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Why HM Land Registry wants to achieve comprehensive registration

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Buying and selling property

Aerial view of 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.

[* Update: As of September 2019, 87% of land in 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 to 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.

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  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.

    • Replies to John Harvey>

      Comment by Rob Kinnon-Brettle posted on

      I have noticed a rise in conveyancers wanting properties to be registered before they will complete the purchase ... obviously this causes problems with transactions if the 3 month turnaround still subsists. I am probably unusual in that I actually like doing first registrations, although they do take a lot more time than registrations of already registered land.

      • Replies to Rob Kinnon-Brettle>

        Comment by Maggie Telfer posted on

        Thanks Rob. We do sometimes receive requests to expedite first registrations due to a pending sale, and will try to accommodate that where we can. These can often be in the circumstances you describe where the seller's conveyancer has aimed to register ahead of the transaction.

        I'm glad you like doing first registrations - we like receiving them!

  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.

  7. Comment by Rob Kinnon-Brettle posted on

    Some of the largest owners of tracts of unregistered land are not local authorities - the National Trust, the Water Companies, the Crown Estates, and Church of England/Church in Wales (also smaller denominations). If you reduce voluntary first registration fee (to maybe 50%) you would make it more of an incentive for owners of large tracts of land to have their land registered.

    • Replies to Rob Kinnon-Brettle>

      Comment by Maggie Telfer posted on

      Thanks for your comment Rob. Most of those large landowners you mention have already registered the majority of their landholdings with us here at HM Land Registry. One of the interesting challenges for us going forward will be to identify, apart from the public sector and those bodies we are aware of who are yet to register, what land remains, who owns it and why they have not registered. The 25% discount for voluntary registration has helped I'm sure, but I'm not sure it is the thing that makes (or breaks!) the case for larger landowners.

  8. Comment by Jeffrey Shaw, Nether Edge Law posted on

    Several ideas towards this worthwhile aim:
    1. Try a scheme based on locality, offering free (or- say- fixed £20 fee) first registrations within a specified local authority's area for the next two months only, stressing that this is available only by direct contact with HMLR and not via any agencies. Over about 3yrs, it could sweep all E&W local authorities' areas.
    2. Try a a scheme based on companies, offering the same. It could be promulgated via Companies House, the agency with which all companies in the UK have to deal.
    3. Try a a scheme based on charities, offering the same. It could be promulgated via the Charities Commission, the agency with which all charities in E&W have to deal.
    [2 and 3 will minimise fraud and increase user confidence, due to the agencies' involvement. Also, companies and charities are far more likely to have long-term property holding- just as for Local Authorities, the user group with which HMLR is currently engaging.]

    • Replies to Jeffrey Shaw, Nether Edge Law>

      Comment by Maggie Telfer posted on

      Thanks for your comment Jeffrey, and for the suggestions. All really good ideas. If we're to achieve comprehensive registration by 2030 we'll have to get all the options on the table and consult on these. We're beginning the work to explore what new policy levers or legal triggers would need to be in place to achieve our 2030 aim during this financial year. I'll add these to the list of possibilities.

  9. Comment by James posted on

    Akin to a compulsory purchase order why not make the registration of land complusory on all owners of property by 'x' date. To encourage compliancx with this it would be beneficial to scrap the fee for this or make it something nominal like £10.

    • Replies to James>

      Comment by Maggie Telfer posted on

      Thanks James. In response to Jeffrey's comment above I've mentioned that we'll be exploring the feasibility of new policy approaches. One of the options we'll have to explore is whether some kind of time- boxed sweep up of unregistered land, phased by sector or administrative areas (or both) is practical, desirable, necessary or even feasible. An interesting question for us all.

  10. Comment by Anthony posted on

    Maybe it would be more attractive - and efficient at preventing property fraud - if the register wasn't public.

    I believe the availability of otherwise confidential information to anyone who cares to check the register is a barrier to some owners of unregistered land.

  11. Comment by Jonathan Turton posted on

    I am intrigued that there is less fraud with registered land (or to be precise, that is the implication).

    The lack of the need to produce a land certificate appears to have significantly increased the ease of fraud. The open register, there for good reasons and a great aid to conveyancing, does not help.

    • Replies to Jonathan Turton>

      Comment by ianflowers posted on

      Jonathan - It is the case that historically property fraud is more likely to be committed against a registered title than one which is unregistered. But, this is due mainly to the volume of registered titles in comparison to those properties which remain unregistered.
      Unregistered properties do have some vulnerabilities to property fraud. This is because we hold no current or historical information on the title and information on who owns a property and the general extent of the land they own is not easily available. There is also a risk that unregistered property deeds may be lost or stolen.

      As you will be aware, registered property owners are covered by the state guarantee of indemnity, should they be subject to a fraudulent property transaction. They are also able to utilise our Property Alert service, where users monitor their registered titles and receive email notifications when certain applications are lodged. We also make it as easy as possible for property owners to keep their contact information up to date.

      In common with many, if not most other countries in Europe and around the world, the land register is open to public inspection and has been so since 1990. Along with computerisation of our records, the open register was a vital step in modernising systems to meet the needs of the electronic age and as you have referred to have facilitated an efficient conveyancing process.

      Although land and charge certificates provided a degree of conveyancing security in the past, the changes referred to removed the need for people to store certificates, with the associated risk that they may become lost, destroyed or stolen, which of course represented a significant risk of fraud in itself.

      We continue to keep our counter fraud procedures under continual review, ensuring that the registration system operates efficiently on the one hand, but having safeguards in place to make the system as safe as possible on the other.

  12. Comment by Crispin Taylor posted on

    Rob is absolutely right that the largest landowners present an issue. Is the LR working with them to persuade them that registration will not affect their strange mediaeval rights? It is a scandal that the Crown Estates are not all registered especially after all the legal brainwork that went into defining the formerly unknown concept of 'demesne land'. I had to use a weird provision of the Commons Registration Act to force the CofE to register a village green. But well done the Duchy of Cornwall for registering its property in Newton St Loe, Somerset (described as an 'ancient' property although the Duchy has only owned it since 1941).

  13. Comment by E Reeve posted on

    I don't know if my question is relevant on this blog, but I own a cottage in a short terrace of 3 which was registered for the first time by me c2001/2 at which time I discovered my next door neighbour had registered our common driveway as being his land. I queried this with the Land Registry at the time, but didn't get very far. Is it too late to do anything about it now?

    • Replies to E Reeve>

      Comment by AdamH posted on

      E Reeve - it's legal advice you really need here as to whether you have a legal challenge to the registered ownership or not. If you queried the situation with us at the time I would have expected us to have explained that to you so that may be why you felt you did not get very far.

  14. Comment by David Andrews posted on

    If a presently unregistered private house is registered under the "comprehensive" scheme without the owner volunteering to register it what are the charges and who will pay?

    • Replies to David Andrews>

      Comment by ianflowers posted on

      David - If a house is not voluntarily registered, under the current legislative framework, registration will only be required when this is triggered by certain transactions, such as a sale or mortgage of the property. We essentially have an administrative role in registering the transactions once the applications have been made to us, so we can't say definitively who will pay and this will be a matter of negotiation for parties involved.

      In terms of charges, when a unregistered property comes to be sold, representatives for the buyer may require the seller to register the property for the first time before proceeding with the transaction. In which case the 25% fee reduction for voluntary registrations will apply. Alternatively, the buyer's representatives may agree to proceed with the transaction without registering the land first, in which case the fee will be payable under scale 1 of the current Land Registration Fee Order as set out in our guidance: .

      • Replies to ianflowers>

        Comment by David Andrews posted on

        But my point was that, if there is no sale and no mortgage application, but you register the property anyway in order to achieve "comprehensive registration" will you expect the property owner to pay for the privilege of being registered?

        • Replies to David Andrews>

          Comment by ianflowers posted on

          I understand, but we currently have no plans to do that and any change of that nature with a compulsory element would require fresh legislation to be put before Parliament.

  15. Comment by David Andrews posted on

    Thank you for that clarification.

  16. Comment by Amanda Smith posted on

    If I register a fixed charge MR01 against a property on Companies House do I still need to register a charge on CH1 accompanied by AP1 and ID1 and ID2 at the Land Registry. Also is there a need for a RX1?


    • Replies to Amanda Smith>

      Comment by AdamH posted on

      Amanda - we can't advise you on what you should or should not register in such cases and I would recommend that you get legal advice/assistance

  17. Comment by Joanne Laxton posted on

    Not sure if anybody can answer this but... we are in the process of buying a cottage which was first registered by an equity release company about 5 years ago. We discovered when the title arrived that the drive (not shared) was still unregistered - it looks like a part of the property was missed - so the sellers are now trying to rectify this. I understand they asked to have the process expedited. My question is - how long does this process usually take? Everything in our sale and purchase is currently on hold while this happens but our buyer is likely to get annoyed if it takes too long.

    • Replies to Joanne Laxton>

      Comment by AdamH posted on

      Joanne - expedition reduces the wait time between receipt and it being considered to around 10 working days. Everything then depends on what has been submitted and what next steps are needed. The devil is always in the detail re such applications and whether enough supporting evidence is submitted; a survey is required; and do we need to contact interested parties such a neighbours for example. You should rely on the seller's solicitor to keep you up to speed with what is happening as they should be aware to some degree if they expedited it

  18. Comment by Amara posted on

    I am on the process of buying a property. During viewing, the landlord said that the house was built in 1985, but during insurance which the estate agents helped in providing information, he documented that it was constructed in 1960. When I discovered it and questioned why the discrepancies in the date, he replied that he will amend the date. O now want to find out by myself the actual time that building was constructed because I don't want to buy a house that is much older than me.