The term ‘title deeds’ is frequently used in relation to properties and appears a lot in blogs and news articles. Many people may not fully understand what they actually are though. If you’re scratching your head wondering: “what are title deeds?” then this is the blog for you.
If you need to sell your house quickly then you’ll need to present your property title deeds. In this short guide we’ll cover what title deeds are and why they’re important. We’ll also discuss what they look like and where they’re stored, and cover some of the common problems with deeds. Read on for more information or use the menu below to navigate easily.
What are title deeds?
Title deeds are a legal record of the ownership of land and/or property. They help you find out who owns a property or land. They will include things like leases, conveyances, wills, contracts for sale and mortgages. Property burdens are also included in the title deeds. These are obligations that must be met and typically include things like:
- Repairs and maintenance: for example, the title deeds may detail whether there is a charge for arranging repairs or maintenance. Or if responsibility is divided amongst residents of a shared property.
- Access rights: this could include details of access to and from the property and/or communal areas. It could also include access rights that cross neighbouring properties.
- Restrictions: these could be specific information about the legality of running a business from the property, or things like pet ownership etc.
Why are title deeds important?
Title deeds are important because they’re used as the record of truth in any legal dispute regarding land or property. They can be used to clearly say who owns the land, who has financial interest in the land or property, and who has rights of access. However, they do have their limitations. For example, they don’t often identify precise boundaries, nor the responsibility for maintenance of boundaries. This lack of clarity notoriously leads to disputes amongst neighbours.
What do title deeds look like?
A mention of title deeds often draws to mind images of a dusty library filled with old scrolls. Surprisingly this is not the case! Title deeds were actually introduced by the Land Registry who no longer keep paper copies of deeds. The Land Registry stores all copies electronically. Original copies are typically stored with a solicitor or conveyancer who last acted on the sale of the property.
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Where are title deeds stored?
As mentioned above, title deeds are stored electronically by the Land Registry. They have written a helpful guide here on how to use their title register to access and view deeds. You should be aware that downloading them does include a small fee.
If your home is a new build property then it may not appear on the register. If this is the case then you’ll need to go through a few steps to apply for first registration. You can view a detailed guide of these steps on the HM Land Registry website.
Do all houses have deeds?
Yes. All properties and lands will have deeds that are stored with the Land Registry. This is a legal requirement as they are the documents that show the official ownership of the land. It’s a necessary part of the conveyancing process if you’re selling a house in the UK.
How do I transfer title deeds?
It can be a little complex to transfer deeds. It is possible to change the deeds of a house without the help of a legal professional. However it is always best practice to consult a solicitor or conveyancer when dealing with the ownership of property. There are a few circumstances in which a homeowner may want to transfer their property deeds such as:
- Marriage: the homeowner may want to add their new spouse to the title.
- Death or divorce: this requires the deeds to be updated.
- Probate: a child or beneficiary of a will may need to be added onto the title as part of the deceased’s last wishes.
In order to transfer deeds there’s a few simple steps that you’ll need to follow. You can see some guidelines on the government website. In short, you’ll need to:
- Download and fill out what is known as an AP1 form. You can find the application form here.
- Fill in a transfer of registered title form.
- Fill in a certificate of identity for a private individual.
- Find out the correct fee. You can use the Land Registry Fee Calculator.
- Send over these documents along with the forms and fee to HM Land Registry.
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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What’s the difference between a title and a deed?
While the terms are often used interchangeably, a “title” refers to legal ownership and the associated rights, while a “deed” is the physical document that proves ownership.
Can someone else claim ownership of my property if I have a title deed?
In theory, yes. However, a validly recorded title deed is strong evidence of ownership. Disputes may arise, but your claim is supported by the deed.
Is a title deed the same as title insurance?
No, they’re different. A title deed proves ownership, while title insurance protects against financial loss from title defects, such as undiscovered liens or fraud.
What happens if I lose my title deed?
Losing a title deed can complicate matters, but it doesn’t necessarily mean loss of ownership. Reconstructing the deed or obtaining a copy can resolve the issue.
Can I transfer property without a title deed?
In most cases, transferring property requires a title deed. Without it, proving ownership becomes challenging, and legal transfers could be hindered.
Are electronic title deeds valid?
Yes, many jurisdictions accept electronic title deeds as valid proof of ownership. They offer convenience and often have built-in security measures.