Registering unregistered land

How to register unregistered land

When will land have been registered?

Since 1998, there has been a legal requirement for compulsory registration of land purchased and otherwise transferred – including by way of gift, inheritance, mortgage and so on. This means that anything giving rise to the transfer of ownership of land or property must be completed by formal registration at HM Land Registry. This must be done within three months.

Is unregistered land a bad thing?

Unregistered land is not necessarily a lesser form of legal title or ownership than registered land. For instance, the land may have been inherited or given to the existing owner before 1998 when there was no requirement for compulsory registration (except in the case of a sale and other limited circumstances).

However, in some cases a purchaser of unregistered land may insist on the land being registered at the Land Registry before going ahead. This is done by an application for First Registration. This can be done by a lay person but specialist legal advice is advisable. The purchase and registration of unregistered land will need to be carried out by a specialist property solicitor.

Making an application for first registration

To complete an application, it is important to locate all the deeds of the property. The deeds are all the documents relating to the property and the owners’ ownership of the property which can be used to prove an unbroken chain of ownership, right up to the current owner’s right to sell the land. These deeds may include:

  • Conveyances and transfers;
  • Plans of the property;
  • Grants of probate;
  • Death certificates;
  • Mortgage deeds;
  • Deeds of easement;
  • Deeds of restrictive covenants;
  • Memoranda showing sales of part;
  • Mortgage notes, loans and confirmation of payment;
  • Statutory declarations;
  • A lease, if the property is leasehold, and;
  • Anything else the Land Registry will require to deduce title.

Plans are often critical to prove the extent of the land that is to be registered. Where the land has always remained one plot with no parts having been sold off, the plan with the original conveyance will be particularly important. This plan will be used by the Land Registry to determine the boundaries of the land being registered.

Plans are also vital to show any changes in the borders, for instance, where parts have been sold off previously.

Root of Title

The ´Root of Title´ is the document that is being relied on to prove legal ownership of the property and is often the original conveyance. Sometimes, it is a subsequent conveyance. A ‘good’ Root of Title is one that shows both legal and beneficially ownership of the then owner/s, so an assent or deed of gift is not good enough.

All subsequent conveyances and other documents, as listed above, should be produced (‘deduced’) showing an unbroken chain of legal ownership of the title – ending with the document that is evidence of the current legal owner’s legal right to sell the property.

Unlock this article now!


For more information on:

  • Epitome of Title
  • First Registration with the Land Registry
  • After registration