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Adverse Possession claims over registered and unregistered land

 

If you have used, or looked after, a piece of land that you do not own, there is a possibility that you could claim adverse ownership, and that the Land Registry grants what is known as "possessory title" if not “title absolute”.  There are more than 25 million registered properties (property titles) in England and Wales, according to the Land Registry. There are still, however, a large number of unregistered areas of land that have the potential to be asserted through adverse possession. 

Sometimes, when you come to sell your property, a small parcel of unregistered land abuts your registered title and is already within your control and a claim for adverse possession is undertaken at that time.  

From our offices in Ashby-de-la-Zouch, in the Midlands, our lawyers deal with numerous adverse possession claims and have a very successful record of obtaining registered title.

 

What kind of property could be the target of an adverse claim for possession?

Normally land but could be land and property too can be subject to an adverse possession claim.  The squatter of the land has the right to apply for it.

 

Understanding unregistered land

Unregistered land includes, as the name implies, any property that is not officially registered with the Land Registry.

Many people do not know that England and Wales have two forms of land ownership: registered and unregistered.

The Land Registry, a Government Department will be known to anyone who has bought or sold property in recent times.   The information they hold for registered land is referred to sometimes as 'title information' or Office Copies and may include a wealth of information.   You can check the Land Registry records online and for just £3 obtain a copy of a registered title.

Land or property which is unregistered means quite simply it hasn’t been registered yet at H M Land Registry.  Land Registration became compulsory in the early 1990s when a property was sold and transferred to a new buyer and since that time, any property related transfer by way of gift or Assent after death triggers a first registration of the property.

 

Is there still a lot of land unregistered?

There is. Latest figures say that approximately 15 percent of the land remains unregistered in England and Wales. The Land Registry, however, is keen to get all this land electronically recorded, and the amount of unregistered land is declining gradually.

 

What happens if land or property is not registered?

The property is probably unregistered if you cannot find the property having a Title Number allocated to it by the Land Registry.  The owner of the land or property is likely to hold the deeds to it personally or store them at a Bank or Building Society.

The owner would need to display evidence of ownership by providing deeds and other historical documents without Land Registry documentation. This paper trail, referred to as the 'root of title,' must date back at least 15 years and must include the last ownership transition.

 

What is adverse possession?

Adverse ownership, usually referred to as 'squatter rights,' is lawful for obtaining land by continuous occupation without the legitimate owner's permission.

The idea behind adverse possession is that owners ought to make use of their land productively. Any property that is not maintained can become an eyesore, and if it is abandoned, the buildings can also pose a danger to life.

 

How does anyone request an adverse possession application?

On 13 October 2003, the Land Registration Act 2002 (LRA) came into force and set out a new procedure for applications for adverse possession.

A squatter can apply for adverse possession to the Land Registry only if they can claim that they have been in possession of the land for a minimum of 12 years. The requirements include being able to demonstrate “ownership” and occupation of the land or property in question.  This is the same for if the land or property being claimed is registered or unregistered.

 

How do I make an Adverse Possession Claim?

There is a process and procedure to go through.  The requisite Land Registry Forms and Statements need to be prepared, the class of title considered then submitted to the Land Registry with payment of their fee.  Upon receipt, the Land Registry often appoint a Surveyor make a visit to the area in question and can serve Notices on adjoining property owners in case they may have an interest in the land or property – they could of course object.   If title is obtained sometimes protective entries are entered by the Land Registry based on the titles of the surrounding land or property.

Can we help?

Speak to one of our experts about adverse Possession claims over registered and unregistered land today.

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