1) Are all property titles in England and Wales registered at HM Land Registry?
Whilst most properties are now registered with the Land Registry there still remain a sizeable number that are unregistered, a large proportion of which are in the West Country. Any property that has been transferred since the late 1980’s will have been registered at the Land Registry under the compulsory ‘first registration’ scheme. However, if a property has not changed hands in that time then it’s likely the old fashioned title deeds will be the only evidence of ownership.
2) Is it possible to register a title voluntarily?
Yes it is and the Land Registry offers a discount on the usual fees for registration of title so as to encourage people to register their title voluntarily.
3) What are the advantages of registration?
Once a property has been registered, the Land Registry’s records become evidence of ownership rather than the old paper deeds. This means that if the deeds are mislaid ownership can still be proved. It also provides some certainty about boundaries. Occasionally (particularly with farms or larger properties) a little piece of land which someone thought they owned turns out to actually belong to a neighbour. Registered titles can clear up these ambiguities.
4) Does having a title registered make it easier to sell the property?
Registered titles generally involve fewer legal complexities and this can be a factor when it comes to the speed at which a transaction can progress. This is particularly relevant where solicitors from urban areas are involved in the transaction as they tend to have limited experience of dealing with the old pre-registration system. If a title does have ambiguities which need to be cleared up then it makes sense for this to be done now, when time is not a factor, rather than when the property is being sold, when these complications could delay completion.
It is likely that the Government will make it compulsory for titles to be registered before they can be placed on the market, rather in the same way that it is now an offence for a property to be marketed without a Home Information Pack being available. Their aim is to have all property in England and Wales registered by the earliest date.
5) Does it matter whether the property is freehold or leasehold?
If you were buying a leasehold flat then before the landlord can grant a lease to you his title must be registered at Land Registry. Your solicitor would need to check this. Until the landlord’s title is registered you cannot register your leasehold interest at Land Registry.
6) I am a trustee of my late parents’ property with my brother and sister. Should we have registered the property with Land Registry?
Yes. Under new rules that came in to force in 2009 trustees who own unregistered land must apply to register the title at the Land Registry. There are various circumstances which would trigger ‘first registration’ and you must ask your legal advisor to check this for you.