3 Dec 2023
Most properties in the UK are registered at the Land Registry and the “deeds” are held electronically. However, there are still many unregistered properties in existence due to them not having been sold or mortgaged for many years.
Title deeds are documents that prove the ownership of a property and show its history of past owners too. They include documents that cover mortgages, lease information, contracts and any conveyancing. The documents are used to prove the chain of ownership through the property’s history.
On the first registration of a property, the Land Registry will grant a class of title, and this will depend on the evidence provided of the owner’s legal right to the title. The classes of title are as follows:
This is the best class of title and guarantees that the property owner has an undisputed and absolute right to the property.
This is usually given when the owner is unable to produce sufficient documentary evidence proving their ownership of the property, for example, where deeds have been lost or destroyed, or where the occupier is claiming a right by adverse possession (squatter’s rights). A Possessory Title may be upgraded to Title Absolute once the Possessory Title has been registered for 12 years, or if evidence is provided that would remedy the reason why Possessory Title was granted, for example, lost deeds are found.
This class is extremely rare and is granted when a specific defect in the title has been identified and this will be stated clearly in the title register.
This is granted where insufficient evidence is produced to the Land Registry to show that the landlord had full and unrestricted power to grant a lease. For example, a freeholder may not be identifiable if the freehold title is not registered. A good leasehold title may be vulnerable to challenge if someone proves they own the freehold title and that the person who granted the original lease had no right to do so.
If the property is unregistered, the original title deeds are either usually held by your solicitor or, if a mortgage was required for your house purchase, then your lender would hold these. If the property is registered at the Land Registry, then the deeds are held electronically by them, and they become a part of the definitive record of land and property ownership in England and Wales.
There are circumstances where it may be necessary for changes to be made to a set of title deeds. An example of this could be following a change of name after a divorce or marriage. Details about making these changes, for each specific piece of the title deed documentation can be found on the GOV.UK website. There is a small fee involved and you will need to provide proof of identity and have the application form signed by a solicitor. Using a solicitor for the complete process might be advisable where more complicated changes are required.
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