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All About Unregistered Land

By: Louise Smith, barrister - Updated: 23 May 2017 | comments*Discuss
 
Land Registry Land Surveyor Unregistered

Since 1990 information about land or property which has been sold, or transferred under a lease of 21 years or more, has been held at the Land Registry.

The Land Registry and Registered Land

The information contained on the Land Registry allows anyone interested in a particular piece of land to find out - amongst other things - who owns it, whether there is a mortgage on the property and whether a third party has any interest or entitlement in respect of the land.

The Law on Land Registration

The principle law on land registration is contained in the Land Registration Acts of 1925 and 2002. One of the main aims of these laws is to make the process of conveyancing simpler and more reliable.

Previously, information about a piece of land may have been contained in many different documents and sources. Not all of these would have been easily, or at all, accessible to an individual with an interest in the property. Information held by the Land Registry can be easily accessed online and a copy can be downloaded for a small fee.

The Continuing Relevance of Unregistered Land

Registration of all land has been compulsory in England and Wales since 1990. However, usually the land need only be registered if it is sold or conveyed. Therefore, land which has been under the same ownership since before this time may not have been registered.

The Land Registry states that about 65% of all land in England and Wales is now registered although different sources suggest a higher proportion. Whichever figure is correct a substantial proportion of property, particularly outside London, remains unregistered.

Finding Out About Unregistered Land

Finding out about the ownership of unregistered land can be a difficult process. A conveyancing solicitor or land surveyor dealing with unregistered land will be faced with a less streamlined process than their colleagues involved in the conveyance of registered land.

The principle source for information about unregistered land will be in the title deeds to the property. These may be held by the owner of the property itself or by a company who has leant money to the owner under a mortgage. In order to confirm a vendor’s right to sell or transfer the property, the deeds for preceding sales and transactions should be examined – not just those for the most recent transaction.

Deeds registries exist in the Yorkshire Ridings and Middlesex where searches can be made in respect of transactions involving land in those regions. The Land Charges Department, based in Plymouth, will also have records of some rights or interests which may be registered against a property. However, unlike the Land Registry, both of these databases file information under the name of the owner of the property rather than the property itself.

Ownership of Land and Overreachable Rights

Before 1925 land law was extremely complicated. There were several different ways in which land could be “owned”. In addition, many different individuals could have some kind of entitlement to a piece of land which may or may not have been binding on a purchaser – even if he knew nothing about them. This made purchasing property complex and risky. A purchaser might end up paying good money for a property only to realise at a later date that what he had ended up with was not exactly what he thought he was buying.

After 1925 the system of land ownership was simplified to the extent that an owner of land essentially holds it in one of two ways:

  • Outright ownership of the freehold;
  • Ownership of the land for a specified term under a lease.
At the same time as simplifying the ways in which land could be owned, the 1925 land law also simplified and reduced the legal interests that third parties could have in a piece of land.

Some rights – for example, entitlements under a legal mortgage on the property – remain binding on a purchaser of the land. However, many of the rights which may previously have been binding on a purchaser – such as an individual’s right to live in the property until they died – may no longer bind the purchaser. A right in respect of land which is not binding on a bona fide legal purchaser of the land is said to be “overreachable”.

A person with an overreachable right in respect of land may be entitled to a portion of the sale proceeds even if the legal purchase of the land has the effect of negating their right to inhabit or otherwise deal with the property.

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save our lane - Your Question:
Hi there, Can anyone help me to find out who owns the lane I live on please. the lane is our only access along with one other home and 7 livery yards. we have just found out that the council or wanting to build 50-60 affordable home on land backing onto the lane and want to gain access off of the lane. the people on the main road do not want the lane used and have contacted my self to see if the lane is owned by me. the house I live in was the first house to be built on the lane, some 300 years ago and was one of seven in the village in the 1700s. I have spoken to several legal people who say that if we found the owners that the plans could be blocked. I have maintained the lane since we bought the house, as the previous owners had done before. can anyone suggest how I can find out who owns property or land with no record on land registry and my deeds are new ones, because of the age of my home.which is over 300 years. thank you and hope someone out there can help

Our Response:
If your title deeds and the local land registry do not have any information, you could try any historical archives, church records etc. Also it might be worth considering adverse possession or if this is not possible, you/your neighbours looking at claiming an interest first registration of unregistered land. Sorry but professional legal advice might actually be advisable in this instance.
DIYConveyance - 4-Apr-17 @ 2:21 PM
Hi there, Can anyone help me to find out who owns the lane i live on please. the lane is our only access along with one other home and 7 livery yards. we have just found out that the council or wanting to build 50-60 affordable home on land backing onto the lane and want to gain access off of the lane. the people on the main road do not want the lane used and have contacted my self to see if the lane is owned by me. the house i live in was the first house to be built on the lane, some 300 years ago and was one of seven in the village in the 1700s. i have spoken to several legal people who say that if we found the owners that the plans could be blocked. i have maintained the lane since we bought the house, as the previous owners had done before. can anyone suggest how i can find out who owns property or land with no record on land registry and my deeds are new ones, because of the age of my home...which is over 300 years. thank you and hope someone out there can help
save our lane - 3-Apr-17 @ 2:37 PM
I bought my house (unregistered) in 1987 without using a solicitor. This year it seemed high time to get it registered, to avoid leaving extra work for my daughters as executors. I submitted my application for first registration, of course without using a solicitor. It should be fairly straightforward, as all the other houses on this estate are now registered as their original owners have sold or died. Land Registry immediately cashed my cheque for the fee and put me onto the bog-standard waiting list. As the weeks go by (now 9), my suspicion grows that I must be prepared to wait forever, while applicants with urgent requirements (probably all through a solicitor) join the queue ahead of me. I will write to Land Registry a second time when it reaches 12 weeks. I am 85 and do not have forever to wait. I would like to know whether Land Registry has any statistics to compare waiting times of applicants with and without a solicitor.
skinflint - 15-Apr-16 @ 10:40 PM
Hi Goldilocks. This looks to be one where you will have to seek legal/professional help. Start out however, by getting as much information from the land registry about ownership of this particular piece of land. You may find that your father's neighbour is claiming land that he doesn't actually own anyhow. If your family has been using the land as access for 200 years you will need to have some proof of this, so try and compile any back up evidence that you can. Some cases have been won on this basis alone. If as you suggest, it might actually be a public right of way, then speak with your local authority (usually the county council for land/rights of way issues) as it's their duty to ensure rights of way including footpaths etc are kept open/accessible. While you fight for your right to use the lane back, try and maintain good relations with the neighbour, he may surprise you by coming to an amicable arrangement. Good luck and let us know how you get on.
DIYConveyance - 5-Jun-14 @ 10:26 AM
My father a farmer, has been using a lane on his land, as his father before him, and his father before him a total of 200 years, fully maintaining and using the lane for access to fields etc, my father registered his land 10 yrs ago but did not register the lane as it was a right of way and assumed he could not include it, however 2 yrs ago a new neighbor claims that this lane is his , and has erected gates, opened entrances, and removed any obstacles my dad has to deter him. Sadly Dad died last year through all the stress, and mum is now on her own dealing with a bully. Can he do this, erect gates, make entrances etc.
goldilocks - 4-Jun-14 @ 1:44 PM
I have a Georgian house whose entrance abuts a carriageway there is a footway running the lenth of the property that and tapers to the curveture of the building. The 3ft footway is unregistered the 7ft roadway is registered and is private land.Wen I purchased the property in 1975 my solicitor included no right of access to my property or was there any registration of the foot way land being unregistered.In 2004 I registered a caution on the unregistered land and have been unable to claim a 1st registration as the land has not been enclosed. I believe Iam able to claim a prescriptive right of easement or under the 1925 land property act (62) or an express grant can you tell me which of the two would give me a stronger claim as the problem I have is vehicles of which serviced a block of flats and forty garages use the access carriageway and run over the pavement at rear to the danger of the occupants and there seems there is nothing Ican do about it.
Gamesmanship - 13-Apr-12 @ 6:17 PM
I am interested in purchasing a property in south waleswhich isleasehold ( from 1939 ) currently it has 28 years left on the lease, the freeholder went bankrupt and nobody has been able to trace him, the house is to be sold by public auction in a few weeks time to close an estate, the treasury solicitor office in london has said that any purchaser must be responsible for enquiring about the freehold.
iolomorg - 27-Apr-11 @ 1:39 PM
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