Unregistered titles - ensure you are ready for sale!

Simon David of Thomas Legal on selling a property with unregistered title

"I have power of attorney and need to put my grandfather's property on the market, but as he had lived there for 45 years, I am worried that there might be a problem with registered title. How do I go about making sure it is ready for sale?"

Before discussing the issues around registered and unregistered title, it might be worth you checking with a specialist lawyer before the property goes onto the market that the power of attorney that you have is not limited in any way, and that this is sufficient for you to sign the necessary documentation to allow the sale to progress.

Assuming that all is in order, you then need to instruct a specialist conveyancing lawyer to have a look at the deeds for your grandfather’s property. If this is “registered title” it simply means that the Land Registry have an electronic copy of your grandfather’s deeds and these can be downloaded by your chosen lawyer within seconds. Assuming that the electronic copy shows your grandfather to be the owner, then this, together with a proper copy of the power of attorney, should be enough to allow the sale to proceed in the normal way.

It is possible, however, that as your grandfather has owned the property for a considerable length of time that the property is not registered with the land registry (known as “unregistered title”) but this isn’t necessarily a problem. If this is the case, then you will need to track down the physical deeds for the property and I would hope that your grandfather may be able to assist you with this.

Assuming that the deeds can be located, you will need to take these into your lawyer and again they will check these to make sure they are correct. The key document that they will be looking for is probably a Conveyance showing the change of ownership into your grandfather’s name. If all is in order, then again the sale can proceed in the normal way with the power of attorney, and once the sale completes, the buyer’s solicitor will send the deeds into the Land Registry who will then register it and produce an electronic copy.

In the rare scenario that the deeds cannot be located, then your chosen lawyer will have to make an application to the Land Registry for your grandfather to be registered as the owner.  Whether the Land Registry will agree this will be based on evidence supplied to them and there is no guarantee that they will do that.

The best advice I can give you is to check the deeds position now rather than wait for a buyer before acting. If there are problems, then sorting out the issue can take months to resolve and may involve a considerable amount of money to correct the position.

Simon David is Managing Director at Thomas Legal. He was previously a Partner at a large regional firm based in the South West where he headed up a sizeable conveyancing department. Simon’s remit is to ensure that Thomas Legal remain the first and best choice for consumers by exploring cutting edge IT technology and ensuring we deliver the highest standards of service. He is a member of the Law Society Property Section Committee. www.thomaslegalgroup.co.uk