Are you looking to sell your house but have lost the Title Deeds?  Did you buy your property before December 1990 and would like to register it with the Land Registry?  We can help.

What are Title Deeds?

Title deeds are physical legal documents which prove the chain of ownership to a property or piece of land.  They contain important information about the property (or land), including its location, size and any limitations or restrictions that apply.

Up until 1 December 1990, when property or land was purchased, the new owners would be given the paper title deeds to retain and keep as evidence of ownership.  Where a property was mortgaged, the bank or building society involved would hold the deeds as security until the mortgage was paid off.  Often they would continue storing them for safekeeping afterwards for a fee.

What is First Registration?

First Registration is a legal process which transfers property from the Registry of Deeds (ROD) system to the Land Registry.  This means that the Land Registry hold an electronic copy of the ownership documents for the land or property on a centralised, digital database and the original paper documents are no longer needed to demonstrate ownership.

In December 1990, it became compulsory to register any sale, purchase or transfer of property or land with HM Land Registry.  As a result, physical title deeds have become less common as many properties have changed hands in the last 30 years.  As compulsory registration was phased in gradually in different areas of the UK, details of property or land purchased in the early 1990’s or prior, may still not be held on the central register and those properties are classed as unregistered.

The Land Registration Act 2002 which came into effect in October 2003 also requires property transactions such as deeds of gift, leases of more than 7 years (or with more than 7 years to run), and the creation of a first mortgage to be registered.  This has further reduced the number of unregistered properties as the ownership doesn’t need to have changed for the property to be registered.

How can you find out if your property is registered or unregistered?

A quick and simple check of the Land Registry for a small fee will be able to confirm either way.

If the land or property is registered, the register will provide details of ownership and having the physical title deeds in your possession is not necessary.

If your check of the Land Registry reveals that the property (or land) is unregistered and you hold the physical title deeds, we recommend that you go through the process of first registration.  We can help you with this process and while it isn’t compulsory there are several major advantages to registering:

  • You don’t need to prove ownership if your deeds are lost, damaged or stolen
  • It is harder for someone else to try and register ownership at Land Registry themselves
  • There is an electronic record of boundaries, rights of way and covenants in case of disputes with neighbours or other third parties

What should you do if you have lost your Title Deeds?

If you have lost your title deeds this may not be an immediate cause for concern, however if your land or property is not registered with the Land Registry and you wish to sell or remortgage it, you will need to provide the title deeds to the other party’s solicitors to prove your ownership.  It is therefore better to act as soon as you discover they are missing than to wait until they are needed down the line.

The first step is to contact the solicitor, mortgage company or bank that dealt with your original purchase as they may still be holding the deeds on your behalf.  If not, you will need to apply to HM Land Registry for first registration based on a Statement of Truth.

Applying for First Registration based on a Statement of Truth

This is a much more complex process than a standard First Registration as it involves:

  • Completing the prescribed registration forms

  • Providing HM Land Registry with a full factual account of the circumstances leading to the loss or destruction of the original title deeds

  • Supporting your application with any documents relating to the property and your history of its ownership.  Death certificates, probate documents, transfer papers, conveyancing letters, mortgage statements and utility bills may all prove helpful to support your claim

You can also submit a Statutory Declaration from neighbours or third parties who can confirm your ownership, as long it is witnessed in accordance with Land Registry requirements.  Enclosing plans of neighbouring properties will help to demonstrate your boundaries, however Land Registry may send a surveyor to check these.

How do you obtain a Possessory Title?

When first registration is granted via a Statement of Truth it is normal practice for Land Registry to issue a “possessory title”.  This means that your ownership is subject to another party being able to prove a better claim than you.  Once the possessory title is held for a period of 12 years you can then apply for an “absolute title” which is what you would have had if you held the title deeds in the first instance.

It is vital that you check the documents relating to the possessory title carefully to ensure there will not be any issues in the event you sell the property or land prior to the absolute title being granted.  There are strict timeframes for dealing with any queries or disputes and therefore we would strongly recommend you engage the services of a conveyancing solicitor to make sure everything is done properly.

Why use Backhouse Solicitors?

The Backhouse Solicitors property team are here to help with all of your issues relating to registering ownership of your land or property.

Our conveyancing team were the first in Chelmsford to qualify for the Law Society’s Conveyancing Quality Scheme Accreditation (CQS), the mark of Excellence for the conveyancing process.  You can rest assured that should you need to apply for first registration, the matter will be handled to the highest standard.

If you would like to discuss First Registration in more detail or need advice about lost Title Deeds, contact us and speak to Rhys Tilsley who will be happy to help.

Tel:          01245 893400
Visit:       17 Duke Street, Chelmsford, CM1 1JU
Or send us a message through the Contact Us page on this website.