News & Insights

Registered and Unregistered Land in England and Wales

There are two main systems in England and Wales by which title to land is proved. The two systems work in parallel, and depend on whether the land in question is registered or unregistered.

Registered Land

The register compiled by HM Land Registry contains more than 25 million titles, showing evidence for more than 85% of the land mass in England and Wales. The register records the title to various rights over the land including, principally, freehold estates and leases that have more than seven years unexpired.

The registered system has numerous advantages, including that:

  • legal ownership of the land, and some (but not necessarily all) rights benefitting or burdening the same, can be identified by inspection of a permanent, central and readily accessible register;
  • registered land confers greater protection against property fraud;
  • the state guarantees the title to registered land and, in some instances, pays compensation to affected parties where loss is suffered as a result of the error;
  • the conveyancing process is streamlined, as title can be deduced by reference to the register.

Unregistered Land

Conversely, title to unregistered land is proved by the buyer supplying the seller with an abstract or epitome of the various deeds and documents comprising the title. These documents should commence with a ‘good root of title’ – namely, a document dealing with the whole interest in the land, containing a recognisable description of the property and containing nothing to cast doubt on the title, that is at least 15 years old.

Deducing title to unregistered land is less straightforward, as it entails an examination of historic deeds provided by the seller. Owners of unregistered land should therefore keep the original deeds safe, so that these can be produced on sale.

Voluntary and compulsory registration

Certain dealings with or dispositions of unregistered land trigger compulsory registration, including (not exhaustively) freehold conveyances, leases granted with a term of more than seven years and the assignment of leases with more than seven years left to run.

It is possible however to register unregistered land voluntarily, and HM Land Registry offer a concession to the application fee in relation to such voluntarily applications.

For assistance in registering unregistered land, or for advice generally with regard to registered or unregistered land, please contact our property teams:

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