According to the Land Registry website, "30 per cent of the land in the UK is currently unregistered." This does not mean that all of it can be claimed, but some plots of land can. Often people have been left land in a will and not realised, the owner may have died and had no living relatives, sometimes people have emigrated and forgotten about a piece of land. This is where the old maxim, 'possession is 9/10 of the law' comes into effect. You are entitled to investigate and, potentially lay claim to any land you suspect might be unregistered.
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Things you need
- SIM form
- 2 independent witnesses
- 'Private Property' signs
Walk around your local area. This is good way to spot unregistered plots or properties. You may well miss vital clues if you are driving. Things to look out for include: unused driveways, rusty gates, overgrown fields and bits of land between built up areas. Do not assume verges of grass are owned by local utility companies. Often these pieces of land are unregistered and can be claimed.
Download a SIM form from the Land Registry website and fill it in. This form requests the Land Registry to perform a search on the site. There is no charge for this as long as the site contains 10 or fewer unregistered title. If there are more than 10 titles to be investigated, the Land Registry office charges £4 per title.
Wait to hear back from the Land Registry office. If it turns out that the land is registered, you can either abandon your claim or fill in an OC-1 form asking for details of the owner. If the land is unregistered, you are free to proceed with your claim.
Investigate if the previous tenant is still alive. There are several ways to do this. The best place to start is by checking the electoral register. Also, speak to neighbours, local shopkeepers, postmen, pub landlords and OAP clubs in the area (the tenant may have been elderly and died). Accrue as much information as you can, as a tenant that is still alive and living locally is likely to block your claim.
Mark off the boundaries of you plot with 'private property' signs. Put your contact details on the sign. This is a good way to warn off others interested in claiming the land, or squatters looking for a place to stay. But it also draws attention to the fact that you are claiming the land. If the owner is living locally and sees your signs, they will probably be in contact with you quickly, saving you time and any money you might spend on improvements.
Create some documentation that provides evidence of the date from which you are starting your claim. The law states that if the owner has not objected to your claim within 12 years, you are declared the legal owner of the land. Take a photo of the property with the date of that day's newspaper clearly visible and get two independent witnesses to sign the document. This is sufficient evidence to mark the start of your claim.
Tips and warnings
- Although you must wait 12 years to be confirmed the legal owner, you are entitled to start making money off the property or plot of land immediately. This can be done by renting out the land to a farmer, fixing the house up and letting it out, or growing crops. There are many ways to turn a profit out of land without selling it.
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