If you are the owner of land and/or buildings that have not been registered with the Land Registry when you take ownership of them, or you wish to take out a mortgage that will be secured against that land or those buildings, then you must first apply for the land and/or buildings to be registered.

It is important that first registration is completed properly, as this will avoid problems arising further down the line.

In most cases, first registration is compulsory but, even in other situations, there are several advantages to be gained by applying for the first registration of your property voluntarily. For example, it is more difficult for squatters to claim adverse possession of registered land, compared to unregistered land.

Where an unregistered title is complex, its registration will make title investigation simpler for potential buyers and speed up the conveyancing process. This is because records of title and ownership are kept in one location at the Land Registry, including all plans associated with the property. It will then be easy to obtain copies of documents if they are needed in future transactions.

Selling or buying an unregistered property is often more expensive in terms of legal fees because of the increased complexity and the time it takes to review and interpret old deeds. In addition, disputes regarding ownership are usually more difficult to resolve under the old deeds system.

If some of the title deeds are missing, registration may make a title more acceptable. Once the title is registered, it is guaranteed by the state and compensation is payable should the register need to be rectified and the registered proprietor suffers loss as a consequence. Also, reduced fees apply on voluntary applications to the Land Registry, to encourage property owners to apply for registration voluntarily.

To complete an application for first registration, it is important to try and locate all of the deeds of the property. The deeds are all the documents relation to the property and the ownership of the property. You need to be able to prove an unbroken chain of ownership, right up to the current owner’s right to sell the property. Deeds include:

  • Conveyances and Transfers
  • Plans
  • Grants of Probate
  • Death Certificates
  • Mortgage Deeds
  • Deeds of Easement
  • Deeds of Restrictive Covenants
  • Memoranda showing sales of party
  • Mortgage notes, loans and confirmation of payment
  • Statutory Declarations
  • A lease, if the property is leasehold


Plans are usually critical to prove the extent of the land that is to be registered. Where the land has always remained one plot with no parts having been sold off, the plan with the original conveyance will be particularly important. This plan will be used by the Land Registry to determine the boundaries of the land being registered.

Plans are also vital to show any changes in the borders, for instance, where parts have been sold off previously.

The “Root of Title” is the document that is being relied on to prove legal ownership of the property. Often this is the original conveyance when the property was first built.

All subsequent conveyances and other documents will need to be produced (“deduced”) to show an unbroken chain of legal ownership of the title, ending with the document that is evidence of the current legal owner’s legal right to sell the property.

If you are buying unregistered land, the contract will show the document that will be produced to the Land Registry as the Root of Title.

An “Epitome of Title” is a document listing all the title deeds and documents showing the property in chronological order, beginning with the Root of Title. The Epitome is important as it sets out the chain of ownership clearly for the Land Registry and the solicitors involved.

If you have recently inherited land, or are seeking to register land which is currently unregistered, you may find an existing Epitome of Title which will make a sale/first registration easier for you as you will only need to ensure it is up to date and complete.

If you need to create your own Epitome of Title, you will need to show at least 15 years of ownership, and make sure that the chain is unbroken.

Epitomes can vary in complexity depending on how the property has been owned over the years. For example, a very simple Epitome could comprise an original conveyance dated 1955 to a legal owner who has recently died, and a Grant of Probate giving the seller the legal right to sell the property today as Executor of the deceased owner. The 1955 Epitome will be a good Root of Title, and there is an unbroken chain of ownership.

On the other hand, a lengthy Epitome can include conveyances, sales of part, a death certificate, and other documents over a period of decades.

After the application has been submitted to the Land Registry, they will advise your solicitors if they require further documentation, or if the registration has been successful. When registration is complete, the Land Registry will send your solicitors a copy of the registered title.

Get in Touch

If you own land that is currently unregistered, or you are in the process of purchasing an unregistered property, and you would like further advice on the steps you need to take to apply for first registration, then we have specialists here at Barrett & Co who can assist you.  Please contact our Residential Conveyancing team on 0118 958 9711 or [email protected].

Further Reading:

A look at new build properties: The differences to the conveyancing process

Equity Release

Joint Tenants vs Tenants in Common

Shared Ownership

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