Registration of land helps in identifying land owners and facilitating real estate transactions. HM Land Registry was instituted in 1862. However, there was no obligation for landowners to register their properties. In 1997, the Land Registration Act was formulated to compel all landlords to register their properties. Some people registered voluntarily while others only registered their properties during conveyance. This means that there are still real estate owners with the unregistered land. A good number of these belong to churches and the crown. Over 80% of properties in the UK are registered.
While some people register their properties during conveyance, others register when changing ownership. For example, couples who live like joint tenants may switch to a common tenancy to get a better hold of their properties. Joint ownership does not specify the amount of share each partner owns. Inheritance of joint ownership properties is marred with ambiguity since the law does not recognise wills. Getting into common tenancy allows partners to draw to wills which clarify property inheritance.
The Land Registry handles the property registration and transfers. A landowner has to prove ownership of the land for his property to be registered. Title Deeds are the most common proof of ownership. He must also pay a fee and fill forms that facilitate registration. You do not need a solicitor to help you with registration. The Land Registry can guide you through the steps of registering property. However, a solicitor can help speed up the process or explain clauses that are not clear.
Registration of land helps in speeding up conveyance. Solicitors are usually expected to research property ownership and recover Title Deeds. They do this by colluding with the Land Registry. The Land Registry does not document unregistered properties. This makes it difficult for buyers’ solicitors to verify ownership accurately. They have to rely on sellers’ Title Deeds to confirm ownership. Sometimes they have to register the property at the very beginning of conveyance to avoid disputes arising from ambiguity in ownership. If the seller loses his Title Deeds, the conveyance may be entirely impossible.
Property registration protects owners from claims of adverse possession and squatter rights. Homeless people can informally claim ownership of a property that is not registered. It takes a lot of court battle and trips to the Land Registry to reclaim a property from undue possession.
Unregistered properties make it difficult for potential buyers to know their owner. If a buyer wants to purchase a property, he must identify its owner. He can do this by asking people who live around the property. These people must have seen the owner and may even have his contacts. The buyer can also ask around in the local clubs, shops and other social centres. Local electoral registers may also have the name of the owner.
If inquiry fails to identify property owner, you can go a length further to put a sign post on the property. The sign post should mention your intention to buy. The buyer will see the sign post and contact you. You need to talk to a solicitor before posting the sign. The solicitor will advise you if it is illegal or not to post the sign.