What is the Land Registry ?

The Land Registry, also know as Her Majesty's Land Registry (HMLR) 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 Since the register can be updated at any time however an Official Copy is technically out of date from the moment after it is produced and so the register can be "frozen" by carrying out and OS1/OS2 search.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.

Services which the Land Registry Offer

As well as processing applications to change the register, the Land Registry offers a number of other services, some of which are detailed below.

Provision of Official Copies of the register of documents referred to in the register

The land registry will supply copies of the electronic registers of property titles as well as documents referred to in the registers provided that they hold a copy. With a few exceptions the registers and documents are a matter of public record and are freely available, though a fee will be payable for each document. These documents will be likely to be needed in the conveyancing process. The cost of obtaining these documents are passed on by the conveyancing solicitor to the client. It is worth noting that none of these documents are not mandatory documents to be included in a Home Information Pack other than a Lease ( only applicable in leasehold transactions )

Land Registry Direct

Land Registry Direct is an online service for registered users where documents can be downloaded, searches requested etc. and the fees charged to an account. Day list enquiries can be made here, that is to say you can check whether any applications are pending against a particular title.

Land Registry Telephone Services

By calling telephone services documents can be ordered and searches carried out using either an account held with land registry or a debit/credit card.

Official searches, bankruptcy searches and land charges searches

These searches are carried out with land registry and can be done online, by telephone or by post (with the exception of an OS2 which can only be done by post). If the results are delivered by post they are generally sent out on the day of request or the day after. Demand on Official Searches has been increased dramatically as a result of the introduction of Home Information Packs. Official Copies have always been a mandatory part of the Home Information Pack.

Searches of the Index Map

Searches of the index map are carried out with the land registry either online or by post (by post only if you are attaching a plan). They are used to establish whether a particular piece of land is registered and if so it will also reveal the title number. These searches are free of charge provided the land searched is made up of less than 11 separate title numbers.

Land Registry Practice Guides

The land registry issues "practice guides" which give general advice on such things as how to make applications and how they will be dealt with, priorities of interests, the effect of entries in the register etc. .

Land Registry forms

Any of the standard forms used by land registry can be downloaded

Prior Approval from the Land Registry on specific transactions

The general enquiries department can often be a good resource for a conveyancing lawyer who seeks clarification on a particular point of concern. The land registry is not obliged to give advice in respect of specific transactions where an application has not been submitted. This is a bit of a chicken and egg situations as often of course the application cannot be submitted until the transaction has completed and the transaction cannot be completed until it is known how the application will be dealt with. If you fail try and then try again as you will often find someone who will help