There is a small plot of wasteland at the side of my house which I would like to buy to extend my plot. I have asked around but no-one seems to know who owns it. How do I find out who the owner is?
This is a very common problem. While the majority of land throughout England and Wales continues to become registered land with details registered at HM Land Registry, numerous pieces and parcels of land (many where ownership simply is not known) remain unregistered.
With unknown parcels of waste land it is often difficult to identify the actual owner. You can make enquiries either direct through your solicitor or direct to the Land Registry to establish whether the land is registered. If it is, then identifying the owner is a relatively simple process as you simply obtain a copy of the title which will identify the name and address of the proprietor. If the search shows the land is unregistered, then it is very difficult to establish who the true owner is, particularly if enquiries in the immediate locality prove unsuccessful.
You are, therefore, left with the prospect of having to take steps to claim the land as yours. This will involve initially ensuring that the land is enclosed within your own property in order that you may show that you have enjoyed uninterrupted occupation of the land. You will need to swear a Statutory Declaration evidencing the period during which the land has been occupied solely by you without any interruption or claim from the rightful owner. You can apply to the Land Registry for Possessory Title to the land based on appropriate evidence in support.
If, however, at some time in the future the true owner lays claim to the land then the Land Registration Act 2003 makes it easier for the lawful owner to do so upon production of proof of title – despite the fact that you may have occupied the land for the previous 10 years or so.