Compulsory registration of land was introduced in April 1998, although around 25% of land across England and Wales is still unregistered. Most transactions regarding land, including sale, gift or mortgage, trigger the requirement to register the land with the Land Registry. If your property is not registered then you must prove ownership of the property through Title Deeds which go back at least 15 years. The Deeds show how title is passed, they describe the property and normally contain a plan. Registration is not always necessary if you have the Title Deeds to prove your ownership of the property. However registration is beneficial to protect your ownership as a permanent record is kept with the Land Registry, removing the need to rely on your Title Deeds. Even if your land is registered you should always keep your Title Deeds and ensure that they are safe and secure, as things may be noted on the Title Deeds such as restrictive covenants which might not get noted on the register. Many solicitors firms keep deeds free of charge in a safe fire proof room. Banks also offer this service, but they often charge for this. Alternatively you can keep your Title Deeds safe at home, but it is recommended that copies are taken and stored in a separate place to the originals. Registration does offer some extra protection, especially in relation to people stealing your land by what is known as squatter's rights or adverse possession. It is much easier to establish squatter's rights over unregistered land. The squatter can apply to be recognised as the owner if they have openly and continuously occupied the land as if it was their own for at least 12 years without any attempts by the rightful owner to remove them. However with registered land squatter's rights have effectively been extinguished. If a squatter has been on the land for 10 years they are entitled to apply to the Land Registry to be registered as the owner. The Land Registry then notifies the land owner, who then has 65 business days in which to object. Once the objection has been made the owner then has two years in which to evict the squatter. However if the land owner fails to evict the squatter within that two year period then the squatter is entitled to reapply for ownership and this will be granted. If you occupy your property, have it well fenced and have well defined boundaries then registration is not as much of an issue. However if you are concerned that there may be a danger of your boundary being encroached then it is worth registering the title because it should help prevent anyone claiming squatter's rights over your land. • For additional information please contact: Edward Worthy of Gepp & Sons. The above is not legal advice; it is intended to provide information of general interest about current legal issues.
The Benefits of Land Registration.