The bank lost our title deeds: what are our legal rights?

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The bank lost our title deeds: what are our legal rights?
When a house is purchased the title deeds are updated by the Land Registry. (Matt Cardy/Getty Images News/Getty Images)

The collection of documents tracing the line of ownership of land or property is known as title deeds. These include conveyances and sale contracts. When land or property is first first registered in England or Wales, the title deeds should be sent to the Land Registry. After the register is created, the original title deeds are returned to the party who lodged them, normally the buyer's solicitor. In the past, title deeds remained in the mortgage lender's possession, but nowadays many banks and building societies have a policy of not holding them. The Land Registry holds all registers electronically, so possession of title deeds is not necessary to prove ownership. If the bank has lost your original title deeds, you simply have to apply to the Land Registry for copies of your title register and title plan. Your legal rights in the property are not affected.

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Obtaining title deeds online

Register for the Land Registry's "Find a Property" service. Enter your house name or number and the postcode and click "Search." Select the option you require from the search results by clicking on "Information available." Click on the check boxes next to "Title register" and "Title plan" and click "Purchase" to complete the registration process and download copies of these documents to your computer. Pay the £6 fee (£3 for the title register and £3 for the title plan) by credit or debit card.

The bank lost our title deeds: what are our legal rights?
It's quick and easy to obtain a copy of your title deeds online. (Siri Stafford/Lifesize/Getty Images)

Obtaining title deeds by post

To obtain copies of the title register and title plan by post, print form OC1 and complete it. Only copies received by post (not downloaded from the Internet) are classed as official copies, which are required if being used as evidence in court. Enter details of the land or property, including a full postal address, and your personal details in the relevant sections. Write "Please supply title number" at the top of the form if you do not know the title number. Send the completed form to the office responsible for the area in which the land or property is located, together with a cheque for £7 made payable to the Land Registry.

Obtaining title deeds prior to first registration

If the title deeds have been lost before first registration of the land or property, it is slightly more complicated. A statutory declaration or statement of truth is required. This document must describe when, where and how the deeds were lost, in as much detail as possible. It must include confirmation that no other person has any interest in the property and that the deeds have not been given as security for a loan. Form ST3 - Statement of truth is available from the Land Registry and should be submitted with forms FR1 and DL to the Land Registry. If you choose to submit a statutory declaration instead, it must be sworn before a commissioner for oaths, a practising solicitor or a magistrate. Fees are subject to change, so confirm the amount due before sending a cheque for the correct amount made payable to the Land Registry.

Obtaining title deeds in Scotland or Northern Ireland

Scotland and Northern Ireland have similar systems in place to the Land Registry of England and Wales. Visit the Registers of Scotland website or Land & Property Services in Northern Ireland to apply for copies of your title deeds.

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