What to do if you lose the title deeds to your property
Posted on 20 June 2017 by Janet Keirle
Registered TitleIf you cannot find the title deeds to your property and your title is registered, copies evidencing the legal ownership of the property can be obtained from HM Land Registry.
The requirement for compulsory registration dates back to 1925. The law requires that any disposition (eg. a sale, gift, or mortgage) of unregistered land must be registered at the Land Registry, otherwise it may not be legally effective.
Compulsory registration for the Somerset area became effective from 1990 so if you live in the area and purchased your property after 1990, then your property should be registered electronically with the Land Registry.
The registration of the property is conclusive proof – along with other legal and beneficial rights in and over the property. On completion of the registration the property is allocated a unique “title number”. The title number can be used to obtain copies of the evidence of legal title and other documents from the Land Registry (for a small fee).
So, if the property is registered at the Land Registry it does not matter if you cannot find any paper deeds or documents.
So what happens if your title is unregistered? If the property is unregistered and you cannot find the title deeds and documents, you will have to prove legal ownership, ie. that you have the right to sell or otherwise transfer the property.
In order to satisfy its requirements, the Land Registry will require proof of legal ownership going back at least 15 years. This means you will need to produce documentary evidence showing a chain of legal ownership for at least the last 15 years.
What do I need to do if I have lost my deeds?• If may sound silly but you should also search the property itself including anywhere which could be used as storage. It is not unusual to find deeds hidden in barns, sheds or even under floorboards! If you are not sure whether the documents you have are deeds, make an appointment to see your Solicitor who will be happy to check the paperwork for you.
• If you still have a mortgage over the property then the deeds should be retained by the Mortgage Company. Ask them to provide a letter to confirm whether or not they hold the deeds. If they aren’t holding the deeds they may know who is.
• If you have paid off your mortgage and don’t have the deeds, then you should contact the Mortgage Company in any event to see if they are still holding them.
• Try contacting local solicitors or the Solicitor who acted when you acquired the property to see if they have any documentation relating to the property. As with the Mortgage Company, you should request a letter from them confirming they do not have the deeds.
• If after all this work the deeds cannot be found you will need to submit an application for First Registration, and produce evidence in support of your application. This will include evidence of what you have done to try and find the deeds (for example the letters from the Mortgage Company and former Solicitor referred to above). You will also need to demonstrate at least 15 years of unbroken ownership. If you cannot prove this, you should submit any documents and other evidence you can to the Land Registry. The Land Registry will then look at the application and consider if it can grant you a form of title to the property.
For further information regarding reconstruction of a title if you have lost your deeds, contact the Commercial Property Team at Pardoes