March 31, 2023

Voluntary first registration of unregistered land

Legal assistant within Holmes & Hills conveyancing team, Alexandra Perrin, takes a look at Voluntary First Registrations, and why you might want to consider this.

Historically, all land in England and Wales used to be unregistered. In 1925 a compulsory first registration scheme was introduced and over time was gradually phased in, until in 1990, in most cases the transfer of any property or land was a trigger for compulsory first registration. The passing of the Land Registration Act 2002 has resulted in there being more triggers for compulsory first registration.

Under current law, until a property is sold, transferred, leased or a mortgage is required, it is not compulsory for registration to take place. If any one of these events takes place, it will trigger the requirement for land or property to be registered. As a result, many proprietors choose to voluntarily register their property instead of waiting for these events to take place and therefore delay matters.

Over 85% of land in England and Wales is now registered at HM Land Registry.

Land Registry is aiming to achieve full registration by 2030 and therefore offering an incentive for voluntary registration.

The benefits of voluntary first registration

  1. Security
    Unregistered land is at a higher risk of fraud. Fraudsters can assume your identity and attempt to sell or mortgage your property without your knowledge. Registration helps you to protect your property from fraud and resist any third-party applications for adverse possession, commonly referred to as “squatter's rights”.
  2. Evidence of ownership
    Registration makes it easier to buy and sell property as all the title information necessary for conveyancing will be held at Land Registery, which is available online for everyone to see. Land Registry will collate all the relevant information that they need from the historic deeds and will then recite only the relevant information within three registers, which form part of the registered title.
  3. Reduced future costs
    The cost of first registration depends on the value of your property. There is a 25% reduction for voluntary first registrations. A voluntary first registration is when you choose to register your property rather than having to because, for example, you are selling it or taking out a mortgage on it.
  4. Clarity
    Registration makes it easier for conveyancers to ascertain who owns the property and what benefits and burdens are attached to the land. If land is unregistered, the conveyancer has to review the original deeds. Deeds can be lengthy hand-written documents, which can be difficult to read and interpret. Reviewing the deeds can increase the time the transaction takes to complete because the conveyancer will need to wait for the deeds, check the chain of ownership is correct and then draft the contract.
  5. Certainty
    In addition to the registered title to the property, Land Registry will also provide a title plan which provides evidence of the extent of the property. This makes it easier for a buyer to identify the boundaries of the property and check that their understanding of the extent of the property is the same as shown on the title plan. Registration also provides a state-backed guarantee securing the title to the property, meaning that the state guarantees that the legal estate is vested in the registered owner.

How does voluntary first registration work?

It will require all the original title deeds and documents, including a scale plan of the property to conduct a thorough review prior to registration with Land Registry. If you have misplaced or lost your title deeds, you would need to firstly proceed with a reconstruction of the title before it can be registered. This is something an experienced property solicitor can help with.

Enquiries will need to be made with Land Registry and to submit the application for registration. Generally, if there has not been a sale, transfer, lease, or mortgage of the property since 1990 then it is likely that the property is unregistered. If you are unsure whether the property is registered, we can easily check this for you.

Once the property is registered, the title should be reviewed to ensure all necessary rights, easements or otherwise are recorded on the registered title accurately and then provide the title documents given by Land Registry for your records.

Further Advantages of Voluntary First Registration

  • Documented proof of ownership with a plan displaying your registered property boundaries which will reduce future boundary disputes;
  • Discounted Land Registry fee for voluntary first registration;
  • Protection against possible fraud;
  • Documents stored electronically at Land Registry;
  • Showing the general extent of the land in each title by means of a title plan;
  • Reduce the length of time of future property transactions e.g. sale, remortgage etc. According to current data, 3 in 10 property transactions fall through, so a quicker transaction may help to reduce the potential for a lost sale; and
  • Straightforward to register the property whilst the owner is alive and able to answer any queries (if the owner is deceased or has lost capacity this can be more difficult and lengthy process).

Holmes & Hills’ conveyancing team can help with first registration

If you are unsure as to whether your land or property is registered, or you want to proceed with the registration please get in touch. Holmes & Hills have an experienced and friendly team of property lawyers who will take the time to fully understand your needs.

Get Expert Legal Advice

Call 01206593933 and ask to speak to the client enquiries department. Or complete the form below.

Key Contact

Alexandra Hunt

Legal Assistant

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