Establishing Legal Title
Establishing good legal title is of course at the core of the conveyancing process.
Legal title to land is divided into that which is registered at H M Land Registry (known as registered land) and that which is not (known as unregistered land). In England land has progressively become registered since 1925. There are comparatively few properties left in Sussex which are not registered and so this explanation will focus upon registered property.
The Land Registry is a public register of legal title. An extract of the title to an individual property is known as “Office Copy Entries”.
The Office Copy Entries will disclose for example:-
- The name of the registered owner
- The name of anyone holding a mortgage over the property or any other interest in it
- Whether the property is freehold or leasehold
- The details of any leasehold interests granted (in other words if the property is freehold has anyone been granted a Lease over it)
- The quality of the legal title – so for example “title absolute” is the best title that can be obtained, “possessory title” is a claim based upon occupation for 12 or more years only and is capable of being challenged.
- Is the property subject to or has it had the benefit of easements and covenants. These are often of vital importance – for example the right to walk over communal pathways or passageways (to access a flat) or the right for your water, gas and electricity suppliers to cross adjoining properties.
There are a class of rights which do not appear on the Land Registry but which a Buyer may purchase subject to
These are known as “overriding interests”. Overriding interests include matters disclosed in the Local Search and importantly the rights of non-registered legal owners but who are in occupation – for example, spouses or adult children of the Seller.
If defects appear in legal title these can often be resolved – for example securing retrospective consents for breach of covenants or taking out insurance where this is not practicable.