The Land Registry is a government department which is responsible for recording the ownership of land and property in England and Wales.
When it was originally established applications for registration were only made on a voluntary basis, if a landowner wanted to apply. However registration has now become compulsory throughout the country whenever a property is sold or mortgaged, and the majority of residential properties are now registered.
Strictly speaking the land registry registers title to property, rather than the property itself. Thus there can be several titles in existence at one time relating to the same property, since leases and underleases are registered with separate titles from the freehold. It is also possible to have a registered leasehold title when the freehold title is not registered.
Each registered title has a title number allocated to it, and consists of a note of the class of title which is registered (see below), a short description of the property and whether it is freehold or leasehold, the names and addresses of the registered proprietors, and details of any ‘encumbrances’ affecting it such as restrictive covenants, mortgages, or other restrictions. There may also be a schedule of any leases to which the property is subject.
A plan also forms part of each title. These plans are based on ordnance survey plans, and show the extent of the property with red edging. They may also show features such as the extent of a right of way benefiting or running across the property.
Once a title is registered it is said to be ‘state guaranteed’ so that if it turns out that someone else has better title and can overturn the registration then the registry will have to pay compensation. However that is not the case when a property is only registered with possessory title, or is subject to some other qualification.
Registration does not at present provide a complete record of all matters affecting a property. This is particularly so in the case of easements, but other legal rights may affect a property, collectively known as overriding interests, which will not recorded in the register.
The land registration system has provided a method of recording property ownership which has taken a lot of the difficulties out of Conveyancing, and has enabled property transfers to be simplified.
If land is not currently registered that does not affect the owner’s rights. However owners may find it advisable to apply for registration without waiting until they sell the land, as this will make it harder for anyone else to obtain possessory title by adverse possession. Also it will be easier to sell or mortgage a property when the title is already registered, because buyers’ Conveyancing Solicitors are now reluctant to accept unregistered titles. FridaysMove will be happy to arrange a Conveyancing Solicitor who can carry this out for you.
Classes of title:
The land registry can register property with one of the following four titles:
Absolute – either freehold or leasehold; this is the best class of title, and the most common. An absolute leasehold title is a guarantee not only of the registered proprietor’s title, but also that of the landlord to grant the lease.
Qualified leasehold title – this is registered when the land registry has not seen proof that the landlord was entitled to grant the lease, i.e. where the freehold title is not registered and no details of the unregistered title have been provided.
Possessory title – usually registered when a squatter is claiming title by adverse possession, or where an owner is unable to prove ownership because the old title deeds have been lost or destroyed. The registry is not liable to pay indemnity in respect of any adverse interest coming to light after registration.
Qualified title – the title takes effect subject to some defect or right that is specified in the register.
For more information see the land registry website, http://www.landregistry.gov.uk/public, which contains much information aimed at the general public.