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  1. Blog
  2. Solicitor did not register property - What do I do?
Conveyancing help and guides
18 January 2023

Solicitor did not register property - What do I do?

Sam Edwards
Senior Writer & Researcher
A row of houses on a quiet street.

Table of contents

  1. 1. Why is my property not registered with the Land Registry?
  2. 2. What to do if you property’s not been registered
  3. 3. Risks of owning an unregistered property
  4. 4. How does property registration work?
  5. 5. Summary: Get in contact with your solicitor ASAP

Buying a house is a huge investment. As such, it’s important that the legal process, where the ownership is transferred in your name, is completed correctly.

A big part of this process is property title registration, which confirms the buyer as the new legal owner. Here in the United Kingdom, the registration is stored by HM Land Registry, which keeps records of all properties and owners.

Unfortunately, registration isn’t automatic - it’s one of the many legal tasks that are handled by your solicitor. And while most solicitors are professionals, there’s still room for human error. There have been instances where titles have not been submitted to the Land Registry, leaving the new owners without a legal claim to the property.

If you’re worried that you have an unregistered property, it’s important not to panic. This is something that can be rectified - but you need to act quickly to protect your interests.

First things first, let’s take a look at some of the reasons why your property hasn’t been registered.

Why is my property not registered with the Land Registry?

There could be any number of reasons why your property isn’t registered with the Land Registry. Fortunately, the most common is that registration can simply take a while. As such, your solicitor may not even be at fault!

However, you shouldn’t leave it to chance. If you suspect that your property hasn’t been registered with the Land Registry, you should get in contact with them immediately.

There’s a risk that your solicitor failed to submit all the necessary documents on your behalf. If so, they might be liable!

Of course, the blame may not solely be your solicitor’s. A lack of communication between parties can lead to discrepancies that influence your property's timely registration with the Land Registry.

There’s also the possibility that the house you purchased wasn't a registered property with the previous sellers.

What to do if you property’s not been registered

If you suspect that your property’s not been registered, or elsewise, have been informed that it wasn't registered correctly, it’s important to take action to protect your legal ownership.

Please note that your priority here is to get your title registered as soon as possible! While your title is unregistered, your property ownership is vulnerable and the previous owner may still have a charge on the property, despite owning a new other property.

Step 1 - Confirm your suspicions

If you suspect your property’s not been registered, your first step is to confirm those suspicions. You can do this by logging into the Land Registry website and paying £4 to instantly download your property’s title from the register. If your ownership has been registered, your name should be on the deeds.

Alternatively, you could ring the Land Registry using their phone number: 0300 006 0411, with their team available on Mondays to Thursdays (excluding Bank Holidays), from 8am to 5pm.

Step 2 - Contact your solicitor

If you find that your ownership is indeed unregistered, your next step is to contact your solicitor and ask them to explain why. More often than not, they’ll be able to quickly rectify the situation and register the property on your behalf.

In any case, your solicitor should have ordered official copies of your property’s title deeds from the Land Registry and made a search with priority during the exchange of contracts.

A priority search tells you whether anyone has any charges or rights on the property, demonstrating the complete right of the seller to begin the sale process. In other words, the search should have indicated whether the property would have any issues being transferred into your name.

Step 3 - Wait or issue complaint

Every situation is different - but if your title cannot be determined, you have several options open to you.

If your solicitor states that your title is soon to be registered, you should wait and see what happens. However, if you suspect, or have evidence that your lender has acted negligently, you can download a formal complaint letter from the Law Society - the professional body that represents solicitors across England and Wales.

The Law Society specifies that you should:

  • Complain as soon as possible.
  • Be as clear as possible in your complaint.
  • Give your solicitor up to eight weeks to resolve the issue.

If you’ve complained to your solicitor and haven’t received a satisfactory response, you can refer the case to the Legal Ombudsman. You can call them on 0300 555 0333, or email at enquiries@legalombudsman.com.

Step 4 - If you have a mortgage, inform your lender

Having paid for the bulk of the purchase, your mortgage provider has an invested interest in your property. With your ownership on the line, your lender’s interest is unprotected. As such, it’s important that you contact them ASAP.

Mortgage lenders carry a lot more weight in legal situations than a single borrower. Having your lender on-side is important should things get out of hand.

There’s a small chance you’ll need to take legal action to rectify the situation. This can include court proceedings against the previous owner or the solicitor involved in the sale. This can be a long and complex process, so it’s important to seek professional legal advice.

Risks of owning an unregistered property

If you aren't registered as the legal owner of your property, you're more vulnerable to crimes like property title fraud and mortgage fraud. Both involve outside parties taking ownership of your home through fraudulent means.

An earlier failure to submit all the necessary documents during the registration process, or a lack of communication between solicitors during the conveyancing process, can result in your home remaining unregistered after buying it.

Another risk of owning an unregistered property is when it finally comes to remortgaging. Because your house isn't registered under your name, the lender won't be able to re-mortgage, as the property can't be secured as collateral.

How does property registration work?

Property registration is the process of recording the transfer of ownership of a property with the Land Registry. It’s a necessary part of buying a house because it updates the official records of ‘who owns it’ and confirms your legal right to the property!

During the conveyancing process, your solicitor will typically handle the registration process. But what does this involve?

Once your offer has been accepted and the relevant surveys have been carried out, your solicitor will order official copies of the property’s documentation from the Land Registry. When contracts are exchanged, they will then make a search with priority to protect your purchase within a 30 day period.

After contracts are exchanged and a completion date is set, your solicitor will prepare a draft transfer deed and completion information form and send them to the seller’s solicitor.

Once the purchase is complete, your solicitor will use the title deeds and some proof of your identity to register your new home in your name at the Land Registry. Once complete, the Land Registry updates its records to reflect your registered title.

Summary: Get in contact with your solicitor ASAP

Property registration is a legal requirement in the UK, and failure to register can have some serious consequences! Unregistered land or properties can be repossessed, sold or developed without consent. It can also prevent you from seeking compensation if the property is damaged or destroyed.

The best way to protect yourself is to be proactive and research the property registration process before you purchase a property. Above all else, always ensure that you’re working with a reputable solicitor or a conveyancing professional.

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