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Checking Legal Title For Conveyancing Purposes

Reasons to choose Wilson Browne

A title check is often mentioned in the conveyancing process but what is it and what are the conveyancers looking for?

Once a sale has been agreed and both parties have instructed their conveyancer, the seller’s conveyancer will supply the buyer’s conveyancer, as part of the contract package, with evidence of the seller’s title to the property. The buyer’s conveyancer will then carry out a “title check”.

A buyer’s conveyancer will also review, as part of their investigation, the results of searches and other documents that form part of the contract package, but focusing purely on the legal title what are they looking for?

They will be looking to identify whether there are any defects in or problems revealed in the title which would adversely affect the interests of the buyer and their ability to sell or mortgage the property in the future, or which may have an adverse impact upon the value. Any matters which are unclear or require further clarification can be raised, and hopefully rectified, with the seller’s conveyancer before the buyer commits to the purchase formally by way of exchange of contracts.

This includes checking:

  • Whether the description of the land agrees with the contract description.
  • Whether the seller is the registered proprietor of the land and therefore legally able to transfer the property to the buyer. Sometimes, legitimately the property will be in the name of a third party. It could be, for example, that the party selling is an executor or an attorney. The appropriate evidence will need to be provided.
  • Checking whether the property is freehold or leasehold and accords with the buyer’s understanding of what they are purchasing.
  • Whether the property benefits from the appropriate rights – rights of way, the right to use services etc.
  • Any rights to which the property may be subject. For example a buyer would want to know if there was a right of way across their garden.
  • Are there any restrictions that would prevent the transfer of the property to buyer?
  • Making sure that any third party interests, for example financial charges, will be discharged.
  • Whether the property is subject to any covenants (legal promises) that may affect the buyer’s proposed use or enjoyment of the property and whether any of those covenants have been breached.
  • Checking that the plan accords with what is being sold, and making sure that the buyer has sight of the plan to check carefully.
  • The class of title, is it absolute (as perfect as it can be) or possessory where further steps may need to be taken.

This list is not exhaustive and, depending upon the outcome of the investigation, further steps may need to be taken to rectify any issues.

The process of checking the title will differ depending upon whether the property is registered at the Land Registry (a Government maintained central register of land ownership) or remains unregistered. The law and procedure regarding both is substantially similar although the registered system is less complicated.

If the property is unregistered the seller will prove title to the buyer by showing the buyer (in reality their conveyancer) documentary evidence collectively known as “title deeds”.

The seller is required to prove undisputed ownership of the land for at least 15 years.

If the property is registered, evidence of title will be produced by way of a copy of the Register of Title which is downloaded from the Land Registry. Once a property is registered, there is usually no need to produce title deeds, any that are required can usually be obtained from the Land Registry.

Your conveyancer will as part of their report to you refer to these matters and send to you a copy of the title. Be sure to read this carefully and clarify any matters with your conveyancer if necessary. Listen to their advice as defects in title can be costly to rectify in the future and may impact upon your ability to sell or mortgage the property in the future.

If you need assistance on any of these matters please contact our Residential Conveyancing team on 0800 088 6004

Jenny Woodruff

Posted:

Jenny Woodruff

Partner

Jenny is a Partner and head of the Residential Conveyancing Team. She has extensive knowledge of the conveyancing process, including: dealing with freehold and leasehold sales & purchases; new build purchases; remortgages; transfers of equity; shared ownership; help to buy transactions & general property advice.