Wherever you live in the UK, the government keeps a central record of land ownership. In England and Wales, the organisation doing this is the Land Registry. There is also a separate Land Registry in Northern Ireland. In Scotland, the work is done by the Registers of Scotland. We’ve used the term ‘land registration authority’ to cover all these in the rest of this article. The processes involved in land registration are similar, but there are variations in procedure and in the forms that you’ll require.
Broadly speaking, you’ll need to register land or property if it hasn’t previously been registered and if you’ve bought it or acquired it as a gift, as part of an inheritance or in a land swap. In most parts of the UK, you must also register land if you’re taking out a mortgage. That said, though, the rules do vary; for example, registration of land received as a gift or as part of an exchange isn’t compulsory in Northern Ireland, nor does a mortgage trigger registration there. There are special rules about leasehold property.
If the land or property is already registered, you must tell the land registration authority about any changes in ownership, for example if you want to enter into joint ownership with a partner or relative.
Land registration offers many advantages. It guarantees title to the land, it ought to reduce the number of disputes about title and it should help speed up land and property transactions. Land that has been registered can be searched online.
You can ask a solicitor to undertake all the work associated with land registration, or do it yourself. Your first step will usually be to find out whether the land is already registered. If it isn’t, you’ll need to fill in some forms and you will also have to supply a plan showing the land you wish to register, which should be outlined in red.
Although it is sometimes possible to register land on the basis of only a verbal description, particularly where the existing deed plans are of good quality, it may be wiser to assume that any application, whether for first registration or transfer or for freehold, commonhold or lease, will proceed more quickly, and be less likely to be rejected, if good, clear plans are provided.
That said, any application must contain a clear written description of the land, which should comprise the street name and number or house name; the floor level (for example, in a flatted development), the name of the locality, the name of the village, town or city; the name of the administrative area (essentially, the name of the local Council area); and of course the postcode.
The kind of plan you submit with your application does depends on the circumstances. We strongly recommend that you read the detailed advice available online, especially the Land Registry’s Guidance for Preparing Plans for Land Registry Applications. It gives examples of the kinds of plan that are and are not acceptable for land registration purposes. It also makes clear that there can be pitfalls in using old plans, which may have been reduced in scale or may be unclear in other ways.
It is crucial that any plan submitted for land registration contains ‘sufficient details, by plan or otherwise....so that the land can be identified clearly on the Ordnance Survey map’.
For the basic plan – which shows the location of the property – the key points are:
- The plan needs to be at a suitable scale and the scale should be clearly shown on the plan by a scale bar as well as numerically.
- In urban areas the required scale will be at least 1:1,250 but 1:500 may be more suitable;
- In rural areas or for larger areas of land, 1:2,500 will be appropriate;
- There needs to be a north point: if you use our Ordnance Survey plans, this will be provided by the grid;
- Local landmarks such as road junctions or prominent buildings need to be visible;
- The plan must be based on metric measurements; and
- Boundaries should not be drawn using thick pens or markers, since they won’t be sufficiently precise.
The deed plan that shows the site in detail will also need to be capable of being related to the Ordnance Survey plan. It needs to show accurately the boundaries, buildings and access driveways. Measurements should be given in metres to two decimal places. Any hatching or colouring (for example, of boundaries) must correspond to the written description in the deed. The scale should allow all these details to be shown clearly; it should be at least 1:500 and in some cases (for example in very densely built areas, for very small areas of land or where a flat is involved) a scale of 1:200 may be needed.
In England and Wales, most land is registered with ‘general boundaries’. In practice, this means that the registration is based on a suitable Ordnance Survey plan. However, there may be circumstances in which an Ordnance Survey may be inadequate. Maybe you have created a completely new boundary not shown on any Ordnance Survey plan, by dividing one large plot to form two smaller ones, or your site has previously been part of a larger field. Or perhaps a boundary has been in dispute, or titles conflict with one another, or the fence lines shown on the Ordnance Survey plan are not, in fact, the property boundaries. In cases such as these, you’ll need to commission a surveyor to produce an accurate plan and submit that to the land registration authority. Any such plan must, of course, satisfy all the other requirements mentioned earlier and, in particular, it must be possible to relate the plan to the Ordnance Survey map. You’ll also need to produce other evidence to back up the plan; for example, a written description of the line of the boundary and the agreement of neighbouring landowners.
Most cases will be much more straightforward, though, and the Ordnance Survey maps we supply will be suitable for your land registration application. We can produce them at whatever scale you require.