What Is A Land Registry Title Deed?

Written by Mathew McCorry

If you read my property blog now, that’ll be the end of it. I will not look for you, I will not pursue you. But if you don’t, I will look for you, I will find you and I will make you read it.

glasses laying on documents

This blog covers what title deeds are, how you can find yours, what property burdens are, how you can change your title deeds, and more.

What is a title deed?

Title deeds sound important, but what actually are they? Title deeds may include leases, mortgages, conveyances, wills and contracts for sale. Their main purpose is to show the chain of ownership for both land and property.

Who holds the deeds to my house?

When purchasing a property, who holds and is responsible for the deeds of the property? It's a common question, and the answer depends.

If you have bought a property using a mortgage, provided by a mortgage company, typically they will hold the title deeds to a property.

If you've bought the property yourself, or you have paid your mortgage in full, then the deeds should be held by the property owner.

This isn't always the case however, and over time the deeds can be lost or difficult to track down, especially if your property has changed hands a lot. You don't need to worry though, because if your property is registed with the land registry, you don't need the deeds to prove ownership.

What is the purpose of a land registry deed?

Before 1925 properties largerly where unregistered with the land registry, as it was a voluntary process, up until the Land Registration Act was introduced that year. Fast forward 95 years and you'll find that 85% of all properties in the country are registed and they hold in excess of 24 million title deeds, but why?

What is the reason they introduced the Land Registration Act and the purpose of a land registry deed? There are several, the titles clearly set out:

  • Whether there are restrictions affecting the property
  • What the boundaries are
  • What rights of way it has
  • And most importantly, who owns the land

But overall the main reason for it is that they protect and guarantee land and property rights.

Do all houses have deeds?

Yes, all properties and lands will have title deeds, as they are the legal documents required to shows you officially owns the land, as certified with the HM Land Registry.

It is an essential part of the conveyancing process when you come to buying or selling property or land in the UK.

How can I get hold of my title deeds?

When you sell a house, there's no law saying you have to pass on the original title deeds. So, if you've bought a house which has seen a few owners, anyone could have the original papers. Unfortunately, this could make it nearly impossible to find them.

If you get the property registered, there's a chance your solicitor or mortgage company holds the title deeds. This is because HM Land Registry scans copies and sends the original to whoever lodged them.

However, if you still can't find your title deeds, don't despair. HM Land Registry have many scanned copies of the documents, find out if they have yours here. There is a cost to searching for your scanned copies.

Does it matter if I don't have my documents?

It's a good idea to have your title deeds, especially the originals, as they can contain information that may not be available elsewhere such as legal boundaries or previous owners. However, the Land Register has a record of land and property in England and Wales, so if your house is registered with them you don't need the deeds to confirm that you own the home.

Can I do the land registry search myself when buying a house?

The land registry search is just one aspect of a list of tasks conveyancers carry out when helping you buy your home. If these aren't carried out correctly, or aren't carried out at all, big issues can occur after the sale has completed. An example of an issue which could occur without a valid search is that the current owner could have an existing interest in the property.

If you're purchasing the house with cash, you may be able to get by without a conveyancer. However, if you're purchasing with a mortgage, it's extremely unlikely that the lender will allow the sale to go ahead without a solicitor.

Property burdens - what are they?

There are a list of obligations included in title deeds. These burdens usually include, amongst other items:

  • Restrictions on altering the property
  • Rights of way/access for the property
  • Maintenance and repairs to the property
  • Restrictions on using the property to run a business
  • If the owner holds right to roads crossing the property

How do I change my title deeds?

If you wish to sell your rights to the property, or you have a co-owner who wants to sell or transfer theirs, the title deeds will need to be updated. This involves a fee and a solicitor to update the documents. Furthermore, if there's a mortage on the property or co-owners, they would have to agree to the changes.

Can someone steal the title to my home?

This surprisingly is quite a common query, you may think if the title deed is registered with the HM Land Registry, how could anyone steal the title to my home?

Unfortunately it can, and does happen. Title fraud does occur, and people are able to obtain your title essentially by stealing your identity, they can then hcange the ownership name on the property title to their own.

This is dangerous because it means that they can then take out loans against the property, or even sell it from under your nose.

It used to be a once very rare form of theft, but in recent years it has been on the increase, so it's something to be aware of. You can protect yourself from this kind of fraud by signing up to the Land Registry Property Alert service.

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