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Unregistered property – what’s the impact on your move?

A question that crops up from time to time for clients planning to move home is what happens when the property they are buying or selling is unregistered?  Although this doesn’t happen too frequently, as the vast majority of land in this country is now registered, when it does arise it can cause complications and delays to the house selling/buying process.

What is a ‘registered property?

When a property is first registered the Land Registry extract relevant details from the deeds and create a registered title. This gives the address or description of the property, whether freehold or leasehold, names of owners, any mortgages secured against the property, any restrictions and rights affecting the property. It provides clear details on all matters affecting the property, without having to refer to old deeds and documents.

When the registered property is sold, the Land Registry will consider the application submitted on behalf of the purchaser to ensure correct documentation and evidence has been provided and will then update their records to indicate the change of owner.

What if your property is not registered?

Where a piece of land is unregistered, it is compulsory to register it following a transaction such as transfer of ownership or a new mortgage.  If your property isn’t registered, it doesn’t mean there is a problem with your ownership – it simply means there hasn’t been a transaction to trigger the requirement to register since it became compulsory for your area. (The registration requirement was brought in over a number of years and the date at which it became compulsory varies between local authority areas).

To sell an unregistered property you need to produce the physical title deeds. These are then handed over to the buyer’s conveyancer following the sale, who will then submit an application for registration. If deeds are lost, it will be necessary to provide evidence to the Land Registry detailing why the deeds can’t be produced and showing that the person claiming ownership is the true owner. Of course, this can be complicated and will take some time, causing delays in the sale process.

Clearly there is an advantage in dealing with a registered property over an unregistered property, in the ease with which you can obtain a copy of a title and details of ownership. If a copy of a registered title is misplaced, a duplicate can be obtained from the Land Registry website in a matter of minutes. This will have little or no effect on any sale of a property.

If the title to your property is not registered at the Land Registry, you can choose to register it at any time. You don’t have to wait until you decide to sell or re-mortgage. A fee is payable to the Land Registry but a voluntary first registration fee is reduced compared to the fee payable for a compulsory first registration.

If your property is not registered you may want to plan ahead to ensure that if the time comes and you do want to sell, you have prepared the way for a smoother transaction by registering your property now.

Napthens Solicitors Employee Pam Richmond