The benefits of registering your farmland
Written by Rebecca Allen, Chartered Legal Executive at Spire Solicitors LLP.
Once properties are registered at HM Land Registry, deeds are no longer required to prove ownership and instead, property transaction will be registered with HM Land Registry. It became compulsory to register your land after most dispositions, such as a change in ownership, in the 1990s. Approximately 15% of land in England and Wales is believed to be unregistered and this is particularly prevalent with farmland which has remained in the same ownership for decades.
You can apply to voluntarily register your land and the benefits of doing this include:
Knowledge of the land: Over time, there may have been sale-offs or swaps of part of the land between neighbours which are not recorded, or boundaries and accesses may have changed. It is best that the application for first registration is made by the person who has the best knowledge of the land and has been managing the land for some time. If any Deeds have been lost or destroyed, you will need to make an application for first registration and draw on your knowledge of the land to reconstruct the title as best you can. If compulsory registration is left to the personal representatives on your death, their knowledge may be more limited and there may be questions which cannot be answered.
Clear mapping: The Land Registry will produce a filed plan when the land is registered. The filed plans are based on modern Ordnance Survey (OS) maps which will hopefully be a more accurate record than the old, hand-drawn or faded maps contained in your Deeds. The Land Registry records will also show any areas of land to which you do not have the legal title. If you apply to voluntarily register your land, this can be addressed now, rather than discovering the problem when you come to sell or borrow against the land.
Protection against ‘squatters’ claims and fraud: Once the land is registered, the Land Registry notifies you of any application for adverse possession. It is less likely that any claim will succeed as you will be able to object and remove the squatter.
Minimise future costs: When applying for a new mortgage over the land, it will usually be cheaper and quicker if the land is already registered. This is because it is usually more efficient for both the solicitors and the surveyor, as they can rely on the Official Copy of the Register of Title and do not need to examine historical documents which are no longer relevant. Additionally, once the land is registered at Land Registry, you can download your own Official Copy of the Register of Title which will allow you to see the dispositions affecting your land rather than asking your Solicitor for a meeting to review your Deeds.
There are many other benefits to voluntary first registration of your farm land and if you think your farmland may be unregistered, or you know it is and you are considering voluntary first registration, please contact Spire Solicitors LLP on 01603 677077.