Alterations to the register of title at HM Land Registry is necessary where a property deed, that has already been registered, contains errors that should be corrected. This may be a clerical error that previously went unnoticed, or a mistake that unintentionally changes the legal meaning or consequences of the deed.
Sometimes, the mistake happens during the registration process at the Land Registry, for instance, the entry to a right of way has not been included, or a restrictive covenant is missing.
Unfortunately, human error can arise from time to time during the conveyancing process or, for instance, in the drafting of the grant of a right of way or a deedlifting a restrictive covenant. These are not always picked up quickly. Sometimes, such mistakes are not discovered until many years later when a property sale is agreed, or the owner needs to check the register of title to determine the wording of a restrictive covenant, for example.
If the error is picked up before the deed is registered at HM Land Registry, the original deed can be amended – and every alteration signed by all parties. The process of correcting or rectifying the register of title itself is not quite so straightforward.
Registration at HM Land Registry
When a property is sold or transferred, the transfer deed is the legal document that completes the sale (or transfer) of the property. It sets out the names of the parties, and describes the property, and the sale price, and legal charges, and includes a title plan. Once completed, the new owners’ details are registered at HM Land Registry as registered proprietors of the property. The transfer deed may refer to other documents, such as ‘old’ conveyances, restrictive covenants contained in earlier deeds, deeds of easement, additional plans, and so on.
The title registered at the Land Registry is a formal record of ownership of the property. Once registered, the Land Registry provides owners with a land title that is guaranteed by government. If an error is discovered, it will probably need to be put right.
What happens if inaccuracies or mistakes are discovered?
It depends on the issue. Simple errors such as spelling mistakes in names, addresses, etc, are common. However, more serious errors and ambiguities may involve the description of the property, the boundaries, the extent of a right of way, and so on.
The Land Registration Act 2002 sets out when and how certain mistakes in the register can be put right, together with a compensation scheme for anyone who suffers loss as a result of a mistake in the register.
The Act says that alterations can be either ordered by the court, or effected by the land registrar to correct a mistake or bring the register up to date; to give effect to any estate, legal right or interest that is not affected by registration (because the land has been registered with good leasehold, possessory or qualified title). The registrar can also remove a superfluous entry on the registrar.
However, it is important to note that the registrar does not have statutory power under the Act to alter the register where the mistake arose in a deed that was submitted to the Land Registry for registration. Only the court or a land tribunal can do so.
Order for rectification
Rectification is a particular type of alteration to correct a mistake in the register that prejudicially affects the legal owner’s title, such as reducing the market value of the property. When someone applies for rectification the registrar must do so unless there are exceptional circumstances justifying not doing so. On an application to the court, an order for rectification must be made if it has the power to do so, subject to exceptional circumstances justifying not to do so.
Unless the registered proprietor caused the mistake because of fraud or not exercising sufficient care (or it would be unjust), the registrar can only rectify the register if the registered proprietor is in possession of the land.
How do I get the Register corrected?
Check with the Land Registry before taking any steps so that a land registrar can look into it and confirm whether or not there is a mistake. The Land Registry will tell you how to apply for the mistake to be rectified.
Anyone can apply for an alteration of the register.A formal application will need to be made on a standard form AP1 which is freely available. You will need to give full details of the purported mistake and what you want the registrar to do about it, and why. Further information may be requested.
Notice of your application will be given to any registered proprietor of the land or property, or of any registered financial charge that would be affected. Notice will also be given to anyone entitled to an interest that is protected by a notice on the register, if their interest would be affected.
If your application is challenged, this will have to be addressed by the Land Registry before the title can be rectified.
What if I suffer financial loss?
If the mistake was the fault of the Land Registry and you suffer financial loss as a result, the Land Registry will compensate you under a statutory compensation scheme. You should seek legal advice about this from a specialist solicitor.