What are title deeds and what happens if you lose them?

Moving home involves a lot of paperwork. From EPCs to FENSA certificates, there’s a lot to keep track of – and there’s nothing more stressful than when something goes missing when your buyer is becoming impatient to move in.

Perhaps the most common question sellers have when they choose to sell with us is to do with the title deeds. What are title deeds and who looks after them?

Coming up, we’ll explain what title deeds are, who should have them and, more importantly, what to do if you lose them.

What are title deeds?

Firstly, you’ll need to know precisely what your home’s title deeds are before you can go about obtaining them.

Sometimes referred to as property deeds, title deeds are a series of documents which prove the ownership of the property and the history of its ownership. This includes documents that cover mortgages, lease information, contracts and any wills or conveyancing.

Title deeds are important as they demonstrate the chain of ownership throughout the property’s history.

Who holds the title deeds?

The original copy of the title deeds is typically held by the solicitor you used at the time of purchase. If you purchased your property with a mortgage, then it is possible that your mortgage provider also holds a copy.

A homeowner without a mortgage may hold the original copy of the deeds, though this is not always the case. There is no legal requirement for the original paper copy to be handed over to the buyer during the sale.

However, since 1990, it is a legal requirement for the HM Land Registry to hold a copy of the title deeds for any registered property in the UK. Usually documented in an electronic format, The Land Registry’s copy of the deeds is the definitive record of the property’s ownership.

I’ve lost my deeds – what happens next?

The answer to this question will very much depend on whether the deeds to your home are ‘registered’ or ‘unregistered’ with the Land Registry.

Registered property

If your property is registered, losing your copy of your home’s title deeds can easily be resolved. The Land Registry website has a search for land and property information option, which you can use to download copies of a property summary, title plan and title register, in exchange for a small fee.

Unregistered property

For unregistered properties, lost title deeds can pose real issues when it comes to proving that you are the owner of the home.

This is because title deeds to an unregistered property will not have been recorded at Land Registry. So, if the homeowner has no copy, they will need to retrieve it another way.

How do I prove ownership on my property?

If you lost the deeds to your property, you can try and locate them by contacting your local solicitors or mortgage lender to see if they have any documentation relating to the property.

If this fails, you will need to complete an application for First Registration, and produce evidence to support said application.

To provide adequate evidence, you’ll need to demonstrate at least 15 years of unbroken ownership. If this cannot be proved, you must instead submit to the Land Registry any documents or other evidence you can to enable them to consider some form of registration.

Evidence required for first registration

Any documents in relation to the property and its ownership will be required for your application. You will also need to make a ‘statement of truth’ to the Land Registry explaining all search attempts you have made to retrieve the missing documents.

Related: The documents you need to sell a house

What information will I need to provide?

  • Identify the property you wish to register.
  • Establish who had possession of the deeds when they were lost or destroyed.
  • Describe why the person in question had possession of the deeds, e.g., were they handed over for safekeeping?
  • Establish when, where and how the loss or destruction occurred.
  • List the steps taken to recover the lost documents and anyone you may have contacted in the process, e.g., banks and buildings societies.
  • Confirm whether or not you had a mortgage at the time the documents were lost.

If you’re thinking about selling your home, contact your local Parker’s branch today

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