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The Land Registration Act 2002 (LRA) was introduced as a Joint Working Group consisting of people representing several bodies including the Law Commission, the Land Registry and the Lord Chancellor’s Department published a document1, which set out to change and more importantly improve the way conveyancing matters were dealt with in England and Wales. This document was to pave the way for the LRA and how the world of conveyancing was to develop.
It was identified that the old legislation under the Land Registration Act 1925 afforded little parallel in the ways in which unregistered and registered land were dealt with in a conveyance, the rights that were afforded in particular to occupiers and how equitable interests were prioritised. As titles to land had started to become registered with the Land Registry it was of course much easier to confirm title to registered land as it was, quite simply, entered onto the register and therefore easily identifiable. Unregistered land was different in that the basis of any title to land was down to possession, which as one can imagine created both differences and difficulties between the two. The idea was then to push forward with registration of land as this was how the conveyancing landscape was developing in an ever-advancing legal and technological world.
The Joint Working Group consultation was taken further as it was quite apparent that the technological world was developing and a conveyance would most likely take place electronically in the near future and the out-dated methods would need replacement. Indeed, it looked to develop the way a conveyance was carried out (entirely electronically as opposed to a paper-based system) and how a title to land would be perceived.2
Essentially, the title to registered land could be investigated at the click of a button, rather than laboriously leafing through well-foxed pages, and unregistered land would eventually die out and become registered as time went on. Prior to electronic registration, conveyancing was a three stage process of execution of a formal document, lodging it with the Land Registry and then the actual registration so the benefits that the LRA sought to introduce were both obvious and welcome.
As well as being a welcome change, electronic conveyancing would be compulsory under Section 93 LRA and would be accessible to all under Section 66(1) LRA, which was not previously the case. This would allow a more transparent conveyancing system for all.
The LRA also expanded the categories of estates that could be could be registered including: leases with 7 years unexpired, discontinuous leases, leases taking effect in possession more than 3 months from the date of their grant, leases to which the Housing Act 1985 would apply, rentcharges, franchises, manors and profits à prendre in gross. Where titles to land were previously unregistered they must become compulsorily registered in certain situations such as where a freehold estate or a lease with more than 7 years unexpired is sold, transferred by gift (Section 4(1)(a) LRA), mortgaged by first legal mortgage (Section 4(1)(g) LRA) or where a leasehold estate is granted out of a freehold or leasehold estate (Section 4(1)(c) LRA). If the registration is compulsory and there is a failure to apply for registration within 2 months then any conveyancing transaction will fail to grant, transfer or create a legal estate under Sections 6(4) and 7 LRA, which will likely result in a professional negligence action against the professional carrying out the conveyance unless adequately remedied.
First registration vests legal title to the person who is registered as the proprietor even where there is some defect in the title when given to the registrar under Sections 11 and 12 LRA. Overriding interests in the land can also be registered such as easements (Schedule 1 para 3 LRA) and rights of the public (Schedule 1 para 5 LRA), which again makes seeing the right of others attaching to or abutting any land much easier to search for and highlight to clients from a professional point of view.
Importantly, the LRA codifies the registered proprietor’s powers in relation to the land under Section 23, which avoids any doubt as to what they can and cannot do. What the LRA also does is allows for interests affecting a registered estate or charge to be registered by entering a ‘notice’ on the register as defined by Section 31(1) LRA. This allows for equitable interests such as leases, easements or restrictive covenants to be easily flagged in a conveyance.
1Law Com. No. 254, Land Registration for the Twenty-First Century – A Consultative Document (1998).
2Law Com. No. 271, Land Registration for the Twenty-First Century – A Conveyancing Revolution (2001).
- Land Registration Act 2002.
- Land Registration Act 1925.
- Housing Act 1985.
- Law Com. No. 254, Land Registration for the Twenty-First Century – A Consultative Document (1998).
- Law Com. No. 271, Land Registration for the Twenty-First Century – A Conveyancing Revolution (2001).
- Nigel P. Gravells, Land Law Text and Materials (3rd Edition, Sweet & Maxwell, 2004).
- Nicola Jackson, John Stevens and Robert Pearce, Land Law (4th Edition, Sweet & Maxwell, 2008).
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