly hold the title to the property you are selling.

The 1925 Land Registration act is responsible for creating the Land Registry. Even with the Land Registry in existence, not all property in the UK is registered. Indeed, land registration in Scotland only began in 1980. There are still areas in the UK where land registration is not compulsory. Only about 85% of property in England, Wales and Scotland is registered. Less is known about property ownership today than when the second doomsday book was compiled back in 1872.


Registered Property

To prove that you are indeed the owner of your property, your local Land registry will issue you with a land certificate. This certificate is evidence of your title, showing all the details on the land register in respect of your property.

The land certificate comes in the form of a 3 part booklet:

  • Section A contains a brief description of the property and any rights enjoyed own owning it
  • Section B is a record of ownership and changes in ownership
  • Section C is a record of any covenants affecting the property and any rights and mortgages granted on it

If you are buying a registered property, the sellers solicitor will send your solicitor copies of the entry of the land register, along with a plan of the property as well as any other entries relating to the property made on the register. Your solicitor will be given the authority to examine the register. It is important for your solicitor to look for any entries made in the register since the date the sellers copies were issued.

Your seller is likely to have a mortgage on the property. This will invariably show up in the land registry. What your seller may not tell you is that he has large gambling debts and has offered the house he is selling you as security for a loan to pay off his debts. If your solicitor uncovers something like this then you can ensure this loan has been discharged from this property before completion.


Unregistered Property

If you are buying an unregistered property, there is a lot more work for your solicitor to do in proving the title of the property. Ownership of the property in this case will be evidenced by the title deeds. Your solicitor will have to check title deeds to the property going back to over at least fifteen years. If the property has changed ownership over that time, your solicitor will have to ensure that the title to the property was properly transferred on each occasion.

In addition to checking for correct title, your solicitor should also be checking that no particulars of the property have been altered with regard to right of way, boundaries, mortgages, covenants etc. In addition to checking for alterations to these particulars, your solicitor will be checking if any of these details have been neglected during previous transfer of titles.


Leasehold Property

In the case of a leasehold property, your solicitor has to establish that the landlord has the right to lease the property to you. If you are looking for a lease from the direct landlord, your solicitor will have to establish that the landlord is indeed the title holder to the property. Where the property is being sub-let to you, the head lease will have to be checked out.


Further reading

Who Owns Britain (by Kevin Kahill)
This is a lengthy book packed with facts and figures about land ownership in the UK broken down by county, family and title. An very informative book for those interested in the overall picture of Land ownership in the UK.

Land Registry
Government web site of the UK Land Registry

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