Why HM Land Registry wants to achieve comprehensive registration

Looking down on houses being built

As the Deputy Director for Comprehensive Registration at HM Land Registry, I’m overseeing our goal to achieve as close to 100% land registration as possible. As of April 2018, over 85% of the land mass of England and Wales is registered.

Achieving comprehensive registration in England and Wales by 2030 is a key target for the Government and is a core component of our Business Strategy 2017-2022.

What does ‘registered’ actually mean?

Registration is the official recording of property ownership. HM Land Registry records property ownership in the Land Register, which is the official ownership list for property in England and Wales. Northern Ireland and Scotland have their own land registries.

Many people assume that all property is registered but there are various reasons why that’s not the case.

The main reason for a property not being on the Register is that there hasn’t been a transaction, such as a sale or mortgage, on that property since registration became compulsory in its area. So, some people may be living in an unregistered property if they haven’t moved house (or re-mortgaged their current one) since the 1980s or before.

Why do we want to achieve comprehensive registration?

The benefits of registration include:

The government's Housing White Paper states the need for more building to address the country’s housing shortage. Comprehensive registration makes buying and selling homes easier as all the information necessary for conveyancing will be in one place – the Land Register. This will mean it’s easier to check who owns property and there is more transparency about who owns what.

A comprehensive register will make conveyancing simpler, faster and cheaper as all the information necessary for conveyancing will be in the Land Register which is online and available to everyone to see. If land isn’t registered, the conveyancer has to get the deeds from the client or mortgage lender and examine them, all of which costs time and money.

There will always be some little bits of land where the owners are difficult to identify, which is why we’re aiming to achieve ‘comprehensive’ rather than ‘total’ registration.

Our initial priority is to register any publicly-owned land that can be used for housing and development purposes in the areas of greatest housing need by 2020. This will make it easier to identify where there may be surplus public land which could be available for housing development.

While our initial focus is on registering all publicly-owned land in order to boost housing development, we have longer-term goals. These include registering all remaining land by 2030.

Once we achieve comprehensive registration, we’ll be well on the way to making house-building and house-buying simpler, faster and cheaper for everyone.

How are we going to achieve comprehensive registration?

Well, it’s not going to be easy! However, we’ve already created teams of people who are dealing with around 400 first registrations (the term we use when properties are registered for the first time) that we receive every day.

We also have a Public Sector Engagement Team who will be contacting local authorities throughout 2018, helping them to identify if any of their land or properties are yet to be registered and working with them to make the registration process as streamlined as possible.

How do I register my property?

 If your property is not registered with us, you can register it yourself or use a conveyancer. We have guidance on GOV.UK about registering property for the first time.

We also have guidance for any local authorities wanting to register their land and property.

The cost of a first registration depends on the value of your property. There is a 25% reduction for voluntary first registrations. A voluntary first registration is when you choose to register your property rather than having to because, for example, you are selling it or taking out a mortgage on it. If your property’s value is between £200,001 and £500,000, the reduced fee is £200. There is a maximum fee for large-scale voluntary first registrations of £30k depending on certain conditions.


  1. Comment by Russell Davidson posted on

    Why not register leases of 5 years or more? The existing 7 year rule misses out the huge portion of the Commercial letting market which now regards a 5 year lease as the norm.

    • Replies to Russell Davidson>

      Comment by ianflowers posted on

      Russell - the duration of leases which can be registered is laid out in the Land Registration Act 2002 (the Act). The Law Commission have been considering updating the Act and are currently reviewing consultation responses. Section 1.21 of their summary consultation paper - provisionally proposes that there should be no reduction for the reasons given in that section.

  2. Comment by Basil Vaz posted on

    Very informative article. Thank you.

  3. Comment by Donald Gray posted on

    Are there any proposals to update some of the OS data used for some existing titles as part of the project? I am working one one title where it has a plan based on historic OS data pre 1985. Conveyancing is not cheaper when registered titles do not reflect what is on the ground.

    I disagree that registration in itself makes conveyancing easier. It depends ont the title. Dealing with a long register with many recorded dealings some of which may be abstracted and some recorded by reference to a filed copy of the relevant document and a title plan which is awash with colours is not straightforward.

    • Replies to Donald Gray>

      Comment by ianflowers posted on

      Donald - Whilst the update of title plans and simplification of our services is not in scope of Comprehensive Registration, another key strand for HMLR as part of our 5 year Business Strategy is to digitise our services to make conveyancing simpler, faster and cheaper. Both points you raise will be considered as part of that activity.

  4. Comment by John Harvey posted on

    I am old enough to remember a comprehensive registration date of 2012. Suggestions for streamlining to hit 2030 or earlier are


    As registered land reduces so does conveyancers' knowledge of it. This has been ongoing for some time.

    Several years ago, I was working on a PFI scheme involving 26 schools with much unregistered title. Part way through, one party's solicitors (one of the country's largest firms) had a court case go against them and withdrew from unregistered land transactions altogether . Their client insisted on title being registered upfront. After due consideration I decided that it was easier to do so than explain the intricacies of the unregistered title to others.

    My approach was vindicated when the presence of a small building (with its own address and not being part of any school ) but included in the contract had an entry put on the Land Charges Register against “26 Schools in ….Borough”. And it took considerable time and effort to get this removed.

    Please consider having SUCs to whom the public could be guided. Qualification could be on the basis of sufficiently high turnover of unregistered applications and low level of rejections and requisitions (available from existing LR records) and CPD run by LR.


    This already exists for right to buy and transfer of public housing estates. Why not apply this to voluntary first registrations subject to certification by SUCs? The reduced fee could be restricted to these.


    Providing information before marketing was a feature of HIPS

    Sellers may complain but, as you say, registration makes it easier to buy and sell. LR's Secretary of State is trying to make this process easier and the complication of unregistered title in a chain of transactions can impact on all in that chain. Failing to register beforehand could be seen as a discourtesy to those who you will be dealing with directly or indirectly.

    Let's face it. Voluntary first registration has been around sinc 1862 and it's time that we all got round to it for everyone's benefit. It might not reduce the overall time for the chain member with an unregistered title but it could reduce stressful uncertainty for others.


    Matters, such as termination of leases and missing evidence of mortgage redemption, often have to be dealt with at the time of first registration

    When working on the project mentioned under A, I designed a statutory declaration to cover these in a logical and standard format. It seemed to be welcomed at the DLR.

    A sample might be with the historic paperwork for EGL434123 and I would be very pleased for it to help in producing a template statement of truth, schedule to a certificate of title or checklist etc.

    • Replies to John Harvey>

      Comment by ianflowers posted on

      Thank you for taking the time to give detailed comment and suggestions. Once these have been fully considered, we may contact you directly to discuss further, if you are happy for us to do so.

      • Replies to ianflowers>

        Comment by John Harvey posted on

        Thanks for comments Ian

        I have previously been involved in LR groups and consultations and would be delighted to talk.

        In fact a couple of buses stop outside my flat and, a few minutes later, opposite LR headquarters in Croydon so I would be happy to put my Freedom Pass to good use and pop in for a chat.

        Keep up the good work.

        Stopping unregistered land from being a problem is a big one. But making leases machine readable so that their fitness for purpose can be assessed by AI may be far worse

        • Replies to John Harvey>

          Comment by ianflowers posted on

          John - thank you for your further suggestion. Also for your kind comment and offer to be involved. The team will keep of a record of your email contact details on file.

  5. Comment by John Powell posted on

    We are in the process of purchasing a house, and we have now found 7 weeks into the purchase that the sellers own a freehold but don't own the lease? The sellers solicitor is saying it's ok to go ahead with the sale, but our solicitor is adamant she would not be doing her job if she ignored the lease side, can we still buy the property and if we did how would it stand legally . Thanks

    • Replies to John Powell>

      Comment by AdamH posted on

      John - very much one for you to take your solicitor's advice on here. We can only provide the registered information but it is an understanding of that detail from a legal perspective that is crucial.

  6. Comment by John Powell posted on

    Land registry say the land is unregistered.

    • Replies to John Powell>

      Comment by Michael C posted on

      Adam is correct to say take your legal advisors advice. The Land Registry so issue some very useful practise guides which maybe of use. In particular the practise guide regarding the determination of leases sounds like it would be useful. If the freehold reversionary title is registered then the seller maybe able to apply to have the entry relating to the unregistered lease cancelled if the lease has in fact been determined.


Leave a comment

We only ask for your email address so we know you're a real person