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Who owns the property you have ‘bought’?

One of the fundamentals in property conveyancing is that the professional acting for you ensures that the land/property which you think you are buying is what you will end up with.

This usually involves the solicitor or conveyancer sending you a plan showing the area which you will be purchasing and asking you to approve it.

What happens when this goes wrong?

Case Study

Recently, we acted for a company that, in 2010, had instructed their then solicitors to act for them when buying plots of land.

The company understood there were two plots of land next to each other. There was, however, a small strip of land dividing the two plots which was also owned by the same seller.

The seller’s solicitors “deduced title” – providing copies of the Land Registry registers of title for all three plots of land to the company’s solicitors.  The company’s solicitors only considered two of them and did not identify that the “strip” existed and did not tell the company about the strip.

At completion, the solicitors did not arrange for the strip to be transferred to the company by the seller. The result was that the company owned two large plots of land, divided by a small strip still owned by the seller.

For the next 11 years, the company acted as if the strip belonged to them. Even the seller thought the strip belonged to the company, but it didn’t!

When they came to sell the two larger plots, the company and the seller discovered that the strip still belonged to the seller. The new buyer was not happy that the strip was not going to be included in the sale. The company needed to get the strip transferred to it, but the seller sought to charge the company extra money. This was even though the seller had thought the strip had been included in their earlier transaction.

We were instructed by the company to pursue a professional negligence action against the solicitors who had acted for it in the original transaction. The claim was for the loss the company would suffer when it paid over the extra money to the seller and legal costs. The case settled with the company becoming the owner of the strip (paid for by their former solicitors) and then being able to sell all three plots to the new buyer.


  • Do you own the land that you think that you own?
  • Has your conveyancer let you down?

For more information about this article or any other aspect of professional negligence in property, contact your Napthens Solicitors in Preston, Blackburn, Liverpool, and across the North West today.

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