Unregistered Property

Unregistered Property
Unregistered Property
Full Overview Of Unregistered Property

Unregistered property remains a significant aspect of property law in England and Wales, despite the increasing move towards comprehensive land registration. Understanding the implications of unregistered property is crucial for both buyers and sellers and for legal professionals involved in property transactions.

At DLS Solicitors, we aim to provide clear and comprehensive guidance on the subject, ensuring our clients are well informed and prepared to handle the unique challenges presented by unregistered property.

What is Unregistered Property?

Unregistered property refers to land or property not registered with the Land Registry. This means that the ownership of the property is not recorded on the land register, and the legal title is evidenced by a collection of historical deeds and documents.

The land registration system was introduced in England and Wales to simplify the conveyancing process and provide a clear and definitive record of ownership. However, many properties still remain unregistered, particularly those that have not changed hands in many years.

Historical Context

Land registration in England and Wales was introduced with the Land Registration Act 1925, which aimed to create a comprehensive and reliable system for recording land ownership.

Subsequent legislation, including the Land Registration Act 2002, further refined the Act. Despite these efforts, a significant proportion of land remained unregistered, particularly in rural areas and for properties not subject to recent transactions.

The Process of First Registration

When an unregistered property is sold, gifted, mortgaged, or otherwise transferred, it triggers the requirement for first registration with the Land Registry.

This process involves several steps and requires a detailed examination of the historical deeds and documents to establish a clear and unbroken chain of ownership.

Critical Steps in the First Registration Process

  1. Gathering Title Deeds: The first step in the process of first registration is to gather all relevant title deeds and documents. These documents provide evidence of the property’s ownership and any associated rights or obligations.
  2. Preparing an Epitome of Title: An epitome of title is a summary of the property’s ownership history, listing all relevant deeds and documents chronologically. This summary is crucial for demonstrating a clear and unbroken chain of ownership.
  3. Conducting Searches: Various searches are conducted to identify any potential issues affecting the property. These searches may include local authority, environmental, and mining searches, among others.
  4. Preparing the Application: Once all necessary documents and searches are gathered, the application for first registration is prepared. This application includes the epitome of title, copies of all relevant deeds, and the results of the searches.
  5. Submitting the Application: The completed application is submitted to the Land Registry. The Land Registry will review the application, examine the documents, and, if satisfied, register the property and issue a title deed.

Potential Challenges in the First Registration Process

The first registration process can be complex and challenging, mainly if there are gaps or discrepancies in the historical deeds. Common challenges include:

  • Missing Deeds: If essential deeds are missing or lost, it can be difficult to establish a clear chain of ownership. In such cases, additional evidence, such as statutory declarations or affidavits from individuals with knowledge of the property’s history, may be required.
  • Boundary Issues: Unregistered properties may have unclear or disputed boundaries. Resolving these issues may require obtaining a surveyor’s report or negotiating boundary agreements with neighbouring property owners.
  • Historical Covenants and Restrictions: Historical covenants and restrictions may affect the property, and it is essential to identify and understand these before proceeding with registration.

Implications of Unregistered Property

Owning or purchasing an unregistered property has several implications that buyers and sellers must consider. These implications can affect the conveyancing process, the cost of transactions, and the overall security of ownership.

For Sellers

  1. Preparation of Title Deeds: Sellers of unregistered property must ensure they have all relevant title deeds and documents in order. Preparing an epitome of title and conducting necessary searches can be time-consuming and may delay the sale process.
  2. Potential for Delays: The first registration process can add time to the conveyancing process. Sellers should be prepared for potential delays and promptly provide all necessary information.
  3. Higher Costs: The first registration process can incur additional costs, including legal fees, search fees, and registration fees. Sellers should factor these costs into their plans.

For Buyers

  1. Due Diligence: Buyers of unregistered property must conduct thorough due diligence to ensure there are no issues with the property’s title. This involves reviewing the epitome of title, conducting searches, and verifying the chain of ownership.
  2. Risk of Defects in Title: Unregistered properties carry a higher risk of defects in title, such as missing deeds or unclear boundaries. Buyers should be aware of these risks and consider obtaining title insurance to protect against potential issues.
  3. First Registration Requirement: Buyers must complete the process of first registration with the Land Registry, which can add time and cost to the transaction. Ensuring the application is accurate and complete is essential to avoid delays.

For Legal Professionals

  1. Complexity of Transactions: Conveyancing for unregistered property can be more complex and time-consuming than for registered property. Legal professionals must diligently review historical deeds and ensure the accuracy of the epitome of title.
  2. Advising Clients: Solicitors must provide clear and comprehensive advice regarding the implications of buying or selling unregistered property. This includes explaining the first registration process, potential risks, and associated costs.
  3. Handling Disputes: Unregistered properties can be more prone to disputes, particularly regarding boundaries and historical covenants. Legal professionals must be prepared to handle these disputes and seek resolutions that protect their client’s interests.

Case Studies and Examples

Examining real-life examples and case studies can provide valuable insights into the challenges and complexities of dealing with unregistered property. Notable cases include:

Boundary Dispute

In this case, two neighbouring property owners were in a dispute over the boundary line between their properties. The properties were unregistered, and the historical deeds were unclear about the exact boundary. The dispute was eventually resolved through mediation, with both parties agreeing to a boundary survey and formalising the agreed boundary in their respective deeds.

Missing Deeds

A property owner discovered that several key deeds were missing when attempting to sell their unregistered property. The seller had to obtain statutory declarations from previous owners and neighbours to establish the chain of ownership. Despite these efforts, the process of first registration was delayed, and the sale took longer to complete than anticipated.

Historical Covenants

A buyer purchased an unregistered property only to discover that it was subject to historical covenants restricting specific land uses. These covenants were not immediately apparent in the epitome of title. The buyer sought legal advice and was able to negotiate a release of some covenants, but the process was time-consuming and costly.

Practical Advice and Considerations

Navigating the complexities of unregistered property requires careful planning and attention to detail. The following practical advice can help sellers, buyers, and legal professionals manage the process effectively.

For Sellers:

  1. Organise Title Deeds: Ensure all relevant title deeds and documents are organised and readily available. If any deeds are missing, take steps to obtain statutory declarations or other evidence to establish the chain of ownership.
  2. Prepare Early: Start preparing for the sale early, conducting necessary searches and preparing an epitome of title. Early preparation can help avoid delays during the conveyancing process.
  3. Consult a Solicitor: Engage a solicitor with experience in unregistered property transactions. Professional legal advice is essential for navigating the complexities and ensuring a smooth transaction.

For Buyers:

  1. Conduct Thorough Searches: Conduct thorough searches and review the epitome of title carefully. Ensure that all historical deeds are accounted for and that there are no gaps or discrepancies in the chain of ownership.
  2. Consider Title Insurance: Title insurance can protect against potential defects in the property’s title. Consider obtaining title insurance to mitigate the risks associated with unregistered property.
  3. Budget for Additional Costs: Purchasing an unregistered property may incur additional costs, including legal and registration fees. Budget accordingly and factor these costs into your plans.

For legal professionals:

  1. Diligent Review: Conduct a diligent review of all historical deeds and documents. Ensure the epitome of title is accurate and complete, and verify the chain of ownership.
  2. Clear Communication: Communicate clearly with clients about the implications of unregistered property. Provide comprehensive advice on the first registration process, potential risks, and associated costs.
  3. Dispute Resolution: Be prepared to handle disputes related to unregistered property. Develop strategies for resolving boundary issues, historical covenants, and other potential conflicts.


Unregistered property presents unique challenges and complexities in property law. Understanding the implications, potential risks, and procedural requirements is essential for effectively managing transactions involving unregistered property.

At DLS Solicitors, we are committed to providing expert guidance and support on all matters related to unregistered property. Whether you are a seller preparing to transfer ownership, a buyer considering an unregistered property, or a legal professional navigating the intricacies of unregistered property transactions, our team of experienced solicitors is here to help. By combining legal expertise with practical advice, we ensure our clients are well-equipped to handle the challenges and opportunities presented by unregistered property.

Unregistered Property FAQ'S

Unregistered property is land or property that has not been registered with the Land Registry. Ownership and details of the property are documented through physical deeds rather than a central digital register.

You can find out if a property is unregistered by conducting a search at the Land Registry. If the property is not listed, it is unregistered.

Risks include difficulty proving ownership, potential hidden encumbrances or claims, complications in obtaining a mortgage, and potential disputes over boundaries.

To register an unregistered property, you need to submit an application to the Land Registry, including evidence of ownership such as title deeds and complete forms like Form FR1 and DL. You may also need to provide an official search of the index map (Form SIM).

The required documents include original title deeds, a completed application form (FR1), a plan of the property if required, and any supporting documents that prove ownership, such as conveyances, mortgages, and grants of probate.

Yes, you can sell unregistered property, but the process is more complex. Buyers will likely require the property to be registered before completion to ensure clear and marketable title.

Yes, it can be more difficult to obtain a mortgage on unregistered property. Lenders prefer registered properties because they provide clear and easily verifiable ownership details.

If the title deeds are lost or destroyed, you can apply for first registration with the Land Registry, providing as much evidence of ownership as possible, such as statutory declarations, previous sale agreements, and any other supporting documents.

Registering your property provides proof of ownership, simplifies future transactions, protects against fraud, clarifies boundaries, and can enhance the property’s marketability and value.

Costs include Land Registry fees, which vary based on the value of the property, and potentially legal fees if you hire a solicitor to assist with the registration process. Additional costs may arise for obtaining necessary documents or surveys.


This site contains general legal information but does not constitute professional legal advice for your particular situation. Persuing this glossary does not create an attorney-client or legal adviser relationship. If you have specific questions, please consult a qualified attorney licensed in your jurisdiction.

This glossary post was last updated: 11th July 2024.

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