I am interested in buying a house that has a garden attached. The current owner has been using the garden but nobody knows who actually owns it. The Estate Agent says a solicitor has been unable to trace the owner. What are the implications of buying the house and, if the garden is unregistered land, could we register ownership of it?
On the basis that the title of the house is of no issue the problem will be a lack of title deeds to the unregistered garden land. On completion of the purchase you will be looking to register your title to the house and garden but unless the sellers’ solicitors can find the title deeds to the garden your sellers will not be able to prove that they are the rightful owners of the garden.
The only solution is for the sellers to claim that they and their predecessors in title have enjoyed uninterrupted use of the garden for, ideally, more than 15 years. If the garden is also enclosed within the boundaries of the house then this will also help and will suggest that it has been enjoyed as part of the house and not part of any adjoining owner’s land.
Proof of the sellers’ ownership or uninterrupted long use of the garden can only be provided by way of Statutory Declaration evidence from the sellers and, ideally, their predecessors in title. These Declarations will identify the extent of the land concerned and will confirm that a long period of uninterrupted use of the land has been enjoyed by both.
Following completion, an application is made to the Land Registry for a Possessory Title. The Land Registry cannot grant an Absolute Title for the risk of the rightful owners proving to the Land Registry that they are the rightful owners.
If no-one comes forward claiming a better title than you to the land, then this Possessory Title can be upgraded to an Absolute Title at a later date.
* Emyr Pierce is Managing Director of Emyr Pierce Solicitors in Rhiwbina, Cardiff, Western Mail Conveyancer of the Year, specialising in Domestic and Commercial Property. Contact www.emyrpierce.co.uk or email firstname.lastname@example.org