Purchasing a Plot of (currently) Unregistered Land - Risks?

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    Purchasing a Plot of (currently) Unregistered Land - Risks?

    We wish to purchase a reasonably small plot of land in the vicinity of our property.

    We are in amicable contact with the land owner, who has inherited the land, which in turn forms part of the estate of a now deceased person. The land is currently unregistered (certainly because it has never changed hands), and is very 'old' (no recent deeds/drawings etc). The matter of the sale is being handled by the landowner's solicitors, who we are also in contact with.

    To complicate things further, we believe that a neighbouring property has, a long time ago, successfully claimed possession of a small part of the land (which we are not interested in anyway), probably in the 1990's. We aren't entirely sure of this.

    We obviously do not want to purchase this land only to find out later down the line that part of it is owned by someone else.

    I believe that the land must be registered before it is sold, and I'm aware that the solicitors are currently trying to get the land registered. Therefore my question is, if they do manage to register the land, what protection does this afford to us, as buyers? Would they even be able to register it if a small part of it had been claimed by someone else?

    Phrased differently, if a piece of land has been successfully (freshly) registered, is it safe to assume that a buyer should not encounter boundary/ownership issues after purchase (as surely HMLR have just acknowledged ownership?).

    What responsibilites are there on behalf of the seller nowadays before land is passed to a buyer? For what it's worth, the land is not used as access (or used by anybody at all for that matter).

    #2
    The solicitor would be doing a search for the area in question with Land registry, to pull up the title deeds for the areas. If the searches results in no titles found and if you successfully register the title, the title then becomes yours.

    Comment


      #3
      To complicate things further, we believe that a neighbouring property has, a long time ago, successfully claimed possession of a small part of the land (which we are not interested in anyway), probably in the 1990's. We aren't entirely sure of this.
      If you use the Land Registry web-site and make a Map enquiry using the address of the person you believe may have made a claim to be registered with a possessory title.
      Place the search circle using a width of 20 metres to see if there are a number of registered properties within the area where you place the search circle.

      You would expect to find the registered properties identified, although the unregistered land will state no information available if the circle was placed in the middle of land known to be unregistered.

      If only residential addresses are shown it seems unlikely that a separate possessory title has been created.

      Should one registered title state "Land adjacent to No.1 High Street" (as an example) the register and plan can be bought using a credit card for £6. Then it would be obvious that the owner of 1 High Street had acquired additional land.
      The register may even state that it is a Possessory Title and the title plan will identify the extent of the registered title next to the original residential title.

      Of course your own solicitor would normally do that search for you, especially if you inform him of this possible possessory title.
      That will certainly cost you more than £6 and a few minutes of your time searching on the Land Registry web-site.

      Comment


        #4
        Originally posted by pilman View Post
        If you use the Land Registry web-site and make a Map enquiry using the address of the person you believe may have made a claim to be registered with a possessory title.
        I actually did such a map enquiry not so long ago. Annoyingly, the property in question shows 'No information available'. Only residential addresses are listed, pretty much wherever I centre the circle.

        Interestingly the entirety of the property suspected of holding the possessory title is, like the land, also unregistered. I also did a postal Index Map search with land registry (using https://www.gov.uk/government/public...ial-search-sim) for both the land and the property in question, which turned up nothing at all.

        Is there any way a possessory title can exist and not turn up in any of these searches?

        Are these all things I could give to a future solicitor to save time investigating this case prior to purchase? What other channels would they look down that I haven't?

        If the land is successfully registered prior to purchase, does this render further investigation into thid pointless (as land registry have effectively made a 'title decision')?

        Comment


          #5
          Find out what the neighbouring property owns and has rights over from land registry documents before 1990's?

          Comment


            #6
            I have made a post (#4), but it has been marked as potential spam and not approved yet...

            Comment


              #7
              Reposting this as the first time it was marked as spam....

              Originally posted by pilman View Post
              If you use the Land Registry web-site and make a Map enquiry using the address of the person you believe may have made a claim to be registered with a possessory title.
              I actually did such a map enquiry not so long ago. Annoyingly, the property in question shows 'No information available'. Only residential addresses are listed, pretty much wherever I centre the circle.

              Interestingly the entirety of the property suspected of holding the possessory title is, like the land, also unregistered. I also did a postal Index Map search with land registry (using https://www.gov.uk/government/public...ial-search-sim) for both the land and the property in question, which turned up nothing at all.

              Is there any way a possessory title can exist and not turn up in any of these searches?

              Are these all things I could give to a future solicitor to save time investigating this case prior to purchase? What other channels would they look down that I haven't?

              If the land is successfully registered prior to purchase, does this render further investigation into thid pointless (as land registry have effectively made a 'title decision')?

              Comment


                #8
                In the event that an owner of one unregistered residential property had taken possession of part of an adjacent unregistered property that was part of a large estate, it would require a physical examination of the area of land that you intend buying to verify if part of that land had been enclosed by fencing that would give a clear indication that part of it was being adversely possessed.

                When the estate is registered the Land Registry will only be provided with the evidence of ownership provided by the original deeds, which may have a plan attached showing the full extent of the land when it was last conveyed or transferred prior to when land registration became compulsory.

                The register and title plan would then refer to those original deeds and plans and anything contained in them, such as restrictive covenants, or easements that benefit or burden the property.

                Sections 15 and 17 Limitation Act 1980 will apply to any of the property that has been adversely possessed for more than 12 years prior to registration.
                After 12 years the legal owner lost the right to seek repossession (Section 15) and the title of the land in adverse possession will have been extinguished (Section 17).

                None of that will be reflected in the new register of title and title plan based on the original deeds, so there is a possibility that not all of the land being registered is legally part of the newly registered property, although it will probably need legal action by the person claiming to be in possession to finally resolve the situation.

                That is why a physical examination of the land is essential, although a solicitor is unlikely to undertake such a task as part of modern conveyancing procedure.

                That would be a task you need to do yourself if you are in any doubt about what you are intending to buy.

                Comment


                  #9
                  Originally posted by pilman View Post
                  The register and title plan would then refer to those original deeds and plans and anything contained in them, such as restrictive covenants, or easements that benefit or burden the property.
                  So LR can only register with respect to a boundary provided by the original plan of the land? They can't edit out a bit that has in the meantime been adversely possesed? That seems to be a massive pain for both the registree and the adverse posessor. If part of the land has been sucessfully adversely possesed and a posessory title awarded, I would have thought it best for both sides to register a modified boundary.

                  What I really want to know, is if there is any way that the person I suspect of holding a posessory title for adversely possessing part of the land can hide said title from all possible lines of enquiry, and then pull it out years down the line after I have purchased it (with obviously painful consequences)? Surely (!) there must be some record with LR of said person making an application, even in the pre-registration era, as this would have required a review/inspection. Surely all such records are not destroyed after the application has been decided?

                  I would have thought that prior to registering the land in question, LR would check if there exist any conflicting titles that have been drawn up in the meantime (such as a possessory title gained from adverse possession). Such a check would surely reveal the existence of said posessory title prior to our purchase.

                  Comment


                    #10
                    If part of the land has been successfully adversely possessed and a possessory title awarded, I would have thought it best for both sides to register a modified boundary.
                    It seems that you fail to understand what unregistered means.

                    Land Registry will not have received any application regarding possession of the the land you intend buying.
                    Neither the legal owner, nor the person who may be in adverse possession of part of that land has ever made an application to have the land registered.

                    That the land remains unregistered is evidence that no one has ever made an application to be registered as owner of any of that land, which can only be identified using the original paper deeds in the possession of the last legal owner.

                    When you referred to the pre-registration era that would be before the Land Registration Act 1925 became law.
                    If you mean before land registration was made compulsory in your area that could be any date between 1925 and 1990 because compulsory registration was done in stages with the final areas confirmed in 1990.

                    Somewhere in this country there is an owner with paper deeds that prove ownership of the land being referred to.
                    His neighbour may also have paper deeds that identify the area of land he was transferred sometime prior to 1990.
                    That second owner may have been in possession of some of the land belonging to the first owner, but he has not made an attempt to have his own land registered, nor has he claimed to be in possession of some of the neighbouring land due to his adverse possession for a period in excess of 12 years, unless there have been court proceedings whereby the second owner proved that fact to the satisfaction of a court.

                    The possessed land would still be unregistered, but there may have been a Memorandum written on the estate's title deed to confirm the area of land that was no longer part of the original estate.

                    The current Land Registration Act 2002 treats registered land differently to unregistered land, so once the large estate is registered using the original deeds and plans that identified the full extent of that land, because that is all the information that will be available to Land Registry, Schedule 6 will apply in the event that the second owner finally decides to register his original land and the area that he has been in possession of for over 12 years.

                    That is why it will be essential to view the parcel of land you intend buying to see if there is any evidence that someone other the original estate owner is currently in possession of all, or part of the land you want to buy.

                    Land Registry cannot assist you in the way you seem to want it to.

                    The only check that Land Registry can make is to confirm that no part of the land has previously been registered, so that the application for first registration will be based solely on paper deeds and plans provided by the applicant's solicitor.

                    Comment


                      #11
                      Originally posted by pilman View Post
                      Land Registry will not have received any application regarding possession of the the land you intend buying.
                      Neither the legal owner, nor the person who may be in adverse possession of part of that land has ever made an application to have the land registered.
                      Correct, this is exactly the case. Both landowner and (suspected) adverse posessor have never applied to have any of it registered.

                      Originally posted by pilman View Post
                      That the land remains unregistered is evidence that no one has ever made an application to be registered as owner of any of that land, which can only be identified using the original paper deeds in the possession of the last legal owner.
                      The landowner does indeed have the original paper deeds. Their solicitors are trying to register the land based upon these paper deeds.

                      Originally posted by pilman View Post
                      When you referred to the pre-registration era that would be before the Land Registration Act 1925 became law.
                      If you mean before land registration was made compulsory in your area that could be any date between 1925 and 1990 because compulsory registration was done in stages with the final areas confirmed in 1990.
                      Yes, my point here was that I thought that being awarded a posessory title through adverse posession amounted to a `change of ownership', and as such, the part claimed would need to be registered, unless this adverse posession took place before compulsory registration in my area was introduced.

                      Originally posted by pilman View Post
                      That is why it will be essential to view the parcel of land you intend buying to see if there is any evidence that someone other the original estate owner is currently in possession of all, or part of the land you want to buy.
                      I have a permanent view of the land in question; I see it every day. There is indeed a small corner + grass strip extending from this corner which I would say is being `tended to' by the suspected adverse possessor. It is not fenced off and members of the public occasionally walk through it. The rest of the land is untouched by anyone else. I'd be happy to purchase the land with or without this corner bit. I don't know what else I'm meant to be observing.

                      Originally posted by pilman View Post
                      The only check that Land Registry can make is to confirm that no part of the land has previously been registered, so that the application for first registration will be based solely on paper deeds and plans provided by the applicant's solicitor.
                      OK, but what if the (suspected) adverse posessor, during the registration process, comes out waving a posessory title that forms part of the portion being registered? This isn't an original deed, but it is a paper document showing ownership is it not? You're saying LR will completely ignore this?

                      What if the entirety of the land is successfully registered, but after purchase, the (suspected) adverse posessor comes to our door waving a posessory title?

                      Comment


                        #12
                        OK, but what if the (suspected) adverse possessor, during the registration process, comes out waving a possessory title that forms part of the portion being registered? This isn't an original deed, but it is a paper document showing ownership is it not?
                        A Possessory Title can only be granted by Land Registry after an application has been made to it that provided evidence that such possession of a piece of land has actually occurred for a period in excess of 12 years with the possessor proving that such use was exclusive use with the intention to remain in possession by excluding all others, including the owner of the legal title in the form of original paper deed and plans.

                        That such an application has never been made is now established, so where is this waved piece of paper supposed to come from?

                        No one has yet attempted to register any of the parcels of land that remain unregistered.

                        Based on the following quote, it does not appear that anyone can claim to be in possession other than the current legal owner.
                        I have a permanent view of the land in question; I see it every day. There is indeed a small corner + grass strip extending from this corner which I would say is being `tended to' by the suspected adverse possessor.
                        It is not fenced off and members of the public occasionally walk through it.
                        I

                        Comment


                          #13
                          Originally posted by pilman View Post
                          That such an application has never been made is now established, so where is this waved piece of paper supposed to come from?
                          This is where I'm confused. How has this been established for definite?

                          As mentioned in post #4, if I do a search using this tool:

                          https://eservices.landregistry.gov.u...EnquiryInit.do

                          The entirety of the property of the suspected possessor comes up with "No information available". Therefore I have no way of checking the boundary of their property, which could perhaps be useful if they have successfully incorporated the claimed area into their curtilage. On the list of properties that comes up on the search, none of them pertain to the land in question (is this how you're assuming no possessory title has been awarded?).

                          This feeds back to my earlier question: Is there a way a possessory title can be awarded and it not show up through any of these channels? Alternatively: If the 'Map Enquiry' tool does not show anything, is it safe to assume that no posessory title has been awarded?

                          Originally posted by pilman View Post
                          Based on the following quote, it does not appear that anyone can claim to be in possession other than the current legal owner.

                          It is not fenced off and members of the public occasionally walk through it.
                          Yes, but fencing is not a requirement and perhaps no members of the public walked through here at the time of the application, if there ever was one (again, probably 1990's). Who knows what it looked like back then.

                          Speaking of fencing, would it be advisable for the current owners to fence off the land prior to the application for registration? Given that the deeds are very old and slightly ambiguous in places (a faint sketch), it seems to me this would make clearer what the owner is claiming to be theirs, and perhaps make the registration process smoother. If it will make no difference at all, then how do LR make a decision on registration where the deeds are very old and amiguous?

                          Comment


                            #14
                            There is use of the phrase "at the time of the application" in that last post. If that is referring to an application to Land Registry made since 1925 then it does seem as no one has ever made such an application.

                            In the event that an application was made to a court prior to when registration was compulsory in your area, then it could be possible that a court ruled that the claimant was in adverse possession of land beyond the land shown on the plan attached to their paper deeds.

                            That would mean that this person has a legal unregistered title for the original land and the possessed land once the judge accepted that this is now adversely possessed, after this was proven during the court proceedings.
                            Since that court case was decided the original owner no longer has a legal title to that parcel of land since the title was extinguished due to Section 17 Limitation Act 1939 or
                            Limitation Act
                            1980 depending on when such a court made its ruling.

                            75 Acquisition of title by possession
                            (1) The Limitation Acts shall apply to registered land in the same manner and to the same extent as those Acts apply to land not registered, except that where, if the land were not registered, the estate of the person registered as proprietor would be extinguished, such estate shall not be extinguished but shall be deemed to be held by the proprietor for the time being in trust for the person who, by virtue of the said Acts, has acquired title against any proprietor, but without prejudice to the estates and interests of any other person interested in the land whose estate or interest is not extinguished by those Acts.
                            There is a procedure for making a search of the Land Registry's Index Map using a form SIM.
                            That will ensure that Land Registry will confirm in writing what registered titles there are in existence over the area of land identified on the plan that accompanied the SIM application, which will require a fee paid to have the search completed.

                            When using the on-screen map search facility it is possible using the search circle to proceed along the extent of the land you think is unregistered and include the residential properties that border the extent of that land.

                            When a property address is shown it will be a clear indication that a property is registered.
                            Placing the circle in the centre of an unregistered parcel of land will bring up the statement "No information held"

                            Sometimes using a post code on the normal search facility will list the addresses with a title.
                            That will also be a clear implication that those not mentioned that are known to be in that post code area remain unregistered.

                            The problem with me continuing to post responses to this thread is that your concerns seem to be totally out of context, because you seem to be imagining the worst possible set of circumstances regarding the land you want to buy, although your written description of the land gives no indication that a successful court action has confirmed that adverse possession of land was proven to have occurred prior to when compulsory registration of that land was necessary.

                            Comment


                              #15
                              Originally posted by pilman View Post
                              The problem with me continuing to post responses to this thread is that your concerns seem to be totally out of context, because you seem to be imagining the worst possible set of circumstances regarding the land you want to buy, although your written description of the land gives no indication that a successful court action has confirmed that adverse possession of land was proven to have occurred prior to when compulsory registration of that land was necessary.
                              I like to hope for the best, but prepare for the worst.

                              Indeed, it does appear that no posessory title was ever awarded in this case, and things are probably brighter than I'm making them out to be.

                              Still, the niggling worry that it is, in principle, possible but unlikely for this person to have a posessory title tucked away somewhere is annoying. Their actions of tending to a very defined area of the land, coupled with their verbal 'claims' are what led me to pursue this. But I do think I'm as satisfied as I can be that they don't have such a title.

                              One academic question: If LR are presented with the original paper deeds by the owner's solicitors, are satisfied, and register the entirety of the land in the owner's name, what would happen if somebody did come out of the woodwork with a posessory title?

                              Comment

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