Title Deeds

Historic houses may not change hands as frequently as other houses and as a result some Titles may still not be registered with the Land Registry.  If this is the case, then it is not only essential you know where the Deeds to your property are and that they cannot inadvertently be destroyed. It may also be helpful to let your family or executors know where they are stored.  The Title Deeds may be the only means of proof of the full ownership of your property.

A recent case that came to light concerned a firm of lawyers who had merged, with another practice, and a junior who had been charged with sorting out bundles of old documents.  Unaware that there were still properties whose titles may not have been Registered the title deeds were destroyed.  This left the owner with only a Possessory Title and difficulty selling their property.

Although registration of land started in 1862, by the early 1950s approximately one million properties were registered and by 1973 the number had still only increased to five million.  In 1990 it became compulsory to register a property with Land Registry when it changes hands.  However, if you have owned your house prior to compulsory registration being introduced in your area, and have not had a mortgage, or transferred the property, or part of it, there is every chance proof of ownership will still rely on the old Title Deeds.

If your property is unregistered it may well be worth instructing a solicitor to register the title, which would not only make sure the ownership of your property is securely recorded, it could save time when it comes to selling, or transferring ownership to the next generation.  However, two words of caution, firstly make sure that the boundaries have been correctly copied across onto the current Ordnance Survey plan.  It is not unusual for errors to arise and these can be time consuming to correct later.  Secondly ask for your original Deeds to be returned to you, they are a rich source of history, in some cases going back centuries, and can prove the provenance of your house and a record of previous owners.

Dawn Carritt
November 2019