When it comes to buying a new property, taking out a mortgage or taking equity release, you may find yourself wondering what happened to your property title deeds.
HM Land Registry records all land and property ownership in England and Wales. They hold both freehold and leasehold title deeds permanently in digital format. Properties purchased or transacted on since 1990 should already be registered, however, as part of an equity release, any unregistered property will need registering.
If your property is in Scotland or Northern Ireland, you can still get equity release. However, the way you access your title deeds differs slightly from properties in England and Wales. We explore how you can access your land registry later in this guide. Much of the same information still applies, regardless of which country in the United Kingdom that you live.
In this guide, you will learn:
Before we get started, let's take a brief look at the background of the Land Registry.
The current Land Registry system was brought in by the Land Registry Act 1925 and is operated by HM Land Registry. After which, different areas of the country were selected where compulsory registration had to take place. This means that in some parts of the country, mandatory registration has been around longer than in others.
Following a 1990 order, it became compulsory for all land and property transactions to be registered. There was one area of delay in land changing ownership after death. This was due to the land or property being gifted rather than sold. It only became compulsory to register these in April 1998. The same year it also became mandatory to register land when a mortgage is created on it.
While you may still hold the paper copy to your title deeds, after registration, it is the Land Registry where digital copies are held.
We have established that if your property has had a mortgage, or equity release post-1998, or was purchased post-1990, it will be registered with HM Land Registry. But what if you haven't transacted on your property since this date?
The good news is that checking if your property is registered with the land registry is very easy. Visit HM Land Registry and enter your property name/number and postcode. The results page will show if your property is registered.
All Land Registry records are now digital, and they don't keep or store any paper title deeds. Generally, the land registry will only see the original paper deeds when the property is registered. Once the property deeds are scanned and registered, the paper deeds are normally returned to the solicitor who instigated the registration.
The Land Registry provides you with a land title, which confirms:
- who owns the property,
- when you purchased the property,
- any mortgage(s) attached to the property,
- property boundaries and rights of way, and,
- whether anyone else has an interest in the property.
Once an individual property is registered, the Land Registry will then record any changes in ownership, mortgages, additional charges, or leases affecting it.
To obtain a copy of your title deeds, you can visit the land registry directly.
There is a fee of £3 for each digital copy of the title deeds.
You are also able to obtain a copy of the title plan, which confirms the property boundaries, again for an additional £3.
Alternatively, as we have digital access to the Land Registry, we will be pleased to provide you with a copy of your title deeds free of charge.
You have tried to obtain a copy of your title deeds and discovered that your property isn't registered, what do you do next?
First of all, don't be concerned. If for any reason your property isn't registered, it doesn't mean there is a problem with your ownership. All it means is that there hasn't been a transaction to trigger the requirement to register it. This is quite common for properties that have been owned by a family for an extended period.
It does, however, mean that to sell or take equity release on an unregistered property you will need to register it. As part of the registration, you will need to produce the physical title deeds.
If you can't remember where they are, and you are trying to track down your original deeds, they could be:
- With the solicitor who acted for you when you bought the property.
- With your bank.
- With your mortgage lender (if you have a mortgage, or have had one in the past).
- Stored in your home.
Should you be unable to locate your title deeds, they may be reconstructed by a solicitor. But this is likely to take some time, and cost you thousands of pounds. Therefore you should fully explore all other options first.
If you are looking to take equity release, your property registration can take place simultaneously to your equity release application. The solicitor dealing with your equity release should be able to look after your property registration for you as well. Do remember to ask what the additional costs will be. From our experience, it will only be a couple of hundred pounds. Also, remember that it will likely add a little extra time to the equity release process.
Alternatively, if you prefer, you may apply directly to the land registry, and they will detail the process and forms required to go ahead. You will find all of the information you need by visiting https://www.gov.uk/registering-land-or-property-with-land-registry/register-for-the-first-time.
Once your property is registered, any future transactions are updated digitally with the land registry. The updates themself will be by the solicitor, or lender, who is handling the transaction.
As part of our equity release advice, we request a copy of your title deeds via the Land Registry.
The Land Registry title will confirm:
The title will show:
- The full names of the property owner(s)
- The date that you purchased your property
- The price paid for the property
The title will show if there are any trust restrictions or tenants in common restrictions.
As part of the equity release, any existing trusts will need to be broken/unwound.
Tenants in common restrictions are unlikely to cause a problem (unless a co-owner no longer lives in the property). For further details about equity release for tenants in common, please read my full guide.
Your title deeds will show the company names for any charges secured on your property, including:
- Residential mortgages
- Secured loans
- Existing equity release plans
It will also show any outstanding County Court Judgments or interest registered to the property.
If you have any charges registered against your property, they need repaying as part of the equity release. All equity release lenders require that they will be the sole charge registered against your property.
Covenants and Restrictions
Your title deeds will also detail any covenants and restrictions on the property and any rights of way.
Most of these will be standard, and your solicitor should have made you aware of anything unusual at the time of you purchased the property.
Much of the information in this guide is the same for properties in Scotland. However, Scotland has its own land registry known as the Land Register of Scotland. You can request copies of your title deeds from https://www.ros.gov.uk/our-registers/land-register-of-scotland.
Much of the information in this guide is the same for properties in Northern Ireland. However, Northern Ireland has its own land registry, which is managed by Land & Property Services (LPS). You can request copies of your title deeds from https://www.nidirect.gov.uk/articles/searching-the-land-registry.
If you have further questions, why not speak with one of our qualified advisors?
Call us on 0207 158 0881 or use our online form to book your FREE consultation.
While a qualified equity release advisor has written this guide, it is not intended to be used as financial nor legal advice and should not be relied upon.
To understand the full features and risks of an Equity Release plan, ask for a personalised illustration.
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