There is a small plot of waste land 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 carry out a search at the Land Registry to establish whether the land is registered. If it is, then identifying the owner is a relatively simple process. 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. To do this you must enclose the land within your own property and enjoy uninterrupted occupation of it for up to 15 years before you can claim a Possessory Title at the Land Registry to the land in question. If during this time the true owner lays claim to the land then the Land Registration Act 2003 makes it easier to do so upon production of proof of title – despite the fact you may have occupied the land for the previous 10 years or so.
• Emyr Pierce is Managing Partner of Emyr Pierce Solicitors in Rhiwbina, Cardiff, Western Mail Conveyancer of the Year, specialising in Domestic and Commercial Property.