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Selling a house without title deeds: What you need to know
Conveyancing help and guides
19 May 2021

Selling a house without title deeds: What you need to know

Daniel Strieff
Writer

Table of contents

  1. 1. What are title deeds?
  2. 2. Where can I find the title deeds to my house?
  3. 3. Do I need a title deed to sell my house?
  4. 4. Can I get a replacement title deed?
  5. 5. What if the property isn’t registered?
  6. 6. How can title deeds help protect against property fraud?

If you’re considering selling your home, you’ve probably discovered that you’re advised to have your property title deeds in order.

But what does that actually mean? What’s the purpose of title deeds? And is it possible to sell a house without them?

In this article, we’ll answer frequently asked questions about what title deeds are, what their purpose is and -- even if you can’t find your title deeds -- how to make sure your property is registered.

What are title deeds?

Title deeds are documents that show the chain of ownership for a house or piece of land -- or both, in the case of a freehold property.

Deeds can include:

  • Conveyancing documents
  • Sales contracts
  • Wills
  • Mortgages
  • Leases
  • Restrictions (if any) on how the property may be used

These documents are updated every time a property is bought and sold to reflect the change in ownership.

Where can I find the title deeds to my house?

If you need to locate your deeds as you prepare to sell your house, the first thing to do is also the most obvious: search your home, your office and any storage facilities where you may have placed them.

Next, reach out to your mortgage lender, if you took out a mortgage on the property, or to the solicitor who acted on your behalf when you purchased your home. There’s a good chance that one or both of them have retained copies from when they handled your previous transaction.

If you still haven’t had any luck, get in touch with HM Land Registry. It maintains the Land Register, which is the definitive record of land and property ownership in England and Wales. Registration has been required of all property transactions in England and Wales since 1990. Scotland and Northern Ireland have their own separate land registry organisations.

HM Land Registry holds digital copies of most title deeds, though they generally return the paper records to the person or entity who lodged them (such as a conveyancer or solicitor) after scanning them.

Do I need a title deed to sell my house?

The short answer is no -- as long as the deeds have been registered in your name. (Keep reading to learn what to do if your property is unregistered.)

But the key point is that you will need to prove you own the property in order to sell it. Incidentally, there’s also no legal requirement for a seller to hand over the deeds to the new buyer, though in practice most solicitors or conveyancers will gather these as part of their service.

It can also be useful to keep a copy of the original deeds for your records because they usually contain information on things like legal boundaries that may be difficult to find elsewhere.

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Can I get a replacement title deed?

In some cases, title deeds have been destroyed or otherwise lost to time. In other instances, such as when a property has been inherited or when a person is preparing it for sale on behalf of an elderly or deceased relative, the deeds can’t be located.

What then?

How you go about obtaining a replacement title deed depends largely on whether the property has been registered.

As long as the property has been registered, HM Land Registry should be able to provide you with copies of the deeds (for a fee).

You can search property information records for scanned copies of the deeds they have on file, making note of your property’s title number. If the register says the deeds have been ‘filed’, then they should hold copies of your records. Click here to find out how to get a copy (note that it costs £3 to download a copy of the title register and £7 for each official copy of a document).

What if the property isn’t registered?

If your property isn’t registered -- which is the case for approximately 14% of freehold properties in England and Wales, most of which haven’t changed hands since 1990 -- your task grows a bit more complex.

In that case, we recommend seeking out a solicitor or conveyancer for assistance because this process can be complicated and lengthy (and, as a result, expensive).

But you’ll have to apply for first registration, for which you’ll need your original title deeds and accompanying evidence.

If you don’t have the original deeds, you’ll need to provide as much evidence as possible to build a case so the Land Registry accepts you as the property owner.

Begin by filing a statement of truth (Form ST3). On this form, you’ll need to include evidence of possession, such as a recent utility or council tax bill or evidence that you’ve received rent and profits. If the property in question is land, you may need to include a statutory declaration or statement of truth detailing how the applicant is in possession of the land.

You’ll also need to:

  • Provide a clear description of the property
  • Demonstrate what you’ve done to search for the missing deeds
  • Detail how and where the deeds went missing or were destroyed
  • Identify who owned the property when the deeds were lost
  • Show that the property had a mortgage – and who was paying it – when the deeds were lost (if applicable)

In addition, supporting statements from your mortgage provider, solicitor, or former and current neighbours could bolster your position.

Remember: the more information you’re able to provide, the stronger your case will be.

How can title deeds help protect against property fraud?

Title deeds -- as long as they’re officially registered -- are also vitally important to help protect you against your property being fraudulently sold or mortgaged.

Those most at risk of suffering from property fraud, according to official sources, include:

  • Victims of identity theft
  • Landlords who rent out a property
  • Property owners who live abroad
  • Owners who leave properties empty
  • Owners of unmortgaged properties
  • Owners of property unregistered with HM Land Registry

If you think you’re at risk, you can track changes to the register or put a restriction on your title.

Read more about property fraud here: What you need to know

You can also sign up to receive property alerts if someone applies to change the title of your property without your consent. Doing so won’t automatically block any changes to the register, but it will alert you if something changes.

Or, you can put a block on HM Land Registry from registering a sale or mortgage on your property unless a conveyancer or solicitor certifies the application was made by you.

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