The Land Registry operates a system of registration of land titles in England and Wales. It was originally set up in 1875, but for many years registration was on a voluntary basis only. Some Conveyancing Lawyers thought it worthwhile to register clients titles and following changes made to the registration system in 1925 the government brought in compulsory registration in some areas.
Compulsory registration was not extended to the rest of the country for many years which leaves some properties in Oxford still unregistered. It is only necessary to register a property when a relevant property transaction, such as a sale or mortgage has occurred and is still not uncommon to find houses in the Oxford area being sold, which were purchased by the current owner when the title was unregistered. In these instances the seller’s conveyancer will show a good root of title by producing the title deeds or evidence of ownership in the form of an Epitome of Title.
The deeds will usually consist of documents, normally called “Conveyances” by which title was transferred from one owner to another. They would also include any mortgages. If there was a current mortgage on the property, the title deeds will be held by the mortgage lender, but otherwise the deeds should be in the possession of the seller.
When an unregistered property is sold, the buyers’ Conveyancing Solicitor will check that the deeds show that the seller has owned the property for 15 years or more. It may well be that the seller’s title deeds include documents going back for many years, in some cases hundreds of years, although the older conveyancing documents are not normally required unless later documents refer back to them.
After completion of the sale of the property, the buyers’ Solicitor will check that the unregistered title is in order, that it will be acceptable to the land registry, and then apply for first registration of the title.