8 February 2024

7 reasons to register your property

By Chris Cosgrave, Solicitor, Hayes + Storr.

It is estimated that 15 per cent of land in England and Wales has never been registered at HM Land Registry, usually because the owner bought the property a long time ago or inherited it. If your property is not registered it could put you at a disadvantage in the future, for example if you decide to sell or remortgage.

If you have the document/deeds from your purchase these will show whether the title to your property is registered. ‘Title’ is the term we use to describe ownership of a property, and the rights which attach to it. If you purchased your property after 1990, then it should be registered although it’s possible it wasn’t. A solicitor can check this for you. Currently, every transaction requires compulsory registration. In future it is intended that all freehold land in England and Wales will be registered.

Below we set out several reasons why you should consider applying for the registration of your property if it has never been registered with HM Land Registry.

Once registered it is:

1. Easier to prove ownership

Once registered each property has its own title information document and its own plan. To be registered the land registry will have checked the original deeds and documents also known as pre-registration deeds. A solicitor acting for a buyer can obtain the title information document and plan very quickly and cheaply and check the title of the seller.

With a property that has not been registered, you must prove your ownership to the buyer/buyer’s solicitor. This involves preparing a list of pre-registration deeds for the buyer’s solicitor to check. This is more complicated and there is more room for error to the extent that pre-registration deeds can easily become lost or destroyed. Sometimes a bank or solicitor will store your deeds for you, which is better than keeping them at home but problems may still arise. For example, following a fire at a national storage facility, one building society lost over 100,000 deeds in a single night.

If you lose your original deeds, you may be able to recreate evidence of your title. However in these circumstances you will almost certainly need to apply to HM Land Registry for registration before you can deal with the property be it a sale or a re-mortgage.

If your property is registered it also offers peace of mind to anyone who may inherit your property in future.

2. Investigating title is simpler and quicker

For a buyer’s solicitor checking a title the ownership of a registered property is clearly set out in HM Land Registry’s title information document together with other relevant information. Also it is easy to check the plan showing the property’s boundaries.

With unregistered property a solicitor will need to trace ownership through a number of pre-registration deeds. This can be complicated and is more time consuming.

3. Class of title and a state-backed guarantee

Properties are registered with one of three classes of title. The most acceptable and most common, is ‘title absolute’. This means that HM Land Registry have classed the title as perfectly acceptable to buyers. Registration also carries a state-guarantee, which means that if there is an error in the register, HM Land Registry will compensate someone who suffers loss as a result.

4. Conveyancing is quicker and more straightforward

If your pre-registration deeds are available conveyancing should be straightforward. However, in practice, problems occur more frequently with unregistered properties. For example, a deed may be missing, or it may be hard to prove the repayment of a mortgage.

Registration reduces these risks as the title information document shows clearly who the owner is, and which rights or charges affect the property. This makes conveyancing simpler and quicker.

If you plan to sell your property at some point in the future, applying for registration now could make good sense.

5. Third parties may prefer registered land

With registered property you may find it easier to remortgage or to enter into other agreements. Companies will find it easier to check your title and get a quick overview of your property.

Conversely having to obtain your title deeds and then prove your title is likely to be a longer, more complicated process.

6. Protection against adverse possession

Adverse possession is where a person with no documentary proof of ownership of land can claim ownership by virtue of their occupation. Significantly, the law treats adverse possession of registered and unregistered land very differently. It is much harder for a squatter to claim ownership of registered land.

A squatter must show a sufficient period of adverse possession. However, with a registered property, HM Land Registry will notify the registered owner, giving them the opportunity to object and take steps to remove the squatter.

7. Protection against fraud

You can apply for the entry of a restriction against your registered title at HM Land Registry, which can be especially useful if your property is empty or you do not have day-to-day control over it.
With a registered property, you can also sign up for an alert if someone applies to change the register, for example if they try to use your property fraudulently for a mortgage.

There is no equivalent protection for unregistered land, where possession of the deeds can be taken as proof of ownership.

How we can help

Our solicitors have extensive experience of dealing with both registered and unregistered land. If your property is unregistered, we can apply to HM Land Registry to register it on your behalf. Then you will have all the advantages of being a registered owner, which will also stand you in good stead if you do come to sell.

For further information, please contact Chris Cosgrave in the residential property team on 01760 724424 or email chris.cosgrave@hayes-storr.com.

This article is for general information only and does not constitute legal or professional advice. Please note that the law may have changed since this article was published.