Jane Batsford, of Lodders Solicitors, says that many people may not realise that property has not been logged at the Land Registry.
I do wish that there was another phrase we could use instead of "unregistered land". When a client is told that their property is not registered at the Land Registry, it conjures up visions of dodgy cars, disreputable doctors and any other number of illegal situations.
The usual reaction of clients will be alarm and concern that they may have broken the law. Unfortunately, some solicitors react in the same way.
Of course, at Lodders we are soon able to reassure our clients that unregistered land is not unusual and certainly not illegal.
Compulsory registration did not come into force until 1980/1990, depending on the county concerned, and even then was only triggered by certain events. It was not until 1998 that almost all transactions of land triggered first registration.
Although many unregistered sales may complete just as quickly as similar registered sales, there are problems which can arise which are specific to unregistered land, such as missing links in the chain of ownership or plans which do not meet with the Land Registry's current requirements.
However, the most significant cause of delay is that more and more firms of solicitors are unfamiliar with dealing with unregistered land and simply return the paperwork to the solicitor acting in the sale and insist that first registration is carried out before the sale can proceed.
This is unnecessary and unacceptable, but to keep a transaction flowing, the seller's solicitor often has little choice but to agree.
First registration can take the Land Registry up to five or six weeks to deal with which can cause considerable problems when what should happen is that registration takes place after completion; the solicitors acting for the buyers should be able to investigate the title provided before exchange of contracts and be content that there are no problems.
To avoid any such delays when you sell, and to flush out any problems so that we may deal with the same before you decide to sell the property, it is preferable to apply voluntarily for your property to be registered.
There will be legal costs, but the Land Registry fees are reduced for a voluntary registration, for example a property valued at between £200,000 and £500,000 usually incurs a registration fee of £220 but the fee payable on voluntary registration would be £165.
If you would like to know whether your property is in fact registered or unregistered, or if you would like an estimate of the legal costs and Land Registry fees which would be incurred on the voluntary registration of your property, you can contact Jane Batsford by email, email@example.com, or telephone 01789 206946.