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Property deeds: What are they and how should I look after them?

When you buy a property, there’s some important paperwork that proves you own it. One piece of this is your title or property deeds as property registration became compulsory in England and Wales in 1990. This guide explains what these documents are, what they mean, and how you should keep them safe.

What are my property deeds?

Property deeds are the legal documents that record the ownership of a property and any accompanying land. They are stored by HM Land Registry. You must register the property with this body if you have bought or inherited it, been given it or received it in exchange for other property or land or taken a mortgage out on the property.

When a property is registered with the Land Registry for the first time, they will take a scanned copy of the original title deeds before returning them to whoever submitted them. Typically, this is the solicitor or conveyancer.

Are there different rules for parts of the UK?

It’s important to know that HM Land Registry only deals with land and property in England and Wales. So, if you live in Scotland or Northern Ireland there are separate registers.

What does a property deed look like?

Title or property deeds are not physical pieces of paper unless they are the original. Copies are stored electronically and updated each time a new person purchases the property, like an ongoing logbook of owners.

Unless the property you have bought has never been registered before, it is unlikely that you will hold the original deeds. You can search the register to check your property is registered.

When you buy a property, your solicitor gives you a copy of the ‘registered title’, ideally within a month of completion, though it may sometimes take a little longer.

How much do the Land Registry charge?

Applications to the Land Registry have two different scales for fees which depend on the type of transaction, for example, a first registration is different to a transfer of the share in a property. Below are the details of these scales, but the exact costs for your property will be discussed with your solicitor.

You can find full details of the fees at gov.uk

Do I need my property deeds to sell my house?

If your property is registered with the Land Registry, you don’t need the deeds to confirm your ownership and sell the property. The Register is the record of ownership for land and property (in England and Wales), and they will provide the necessary information required to complete your house sale.

This doesn’t mean, however, that you shouldn’t have a copy of your deeds on file, even if your property is registered with the Land Registry. A copy of the original deeds can provide useful additional information on areas such as legal boundaries.

If the property was already registered when you bought it, the seller may not have handed over the original deeds (and there’s no legal requirement for them to do so). Tracing the original deeds for a property that has been bought and sold many times is likely to be impossible, but to see or order a scanned copy of the deeds that HM Land Registry has on file, you can search the registry to find your property’s title number.

If you wish to track down the original deeds, they could be with the solicitor who acted for you when you bought the property, or with your mortgage company.

Where should I keep my property deeds?

As they are on file with HM Land Registry, you can simply file your own copy of your property deeds along with any other important documents you have at home, without worrying that if you lose or damage your copy they are gone forever. It’s always best to keep documents about your property safe, for reference and organisation purposes. Store them in a folder or filing cabinet so they stay safe and clean.

What happens if I lose my property deeds?

As the deeds are more than likely digitally registered with HM Land Registry, it is highly unlikely that they will be lost. However, if the property is unregistered, the responsibility is with the seller to produce the original deeds so if you have these, it’s very important to keep them safe.

If you’re unable to find proof of ownership, you should contact the solicitors who oversaw the paperwork at the point of its sale to you so they can submit a deeds request form to HM Land Registry. Land Registry automatically destroys any unsolicited post it receives, so you must contact them through a solicitor. There will be a small fee for this service.

If you are still unable to find the original deeds, you will need to produce evidence to prove your ownership status.

Thinking of buying a property?

We make it our mission to get you moved. haart’s Buying Process is our useful guide packed full of the steps and responsibilities for a buyer, as well as hints and tips to make the process as stress-free as possible.

Do remember if you are buying or selling with us, our phone lines are open from 8am-10pm, seven days a week to ensure we are there for you every step of the way. If you prefer to speak to someone in person – just find the local branch to you, check their opening hours and pop in to see them – they will be glad to help you.