According to recent figures from the Land Registry a significant percentage of land in England and Wales is still unregistered and a large part of that is agricultural and rural land.
Why? Well, agricultural land often remains within the same ownership for decades and land which was purchased before the late 1980's was not necessarily subject to compulsory registration.
Certain triggers can force compulsory registration, such as if you want to use the land for security with the bank when re-financing or if you want to transfer land; either by way of a sale or perhaps by giving some land/property to a member of the family, for example.
The benefits of being proactive and taking pre-emptive steps to voluntarily register your land can be significant - not least because you will benefit from reduced Land Registry fees by voluntarily registering your land rather than incurring the higher fees which the Land Registry will impose once compulsory registration has been triggered.
Some other benefits are potentially even more attractive. For example, we recently successfully defended a client from a claim of adverse possession over a valuable section of land which the landowner became aware of at an early stage due to notification directly from the Land Registry. Had that land been unregistered the outcome may not have been such a happy one.
Although perhaps less dramatic, additional benefits to your land being registered include the fact that it saves a considerable amount of time should you ever decide to sell your land. It is also for easier for your descendants to deal with you estate when the land is already registered: rather than trying to piece together a complex unregistered title and trying to locate old bundles of deeds, for which they may not know where to begin their search.
Voluntary registration also allows time to resolve any issues or anomalies which may be revealed by a detailed review of the title deeds. For example, old plans are sometimes low on detail and ownership of a track or section of river can easily be missed if the red line appears to be on the wrong side of a boundary. We find that this is often the case if details on the old plans are rather small - a thick red line carelessly drawn several decades ago can cause problems and lengthy delays when you want to sell some of your land or when you need to use the land as security for the bank. Catching points such as those described above during a voluntary registration will help you to avoid unnecessary hold-ups later down the line.
If you believe that you may own some unregistered land then the easiest way to check is to locate your deeds and use the plans to run a search with the Land Registry; which you may choose to do yourself but it is often preferable to get in touch with a solicitor and allow them to carry out this work for you as we have years of experience at this sort of task and know what to look for.
If you find that you are correct and your land, or parts of it, are unregistered then consider taking the time now to voluntarily register that land with the Land Registry. Time invested at an early stage may prove to be invaluable to you and/or your family.
For more information, contact Clair Douglas, Associate Solicitor for agricultural and rural property affairs at our Malton office on 01653 600070.