To register or not to register?

We live in a world where we are being constantly reminded that there are opportunist scams and scammers in just about every aspect of our lives that want to deprive us of our property or interfere with our financial affairs.

Property fraud is no different except a successful property scam only needs to be successful once for the scammer to set them up for life given the relatively high value of property in the UK.  One fraudulent sale could net a scammer hundreds of thousands of pounds!

Property fraud is very real and merely requires the meeting of well executed mischief where people or property are vulnerable.  Unregistered land is particularly vulnerable.

Essentially HM Land Registry maintain a centralised and secure data base of land ownership in England and Wales.

Registration of residential property and what it means is still something of a mystery for many property owners. However, if your property is unregistered, there are considerable benefits to voluntarily registering with the Land Registry.

Registration at the Land Registry is the official recording of property ownership. Since 1990 it has been compulsory to register land after it has been sold or subject to other  trigger events such as inheritance and mortgages.  When registered though it is very difficult to tamper with the “register” due to safeguards implemented by the Land Registry and legal profession’s own practice regulations and procedures.

A property may not be registered if you or someone else owned it prior to 1990 and there has been no sale, mortgage, transfer or trigger event since then. As such, the only proof of ownership you may have are the original paper deeds. Often, these documents can be relatively old. If these are lost or incomplete it can cause great difficulty in the future, not just when you come to sell. They should be kept safe, whether by your solicitor in their strong room or otherwise safeguarded by frankly we have experience of many cases where beneficiaries are left without any idea where deeds were left and that is a serious problem.

There are many benefits to making an application to voluntarily register your property. This is where you choose to register your property rather it being mandatory than when you come to sell or secure a mortgage.


  • Security. Unregistered land is at a higher risk of fraud, especially if the property has elderly owners or for example is rented out, empty or there is no mortgage secured on it. Registered land is much less likely to be the subject of fraudulent activity.
  • Cost. The Land Registry base their fees on the current market value of the property. When making an application for voluntary registration there is a 25% reduction in Land Registry fees.  Solicitors charge on the basis of the work involved but this is money well spent when one considers the tremendous peace of mind registration brings with it.
  • When land is registered a title plan is produced by the Land Registry showing the extent of the property. This makes it easier to check boundaries and property owned.
  • Evidence of ownership. Registration means that all the relevant title information for the property will be recorded on the Land Register which is available instantly online. This can make it quicker and easier to buy and sell in the future. Solicitors do not need to go back though bundles of old documents.
  • Avoids loss. Registration avoids the risk of title deeds and documents being lost and the owner being unable to easily prove ownership or other matters relating to the land. Instead, once registered, the Official Copy Entries clearly sets out who owns the property, what rights exist over it and so on.
  • Prevents “squatters rights”. The requirements for proving adverse possession can make it more difficult for someone to claim ownership of registered land as opposed to unregistered land.
  • Reduce future costs. If you come to sell in the future, then a registered property is typically quicker and easier to deal with than an unregistered property from both the buyer and sellers’ perspective.
  • Security.  It is easy to set up the register of your ownership with multiple addresses if the property isn’t your main residence and this includes email addresses.  You can also set up an alert that notifies you of any attempt to deal with the property.

Applying for voluntary registration now, when you know where the title deeds are kept and have detailed knowledge of the property, can save considerable time and expense in the future.  Most importantly it is secure.

If the deeds have been lost it is still possible to apply for first registration but the person claiming ownership will need to make a statement of truth and it is longwinded and a worrying time because things seem to be up in the air whilst the application is made. This can include an account of events leading to the loss of the deeds and submit significant evidence which is very not within the knowledge of those dealing with it and particularly children inheriting property.

Many clients are unsure as to whether their property is registered or not. Fortunately, it is easy to find out and something that our residential property team are always happy to help with. If you are unsure whether your property is registered or not, or you would like to explore voluntary registration, please contact a member of our residential property team.

Blanchards Bailey

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