The joy of registration

These days, it is not often that you hear people talking about the benefits of land registration. It seems rather old hat, but it is still very relevant.

The roll out of “compulsory” land and property registration in England began in the 1990s. This meant that all property had to be registered with HM Land Registry on transfer, and there was a push to encourage the voluntary registration of land with discounted fees available. Given that the North East was the last English region to have compulsory registration and that large swathes of land in the region does not change hands very often (if ever), it is thought that there is more unregistered land in the North East than anywhere else.

In order to prove ownership of unregistered land, you will need to provide the relevant deeds and associated documents, and there could be a few of these if the farm land holding has chopped and changed over the years. These are normally securely held by a solicitor or bank, but do you know where yours are? If registered, the ownership is held on a single electronic document stored securely by HM Land Registry. This will include a clear plan of the holding.

This means that any boundaries can be easily checked and most disputes can be swiftly settled. It also means that any land transaction can be facilitated quickly, as they wont be held up by having to prove ownership. Perhaps the greatest benefit is the removal of the risk of losing land via adverse possession.

Adverse possession is often referred to as “squatters’ rights” which conjures up visions of undesirables taking possession of empty houses in urban locations. However, land can also be susceptible to such actions. While caravan dwellers may be obvious, creeping gardens, fences and surruptious use of secluded, off-lying land may not be so obvious, leading to claims of possession.

Other interests can also be registered against land whether it is registered or not such as leases, easements and charges.  This is much more difficult to achieve without the consent of the owner if the land is registered thereby minimising mistakes and even fraud!

The downside of land registration is that it involves a fee. However, it is likely that this fee will need to be paid one day on a compulsory basis due to death or life time transfer. The fees for voluntary registration carry a 25% discount plus the advantages and protections outlined above so it could be money very well spent.

If you would like any further information or to discuss any rural related matter, please contact Tom Wills, head of the agriculture & estates department at Sintons.

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