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Does a Property Have to be Registered with the Land Registry?

For anyone thinking of selling their land or property, having a strong indication of the potential sale price is important as this can inform their future decision making. While an estate agent can usually provide a reasonable estimate of a property’s value based on recent sales and current demand, this can be problematic if a property is not registered with the Land Registry. Here we will discuss whether properties in England and Wales have to be registered with the Land Registry, the risks associated with an unregistered property, and how to register land or a house with the Land Registry.

23 May 2022
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What does the law say about registering property in England and Wales?

Land registration was introduced in England and Wales in the 1860s, however, as this was not compulsory, very few properties were registered. This changed when under the Land Transfer Act 1897, registration became compulsory in the County of London. This requirement was later broadened across the country under the Land Registration Act 1925, but it was not until 1st December 1990 that registration was mandated across all of England and Wales. 

In accordance with the Land Registration Act 2002, land or property must be registered with the Land Registry if it has been purchased, gifted, inherited, received in exchange for other property or land, or mortgaged. 

Leasehold land and property must also be registered with the Land Registry, but typically only where there are seven years or more remaining on the lease when it changes ownership. 

What are the risks of unregistered land or property?

The risks associated with unregistered land or property include:

  • Prospective buyers may be deterred from purchasing the land or property, especially if the original deeds are no longer available (i.e. if they have been lost or destroyed)
  • The lack of land registration means that the conveyancing process may take much longer than for registered property. This is especially so if it takes time to locate documents required for registration (e.g. deeds) or a case is made to the Land Registry why they cannot be found. 
  • Increased potential for fraud. Under ‘squatters’ rights’, where a person/s occupies an unregistered property for 12 years or more without permission or payment to the owner, they may be able to gain ‘adverse possession’. Due to the lack of registration, it may not be possible for the Land Registry to advise the true owner of the pending adverse possession application.

It is important to bear in mind that unregistered land or unregistered property is not unusual. Indeed, in many cases, the only reason for the lack of registration is simply that the property has not changed hands for many years, or there has been no other event triggering the requirement to register with the Land Registry.

How do I register land or property with the Land Registry?

If your house is not registered with the Land Registry, you can apply for first registration at any time. By registering your land or property with the Lane Registry, you will have concrete proof of ownership and the confidence of knowing that it will be easier to change, sell, or gift your property in the future. 

Where a property that is being sold is not registered with the Land Registry, it is the responsibility of the purchaser’s conveyancer to submit the registration as part of the completion process.

The process of applying for first registration is as follows:

  1. Complete the Land Registry first registration application form.
  2. If not shown on the deeds, prepare a scale plan of the land
  3. Gather any documents necessary (including original deeds) to register your land/property and complete 2 copies of form DL
  4. Pay the registration fee 
  5. Send your documents, forms, and fee to HM Land Registry.

If the original deeds for the property have been lost or destroyed, it is still possible to register a property in accordance with rule 27 of the Land Registration Rules 2003. The Land Registry has a specific process in this situation, and you will need to provide a “full, factual account of the events that have occurred leading to the loss or destruction of the deeds”. As such, it is important to engage the services of an experienced property Solicitor or conveyancer with experience of registering property where deeds have been lost or destroyed. 

How long does it take to register land with the Land Registry?

The process of creating a first registration with the land registry can take between six and nine months. This is much longer than simply updating the land register where a property is already registered (this is normally completed in four to six weeks). The more information provided with your application, the faster your application will be completed. An experienced property law Solicitor will ensure that all of the information necessary to support your registration application is provided upfront, thereby reducing the time taken and boosting the chance of a positive outcome.

Guillaumes LLP Solicitors is a full-service law firm based in Weybridge, Surrey. We have a highly experienced team of property Solicitors who can assist you with any legal matter, including registering your property or land with the Land Registry. To make an appointment, please call us on 01932 840 111.