Voluntary First Registration: What is it and is it worth doing?
First registration at the Land Registry is the process by which property that is currently unregistered with the Land Registry becomes registered. This in essence means, that once registered, the Land Registry allocate a number to the property known as a title number and they create a record, known as a title register, setting out the full details of the property, who owns it, whether the property benefits from any rights or is subject to any restrictions, covenants, leases or mortgages and such like. The Land Registry as part of this process also prepare a plan, known as the title plan, which clearly identifies the full extent of the property in question.
In order to apply for first registration of property at the Land Registry, the property title deeds together with an accompanying application form for registration must be prepared and submitted to the Land Registry. A fee is payable for this service which is calculated by reference to the property value on a banded basis. Do note, in the absence of title deeds, it is possible in certain circumstances to apply for first registration if the title deeds have been lost or destroyed but the process is slightly more complicated.
There are a number of transactions which trigger compulsory registration and these include property disposals (such as a sale), however, property owners can choose to register their property themselves in advance of this disposal. This would be deemed a 'voluntary first registration' and has a number of advantages as discussed below.
The advantages of voluntary first registration are as follows:
- Reduced Land Registry fee – The Land Registry offer a reduced fee (currently 25% reduction) for registration, where the application is made voluntarily.
- Simpler Title Information - Generally the process of selling (or any other disposal, such as re-mortgaging) a registered property is much more straight forward than an unregistered property. This is because, in the main, the Land Registry store all information they hold about the property electronically, with all such information, together with any additional documents, contained or cross referred to on the property title register.
A title register is usually (but not always depending on the complexity of the property title) only a couple of pages long, and provides a snapshot of all the key information about the property. On a property disposal for example, this can significantly reduce the number of title related enquiries a prospective buyer is likely to raise. It can also reduce the time spent in dealing with property due diligence as all of the property information should be held by the Land Registry and readily available for electronic download. It is also usually less time consuming to review a property title then it is to review original title deeds which can be lengthy and complex.
If the property is not registered, it may be left for future successors to deal with who may have limited or no knowledge of the property thus making registration more complicated.
Registering the Property at the Land Registry is evidence of ownership and reduces any uncertainty or issues in this regard.
- Protection – Once a property is registered at the Land Registry it reduces the risk of someone else claiming the property through adverse possession, and also reduces the risk of somebody fraudulently claiming ownership of the property and seeking to profit from disposing of the property illegally. Extra protection against fraud can be provided by placing a restriction on the title, which prevents any disposal of the property, without a conveyancer confirming the identity of the seller and that the person seeking the disposal is genuinely the person noted on the title register.
The main drawback to voluntary first registration is that the application process is very slow and it can sometimes take as long as year if not longer, to complete. However, if you decide to dispose of the property during this time, you can apply to expedite the application. Generally the Land Registry is willing to do this, and a letter from your estate agent confirming they are marketing the property, or a letter from the solicitor acting for you in the disposal is usually sufficient evidence. Once expedited an application is typically completed within a couple of months, provided there are not any complex queries raised.
If you would like to know whether voluntary first registration could be of benefit to you, please do not hesitate to contact your local office, or complete our online enquiry form and we can discuss in more detail how the process works and whether it would be worthwhile in your case.