It is sometimes unfathomably difficult to identify who owns areas of land or parts of buildings:
- the land may lie between two properties and it is unclear who owns it
- the land may be unfenced or unoccupied
- fences or walls may have been built in the wrong locations
- neighbouring property owners may be possessing or encroaching on land not theirs
Ownership records of land and buildings in Scotland are kept in two national registers of ownership: an older deed-based public register (Register of Sasines) and a newer map-based Land Register. The Registers’ staff are currently transferring ownership records out of the Register of Sasines and into the Land Register through a process called Keeper-Induced Registration. This takes place without the involvement or knowledge of the owners of the land or buildings in question. The aim by 2024 is to allow anyone easily to check ownership records on the map-based Land Register. Whilst this is certainly good news, it does cause potential problems for owners with poorly defined title deeds. The risks are:
- the Land Register staff may not have enough information to plot difficult boundaries to properties in the correct locations
- two or more owners sometimes have titles which can include the same area of land – e.g. an unfenced area of ground in an old industrial area, the ownership of which may be obscure; the Land Register staff may have incomplete information to decide who gets a registered title to this land
- owners may often have additional information not available to the Land Register staff; e.g. knowledge of possession of the site or of the existence of the correct legal boundary. This information won’t be reflected in the task of transferring the property to the new register.
The best course of action is often for owners of such land to apply for voluntary registration of their property in the Land Register rather than let the Keeper’s staff deal with it. By making a voluntary registration:
- owners can provide the Land Register with their own plans of what they think their land includes
- owners can avoid the need to take potentially expensive action to rectify inadvertent errors made by the Land Register staff
- owners will for a period of time benefit from reduced registration fees
If you would like to discuss the possibilities of voluntary registration or, indeed, any other property matters, please get in touch with one of CCW’s commercial property solicitors, Michael Dewar or Kieran Reilly.