Voluntary Land Registration
BBM’s Conveyancing Team recently had discussions with Registers of Scotland at the local Caithness County Show. One of the main topics of conversation was ‘Voluntary Land Registration’ and its benefits. For those readers who do not know what Voluntary Land Registration is, it is simply a method for property owners to voluntarily apply to have their title moved from the old ‘Sasine Register’ to the new ‘Land Register’. This blog sets out to compare the difference between the Sasine Register and the new Land Register prior to explaining in more detail the potential benefits Voluntary Land Registration may have for you.
The Sasine Register and the Land Register
The Sasine Register has been around since 1617 and it still contains records of title deeds for many properties owned in the UK. For large estates, it is very common to have hundreds of individually registered title deeds all in relation to the one estate in the Sasine Register. With that in mind, you can probably imagine the work that is involved in examining the title deeds for a property which is contained in the Sasine Register.
As a result of the perceived shortcomings of the Sasine Register, the Land Registration etc (Scotland) Act 2012 was created. The concept behind the Land Register is that title to a property is contained on a single Title Sheet, including a plan drawn up using an Ordnance Survey map. It is also much easier to access and find out who owns what – for only a small fee, the Title Sheets to a property can be accessed online and downloaded within minutes. It is much more transparent, and the Government is fully behind this. To keep on improving the transparency of landownership in Scotland, the Government has set a target to complete the Land Register within the next 8 years. A major part of achieving this aim will be applications from landowners to voluntarily register their land.
What are the key benefits of Voluntary Registration?
One of the main benefits of Voluntary Registration is that your Title Sheet will contain a warranty from the Keeper of the Land Register. This state-backed warranty will protect your Title from challenges by third parties. For example, you could be challenged by a neighbour who believes they own a piece of land registered in your name. In contrast, using this same example – if you lose your land to your neighbour and your Title is contained in the Sasine Register; your land will not be protected. The only possible route you could go down in that situation would be to rely on the warrandice (which may have been granted by the person who sold the land to you) for compensation. Relying on compensation is not a good position to be in, particularly if the person who sold you the land has no assets.
A key benefit of registering a title is the prospect of faster and cheaper property transactions. Since the work required to buy, sell or let a property is simpler where the property is already on the land register, the time and money involved in property sales can be dramatically reduced. Therefore, if you are planning to sell or let a property in the near future, there may be sense in registering it in advance of the deal. In addition, by registering the title now, we would hopefully be able to identify and resolve any possibly issues before you market the property.
It is also useful for landowners to have confidence in the boundaries of their land. Some Sasine registered titles do not have a plan showing the boundaries of the land. Instead, you may find that your title deeds merely contain a description of the boundaries (often more than a page long!). Complications are therefore common as a result of uncertain boundary descriptions. If you are looking for clarity and confidence with regards to your boundaries, Voluntary Registration of your title can help. As previously discussed, the Title Sheet must contain a plan, which is much more accurate and clear.
Here at BBM we believe getting more properties on the Land Register of Scotland can only be a positive thing to ensure clarity for all of our clients going forward. If you are thinking about making an application for Voluntary Registration, please get in touch with our Andrew Kerr to see how we can help with your first registration and where possible maximise your title.
This briefing note is current as at 8th August 2017 and is our understanding of the position described at that date. Legal advice ought to be taken before relying on its terms (particularly to ensure the law has not changed).