What happens if you cannot locate your property deeds?

Why are Deeds important?

In order to sell property you must be able to prove ownership and the right to sell.  If the property is not registered with the Land Registry you will need title deeds to prove ownership.  The Land Registry requires deeds proving the chain of ownership for 15 years.

Searching for documents

If you do not have any title deeds, you must first try to locate them by contacting any local solicitors, or parties to the transactions, to ask if they hold any documentation.  It maybe that the original acting solicitor kept the deeds in his or her office.  You could also place an advertisement in the Law Gazette stating the name of the purchaser, the location of the property and requesting information.  A solicitor involved in the purchase may see the notice and contact you with information.

It is also a good idea to thoroughly search the property and any other possible storage locations.  There have been instances where relatives have found the deeds under the floor boards of the property so you may need to think creatively.

I cannot find the Deeds what do I do?

You will need to complete a First Registration form with the Land Registry before selling the land, unless under other agreement.

First Registration

In order to complete a First Registration, typically you need deeds demonstrating 15 years of ownership.  If you cannot prove this you must submit to the Land Registry, the documents you do have in possession in order for them to deduce title along with the following documents.

If the search is unsuccessful

You will need to submit to the Land Registry a letter explaining the search attempts that you have made, providing evidence of unsuccessful searches such as letters from solicitors.  The letter should also explain how you came to own the property for example through inheritance.  The more information you provide the Land Registry, the better for your case.

Title Plans

You will also need to submit a Title Plan to the Land Registry demonstrating the boundaries of the property.  If the neighbouring properties are registered with the Land Registry then you could obtain a copy of the plans from the Land Registry and use them to outline the borders of your property.

If the bordering properties are not registered, you will need to submit a plan.

Statutory Declarations

You will also need to submit a Statutory Declaration with a plan of the property included in the Declaration, from the neighbours to the property or another person who can confirm your ownership and the boundaries of the property.  In the Statutory Declaration the neighbor will have to state how long they have known you, in what capacity and the length of time they can confirm your ownership of the property for.  You may need to consult a solicitor for the exact wording.

Don’t forget that the Statutory Declaration will need to be witnessed by specific people listed on the Land Registry website.  They will need to initial each page including the plan.

Summary, what do I need to submit to the Land Registry?

You will need to submit the following documents

  • Statutory Declaration from neighbours with a plan
  • Any deeds which you do possess
  • A Title Plan outlining your property
  • A letter explaining why you cannot find the deeds, and your search attempts
  • An FR1 Form downloadable from the Land Registry website
  • Appropriate payment (contact your local Land Registry for the up to date cost)

What happens next?

The Land Registry will contact you if they require further evidence of purchase.  They will likely also contact you to state they will need to send a surveyor to the property to confirm the borders.  There will be a further cost for you and you will need to organise an appointment time through the Land Registry.

When Registration has been achieved

The Land Registry will send you a copy of the Registration.  It is important you check the information is correct, in order that you do not have difficulties when you go to sell the property.  You will also need to check the plan, if you have any enquiries or disputes you must raise these with the Land Registry within 3 weeks to ensure they are resolved.