Last edited 05 Oct 2016

Land register

The Land Register for England and Wales includes more than 23 million titles (evidence of ownership of land or property). It is maintained by the Land Registry.

When land or property is entered in the register, the Land Registry will then record details it such as changes of ownership, mortgages or leases that affect it and so on. This gives greater certainty and security to owners and potential purchasers. If loss is suffered because of an error or omission in the register it is possible to seek compensation.

The Land Registry is a government department. It was created on 15th October 1862 to register the ownership of land and property in England and Wales. By 1950, it included one million titles, by 1975, 5 million and by 1990, 10 million. 80% of land in England and Wales is now registered.

As encumbrances (interests that affect land) may be a factor in assessing value or marketability, it is common practice to commission an official search of the Land Register before purchasing land or property.

The Land Register can provide:

  • Details of ownership.
  • Copies of title registers, title plans, leases and other documents.
  • Details about financial burdens such as mortgages.
  • The price last paid to purchase the land or property.
  • Flood risk indicator results.
  • Details of easements and restrictive covenants that the land or property may be subject to or may benefit from.
  • Details of franchises (rights granted by the Crown).
  • Details of manors (lordship titles).

However, the Land Register is not conclusive on all matters, such as:

  • Details of local land charges.
  • Information about the rights of occupiers.
  • Details of unregistered land or property.
  • Details of land and property in Scotland or Northern Ireland.
  • Old property deeds and historical information.
  • Planning issues.

Because of this, further investigations may be required, and it can be wise to inspect the land itself and to question occupants.

In 2014, the government began a consultation process to assess whether a new company could take on service delivery functions from HM Land Registry. Ref Land Registry: new service delivery company 23 January 2014. It was anticipated that the sale would raise £1.2 bn. However, in July 2014, following disagreement between Lib Dem and Conservative members of the coalition, the government announced it had suspended indefinitely plans to privatise the Land Registry.

These plans were raised again by the Queen's Speech in May 2016, as it was to be included as part of the new Neighbourhood Planning and Infrastructure Bill. A consultation was then launched on the Land Registry's future operating model which set out the options for moving its operations into the private sector.

However, when the Bill was introduced into Parliament as the Neighbourhood Planning Bill 2016-17 in September 2016, there was no mention of the Land Registry. A government spokesperson said, “No decision has been taken on the future of the Land Registry. A consultation on the Land Registry’s future closed in May and we are carefully considering our response. It is only right that new ministers take time to look at all their options before making a decision.”

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