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HOOPER & WOLLEN Doing the deed Why voluntary registration means minimising botheration


he painstaking search for Uncle William’s missing house title deeds has begun! His recollections to date have so far led us to the office (now a themed pub) of his now retired previous Solicitor, the bank (now a pizza restaurant) and the locked drawer of his old writing desk (empty, aside from the racy photographs collected from his visit to Port Said in the ’50s). Whilst bundles of old property title deeds, going back over many decades, are a wonderful historic record and can even be beautiful works of art in themselves, their loss by accident or otherwise can be devastating, timeconsuming and expensive to remedy. In England and Wales, any dealing with land, by sale or otherwise, triggers compulsory registration of title to that land at the Land Registry. Registration gives state-backed security of ownership and better protection against claims by others for adverse possession over the land, known as squatters’ rights. Where land is not registered there is no such protection. A claim for adverse possession from a third party who has occupied or fenced part of the land (say as an extension to their garden) over 12 years can secretly register possessory title (which after time is converted to registered freehold absolute title) without the knowledge of the owner of the unregistered land. However, with registered land direct notice of any claim for adverse possession is given to the owner of the title to that land and they can then take legal steps to reclaim possession. Once registered, all relevant title

information is displayed in an easy-toread document, reflecting the contents of the relevant deeds. This information is then kept on the Land Registry database, reducing the need to store old, bulky and otherwise unclear Deeds. The Title Register can be viewed securely online. The Register allows the owners to register up to three addresses

(this could include their Solicitor or Land Agent) at which they can be contacted, including an email address, meaning it’s easy to get hold of them if any claim for adverse possession or other notice is likely to affect their registered land. However, where land is not presently registered because it may have been retained in one family over many years, or held in the name of a company, or in trust or by a long-established charity, there is still scope to register title voluntarily. Indeed the Land Registry gives a 25% discount on their registration fees to encourage Voluntary First Registration. At present about 30% of all freehold land in Devon is still not registered but there are some areas where perversely the percentage is very much higher. For example, in sunny Torbay, according to


the Land Registry’s own statistics, some 55.58% of all freehold land in the Borough of Torbay is still unregistered. This represents about 5,306 hectares of land and presumably a considerable volume of bundles of deeds packets sitting on dusty shelves and in locked writing desks! As Peter Kendall, President of the National Farmers’ Union, has said: “Registering your land is a vital step for farmers who want to make sure that they are protected against squatters’ rights and similar claims. It is simply good sense to have what you own clearly set out in an official register.” We at Hooper & Wollen endorse those sentiments and we have extensive expertise in perfecting title to unregistered land and dealing proactively with Voluntary First Registration of title to land. Furthermore we can then give the old Deeds back to Uncle William for him to keep as an interesting historical record for himself or future owners of the property. Or he could even sell the old parchment deeds to be displayed on the walls of the themed pub based in the old Solicitor’s office. For further information please contact

Readers should consult professional advisers before acting upon the issues raised in this article. If you would like further advice regarding any of the issues raised please contact Simon Wilson at Hooper & Wollen Solicitors in Torquay 01803 213251 or e-mail

Solicitors Carlton House, 30 The Terrace, Torquay, TQ1 1BS Telephone 01803 213251 10 The Quay, Dartmouth, TQ6 9PT Tel 01803 832191 Belgrave House, 2 Winner Street, Paignton, TQ3 3BJ Tel 01803 521692


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