Most property in the United Kingdom is registered with the Land Registry, which records and documents the ownership of buildings and land. As the land registration system was not introduced until 1990, however, there are many plots of land in the United Kingdom that are yet to be registered. Although most unregistered land is legally owned, there is a small minority of properties that no longer have a traceable owner and have remained vacant. Such land may be claimed by a process known as "adverse possession."
Check if the property is registered on the Land Registry. If the property is registered, the property's title will be listed. If the property is not registered, then speak to the neighbours of the property to find out if it is owned.
Register "adverse possession" in the land if no owners are traceable, which will legally show a need and use of the land. "Adverse possession" involves occupying the property without possession and without challenge from other parties, and may involve installing tenants, growing crops or simply living on the property. Any use of the property must be done continuously and exclusively.
Register the land in your name with the Land Registry. You must show evidence of "adverse possession" for at least 12 years before any claim can be completed. Complete form UT-1 from the Land Registry along with a payment of £40 (rates as of September 2010) to register the land in your name.
When the land is registered to your name, the courts may issue a "possessory title" instead of an "absolute title," which will enable the property to be reclaimed in the event of the true owners returning. You may, however, take out an insurance policy on your home which will pay out full market value if such an event occurs. The Land Registry only records property in England and Wales. Properties in Scotland are registered at the Registers of Scotland.
Before showing "adverse possession," be absolutely sure that the property is unowned or any rightful owners are untraceable. If the true owner appears, they may sue you for damage and trespassing.