MORE than 85 per cent of land in England and Wales is now registered with HM Land Registry; however large swathes of rural farmland remain unregistered. Land is often farmed by the same family for years and therefore no “trigger event” arises which would require first registration.

Philip Taylor, head of residential conveyancing and agricultural law specialist at Pearsons & Ward Solicitors in Malton, explains when it is compulsory to register unregistered land and outlines the benefits and the pitfalls for those who do not.

When you should register

All land or property must be registered with HM Land Registry if you have:

  • purchased it;
  • been given land or property as a gift;
  • inherited any land or property;
  • leased it for more than seven years;
  • received it in exchange for other property or land; or
  • had it mortgaged.

Farmers should be aware that agricultural land must also be registered with the Rural Land Register as well as HM Land Registry if any such “trigger events” listed above arise.

Once your property is registered, HM Land Registry publishes information online, such as the names of owners; the price paid for the property; and a plan of the property’s boundaries.

Your property might not be registered if you owned it before 1990 and have not mortgaged it since.

Why you should register your farm land

The benefits of registering your land include:

  • a clear record of ownership with evidence of matters that affect the property;
  • making your property quicker, easier and cheaper to value and speeding up the conveyancing process for any future sale, lease or mortgage;
  • minimising the risk of boundary disputes as there will be a specific title plan on record; and
  • a government guarantee protects registered titles so compensation is payable if the register be rectified and you, as registered proprietor, suffer a loss.

Drawbacks of not registering your farm land

Possible pitfalls that can emerge if your land is unregistered include:

  • making it difficult to identify who owns a specific parcel of land;
  • making your property harder to sell if the title deeds are lost or destroyed;
  • even if the title deeds exist, they can be difficult to read and interpret so any sale may be delayed while your conveyancer wrestles with checking that the chain of ownership is correct;
  • leaving your land at risk of fraud – it is easier for fraudsters to assume your identity, sell or mortgage your property without your knowledge if your land is unregistered; and
  • making it easier for someone to claim adverse possession of your property (ie, if someone has been using part of your property as their own for 12 years or more without your permission, they can apply to register ownership).

Registering unregistered land

As well as the benefits of registering your property outlined above, you will also receive a 25 per cent reduction on your registration fee if you voluntarily apply compared to a compulsory first registration.

You can register your property yourself, but it is highly advisable to speak to Philip Taylor at Pearsons & Ward so that he can do it on your behalf to ensure that all the correct searches are carried out, the forms filled in properly and the scale plan accurately drawn, thus making sure you get good title to your property.

For more information, phone Philip Taylor on 01653 692247 or email