Land Registry searches are a vital part of the conveyancing process and are usually an effective means of ensuring that the potential buyer knows exactly what it is they are purchasing. Solicitors will generally advise a client buying a property to carry out an inspection of the property beforehand.
In the case, Trevallion v Watmore, a couple bought their home in the Isle of Wight. The freehold title included a triangular piece of land (at the end of the garden of the adjoining property) over which the adjoining neighbours had held a leasehold interest since 1954. This land was used for storage purposes by the neighbour and was not yet registered at the Land Registry as the underlease was acquired before compulsory first registration on sale applied to the Isle of Wight.
Although the buyers had looked at the garden before the purchase, they did not have actual knowledge of the occupation of the triangle as it had been concealed by a fuchsia bush. In applying the legal test laid down by the Land Registration Act 2002, it was held that the occupation would have been obvious on a “reasonable careful inspection” of the boundaries. Accordingly the neighbours were allowed to continue using it as storage because their underlease took effect as an overriding interest and therefore their occupation took precedence.
This case clearly demonstrates that even in the modern tech-savvy world in which we live, a simple inspection of a property (i.e. a site visit) is vital making sure that you are acquiring what you believe is the whole property.
Case: Trevallion v Whatmore (Land Registration division of the Property Chamber (First-tier Tribunal), 30 June 2016.)