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Legally Speaking: Unregistered Properties

Posted on 5 July 2019 by Catherine Murton

Legally Speaking: Unregistered Properties

I thought I might start with a caravanning update. Our caravan came with an air awning, which the salesman assured us was the simplest available; slide it into the awning rail, attach the electric pump supplied and blow it up. That was clearly a sales ploy.

After considerable discussion about whether the awning was inside out or not we eventually proceeded to thread it purposefully onto the awning rail of the caravan. It slid a few inches and then jammed. We tugged and heaved and grumbled at one another for twenty minutes at which point every man from all of the surrounding caravans joined us, mainly to observe and laugh, until one finally told us that awning rail spray makes it slide smoothly and produced his own can to assist.

The awning was eventually up; half the size of everyone else’s and awning envy swelled when I noticed that all of the other awnings had carpets, fridges, sofas and the one opposite a 50 inch television with Sky. However, not being materialistic people, we reminded ourselves that it was simply to provide a little more space to hang coats and kick off dirty shoes. We left on that Sunday evening with a sense of achievement. On Monday evening we received a call from the Site Office to advise us that the awning appeared to be down on one side. After a three hour return journey in the pouring rain Martin returned soaked to the skin. One of the valves was faulty and the awning had deflated. We are going to manage without an awning, we have a coat hook and a spare cupboard for the shoes and there wasn’t room for a sofa and Sky television anyway!

Despite many caravans resembling little houses there is no legal requirements for a caravan to be registered. Proof of ownership is simply from the purchase receipt. Houses and land are not quite so straight forward. The ownership of registered property is recorded by Land Registry and proved by an Official Copy, which can be downloaded online. However, compulsory registration of properties did not start in our area until 1990/91. Purchases, transfers, assents and mortgages after this time would all have resulted in registration. Properties purchased before then are unlikely to be registered with Land Registry and proof of ownership is evidenced by the deeds.

Many properties owned by elderly people have never required registration and as a private client solicitor I know what problems this can cause. Firstly the deeds need to be located! There was a time that many were stored with the bank but, in most cases, they were returned to the owners of the property once the mortgage was discharged. ’Safe’ places to store deeds have been in the airing cupboard, in the salad box at the bottom of the fridge and behind the middle cushion of the sofa.

The second problem with unregistered properties is that sometimes important documents are missing so that the proof that the property has passed legally from one owner to another cannot be established. This can be rectified but it can take time to obtain documents and statutory declarations and the delay can be a problem if an offer has already been received on the property.

So the moral of the tale is check that your property is registered with Land Registry and, if it’s not, ensure that you know where your deeds are and get them professionally perused to see that they are complete. Alternatively, buy a caravan!

You can contact me on 01935 382689 or at catherine.murton@pardoes.co.uk or visit one of our free legal clinics.

Posted in: Buying & Selling Your Home, Wills