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  • Sam Crozier

An introduction to the Land Registry: what it is, what it does, and why you might need to know about it

HM Land Registry Headquarters

Anyone who has bought or sold property in the UK will likely have come across the Land Registry. It's a record of the ownership of all land and property in the country, and is essential for understanding things like property ownership, planning conditions and listed building status.

Lease Planners can help you put together a Land Registry compliant plan, but we are not part of the Land Registry. You can visit the official Land Registry website or search for land and property ownership information here.

What is the Land Registry?

HM Land Registry is a government body that registers the ownership of land in the UK. It is a non-ministerial department that is governed by the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities.

HM Land Registry keeps a record of over 26 million titles, covering ownership guarantees for 88% of land in England and Wales.*

The Land Registry was first created in 1862, with the purpose of registering the ownership of all land and property in England and Wales. Up until the middle of the 1980s, all records were copied meticulously by hand. The first electronic records were produced in Plymouth in 1986, and in 2002 it became compulsory for all conveyancing to be carried out electronically.

These days, the majority of searches for information on land and property on the Land Registry website can be answered instantly online.

The register has been available to the public since 1990. Under the Freedom of Information Act 2000, anyone can search for the ownership status of a property, or request a copy of the title register for a small fee.

The Land Registry can give you information such as the ownership status of a property, the land title plan, if there are restrictive covenants (prior agreements between landowners around what can or cannot be done with the land) or easements (rights for one piece of land over another, for example rights of way) on a property, and if there are restrictions on whether or not the property can be sold or mortgaged.

Registering properties with the Land Registry

It is compulsory for all land and property that is bought, inherited, mortgaged or given as a gift in England and Wales to be registered at the Land Registry.

Every property that is registered receives a unique title number. When a property transaction takes place, the title number is updated with details of the new ownership, and any rights, interests or transactions relating to the title are recorded as well. This helps maintain an accurate history of each registered property.

If you're in the process of transferring the ownership of a property, then your conveyancing firm or solicitor will normally take care of this part of the process for you.

If a property is not yet registered with the Land Registry, an application to register will need to be submitted. It can take around 17 months for a new application for registration to be processed.

If a property is already registered and the ownership of a title needs to be transferred to someone else, it tends to take between 10 and 16 weeks to process. On some rare occasions it can take longer, even up to 9 months.

Why register land and properties with the Land Registry?

Registering land and property with the Land Registry is compulsory in many situations, such as buying or inheriting a property. Official land registration is one step towards making these processes go more smoothly, but this is not the only benefit to registration.

Further benefits of properties being registered on the Land Registry include:

  • Evidence of ownership. The land and property data held by the Land Registry means that no one else can try and claim ownership of your land, since HM Land Registry holds a record of who the land belongs to.

  • Ownership is guaranteed by the state. When land (or any property built on that land) is registered, the title to that land is then guaranteed by the state. This guarantee means that the Land Registry will pay compensation in the case of a mistake occurring in the register that causes the owner to suffer any loss.

  • Protection from property fraud. When the ownership of a property is registered, it means that a fraudster cannot try and sell a property they do not own. They also cannot attempt to remortgage a property that they are not the rightful owner of.

  • Freely available information. During a property transaction, potential buyers will need to know of any restrictive covenants, easements, rights of way, mortgages or leases attached to the property. These records are all kept track of on the Land Registry, allowing complete transparency for the new property owners during the process.

What happens if a property is not on the Land Registry?

Whilst the majority of properties in England and Wales have been registered, there are still some out there that are not yet on the Land Registry. This could be because they have been under the same ownership for so long that an event that would normally trigger registration (such as the sale of the property) hasn't yet taken place.

Since registration has been compulsory since 1990, any property that is transferring ownership will need to be on the registry. If it is not yet registered, it will need to be added before the transaction can take place. This can lead to a delay in the property transaction due to a lack of title deeds.

Even though registration is compulsory, there is a fee for registering a property with the Land Registry, and for some Land Registry services.

Land Registry fees vary depending on the type of property and its value.

What does it mean for a plan to be Land Registry compliant?

There are many regulations set by various Land Registration Acts that documents submitted to the Land Registry must conform with to make sure they won't be rejected.

When putting together a new plan for any property, it must be Land Registry compliant.

There are a couple of different types of Land Registry compliant plans, depending on the specific property and situation:

  • Land Registry Title Plans for Freehold properties take the form of a visual document showing the boundaries of a property. Usually, they show an area from an Ordnance Survey map, with a distinctive red outline showing the relevant boundaries. They will include any distinguishing features of the local area to help place the property in context, including buildings, roads and trees. The title plan together with the title register, which is a written document giving a description of the property's registered estate, form the property's title deeds.

  • Land Registry Lease Plans for Leasehold properties tend to show a more detailed description of the property's internal configuration than title plans. They also take the form of a visual document, this time showing the precise area of a property that is included in a lease. They will include any external areas that are also included, such as gardens, courtyards and garages, as well as any access points and rights of way.

If you need to create either of these types of Land Registry compliant plans, it's important that you work with someone who has experience and expertise in this field and is familiar with all of the necessary guidelines.

What do freehold and leasehold mean at the Land Registry?

Freehold ownership means that you own the property and the land that it is built on, and are therefore responsible for the maintenance of it.

The majority of houses in the UK are freehold, although not all.

The Land Registry has information on all registered freehold properties in the England and Wales, and can show further information such as how much the property was last sold for and when, and whether there are any restrictions in place on the land.

Leasehold ownership means that you own the property for a set length of time, but you do not own the land it is built on. Once the lease term comes to an end, ownership reverts back to the landlord who owns the land.

It's common for flats and apartments to be leasehold.

The Land Registry keeps details of leases for all leasehold properties where the lease is held for seven years or longer.

Finding Land Registry Information

The Land Registry offers online services that can be used to access copies of Land Registry documents.

You can search for any property on the GOV.UK website and find out whether or not it is registered. You can find limited information for free, such as when it was last sold and how much for, if it is owned freehold or leasehold, and if there are restrictive covenants or easements on the property.

If you want to find out the details on the restrictive covenants or easements then you will need to pay £3 to buy the title register. The title register will also include the property's title number.

You can also apply for a copy of the deeds for the property for a cost of £7. You'll need information from the title register to do this, so if you don't already have a copy you'll need to pay for this too.

Land Registry searches are confidential, but you can set up a Property Alert using the Land Registry's property alert service if you think your property could be at risk from property fraud. This won't tell you if anyone has carried out a search, but it will send you an email if there is any significant activity (such as a mortgage application) taken out against your property.

Contacting the Land Registry

If you need to get in touch with the Land Registry, you can contact them online via the official GOV.UK website here, or by phone on 0300 006 0411 Monday-Thursday.

Lease Planners is not the Land Registry. We can't help you get in touch with them, but you can contact them directly using the details above.

Get a Land Registry compliant plan with Lease Planners

Lease Planners have many years' experience in working to Land Registry guidelines. Whether you need a title plan, a lease plan, or some friendly advice on the subject, we'd be happy to help you.

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