Originally published September 2003
Substantial changes are about to be made to the land registration system in England and Wales. Two new "buzz words" are being introduced by the Land Registry, "dematerialisation" (reducing the need for paper titles) and "vectorisation" (the conversion of all Land Registry plans to electronic format).
The changes that will have a practical effect on land owners and occupiers are:
The move from a paper based conveyancing system to an electronic system within a few years;
More interests in land must be registered at the Land Registry;
The Land Register is to be more open with leases and mortgages being available for inspection by third parties;
A substantial change to the law of adverse possession and squatter's rights.
These changes are contained in the Land Registration Act 2002 (the "LRA 2002") which comes into force on 13 October 2003. This article highlights some implications of the Act.
From 13 October 2003 Land Certificates and Charge Certificates are to be abolished. A landowner will simply receive from the Land Registry a piece of paper giving brief details of ownership. This document will have no legal significance; it is designed purely to give comfort to the landowner. The Land Registry's electronic register will provide the conclusive evidence of title.
More Interests are to be Registered
The LRA 2002 requires that the following interests must be registered:
(a) Leases granted for more than 7 years;
(b) Assignments of existing leases with more than 7 years left to run; and
(c) A lease of any length where the tenant's term of possession will start more than 3 months after the date the lease is granted (a reversionary lease).
Under the current law only leases of more than 21 years are registered. The new law means that a substantial number of new registered titles will be created. Suitable arrangements will need to be made for removal of the registered leasehold interests when the leases expire. There are likely to be problems where there are a large number of registerable leases affecting one freehold property.
A more Open Register
The LRA 2002 allows public access to all documents held by the Land Registry. Thus, a copy of a mortgage deed or a lease will be given to any third party who requests it.
This new open policy will apply to all documents registered at the Land Registry after 13 October 2003. The rules are also to be...