Laura Finnigan, who leads the TSP Residential Property team discusses what you should do with your title deeds.

Title Deeds are documents which prove ownership of property or land.

During the last 90 years the Land Registry have been compiling a central register of property and land in England.  It is now compulsory to register any sale, purchase, deed of gift, mortgage, new lease or assent with the Land Registry.  This has been phased in gradually in different areas over the last 30 years or so; in the Tendring and Colchester areas compulsory registration was introduced in 1986.

Therefore, if you purchased your property or land in this area before 1986, it is likely that your title to the property is unregistered.  This means a record of your ownership is not held centrally at the Land Registry.  Your deeds may be held by a solicitor, a mortgage lender or by you, at home, or perhaps lodged at your bank.

The unregistered title deeds show a history of the land or property ownership that can sometimes go back over the last 100 years and beyond.  The deeds also show that you have a right to be in possession of the land.

All titles to registered properties can be accessed online via the Land Registry’s “Find a Property Service” so you can check whether your land or property is registered by visiting

If your property is unregistered and the deeds were to be lost, damaged or destroyed then it could be a difficult, lengthy and potentially expensive process to prove your ownership of the property.  An application would need to be made to the Land Registry with evidence of who lost the deeds and details of when and where they were lost.

If the Land Registry believes there is sufficient evidence of ownership they will create an entry with a title number showing Title Absolute which means the Land Registry guarantees the land is owned correctly.

If there is insufficient evidence to prove ownership the Land Registry may award you with Possessory Title.  This means the entry on the central register is created subject to any unknown rights or interests and the title is not guaranteed by the Land Registry.  This may cause problems when you come to sell the property in the future.

The advantages of having a registered title are:

  • Security of title
  • A plan produced by the Land Registry showing the extent of the land
  • The “deeds” are held on a central record and cannot be lost
  • The register for each property clearly sets out any rights or interests
  • It protects against anyone applying to hold your land under “squatters’ rights”
  • Any future sale is less likely to be affected by difficulties relating to  ownership

To minimise the risk of future problems Thompson Smith and Puxon recommend that, if your property is currently unregistered, you apply to the Land Registry for its first registration. The Land Registry is encouraging people with unregistered properties or land to apply for first registration by reducing their fees for voluntary applications.

Contact the Residential Property team for more information on how they can help you with your property sale and purchase