Conveyancing Explained - What is the Land Registry?

Her Majesty's Land Registry (HMLR)  also know as the Land Registry, is the government body tasked with maintaining the records to registered land in England & Wales
Organisational Structure

The land Registry is split into regional offices, each with its own Chief Land Registrar  
Differences between registered and unregistered land

When land is registered the land registry will have an electronic record ( known as Official Copies ) of all the details relating to the legal title such as the property address, the owner, any mortgages or other interests registered against the title etc. . Land Registry information on all registered properties in England and Wales is available for their web site which is available to members of the public as well as conveyancing solicitors, property lawyer s, Home Information Pack Providers and Licensed Conveyancers. This record is definitive evidence in law of ownership and of any other legal and equitable interests (with the exception of certain overriding interests) and prevails over any title deeds, which in many cases will be "dematerialised", that is to say destroyed. No new deed is produced to the new owner following completion of a purchase of registered land.

If land is unregistered then the land registry will have no record of it and ownership is determined entirely by the contents of the title deeds.

Reliance on the register and on Official Copies

As stated above a conveyancing lawyer or indeed any person is entitled to rely on the contents of the register as definitive evidence of the state of the legal title and anyone who, in placing reliance on the registers, suffers loss because of an error by the registrar, is generally entitled to compensation. This however only applies to errors and does not apply if the register has been updated after it was inspected. An Official Copy is admissible as evidence of the state of the legal title to the same extent as the register itself. Since the register can be updated at any time however an Official Copy is technically out of date from the moment after it is produced and so the register can be "frozen" by carrying out and OS1/OS2 search. This search which is normally carried by a conveyancing lawyer for a buyer will firstly advise whether the register has been altered since the date of the Official Copy and secondly prevent it from being altered, other than as a result of an application made by or on behalf of the person the search is in favour of, for a period of 6 weeks (or until the application that the search protects is completed).

Land Registry Powers

The Land Registry controls the registers of title for each piece of registered land and so has the ability to amend them. As well as the usual amendments resulting from the registration of, for example, a transfer or charge, the Chief Land Registrar has quite wide powers to amend the register if he deems it necessary or appropriate. His powers are of course governed by statute

Is registration of land compulsory?

Yes. Registration became compulsory in different areas at different times and the last few areas became compulsory in the early 1990s. Having said this, an application for first registration need only be made when a transaction involving a registrable disposition, such as a transfer, grant of a new lease, gift, assent or mortgage takes place and for this reason there are still a number of unregistered properties, though they are becoming more rare.