Approximately 14% of land in the UK is currently unregistered.
In 1998 it became compulsory to register land or buildings with the Land Registry following certain dealings (such as a purchase, gift or charge). Many independent schools will not have disposed of their land over this period, with the result that it remains unregistered.
Even where compulsory registration has not been triggered, there are many benefits of registering voluntarily.
What are the benefits to schools of first registration?
Registration at the Land Registry provides a publicly accessible register demonstrating a clear record of ownership and evidence of matters that affect the land, such as covenants (obligations to do or not do something, for example maintaining a boundary) and a record of rights over neighbouring land which benefit the land or of third party rights over the land. Restrictions on disposals are also readily apparent and clarify whether, for example, any third party consents may first be required.
Dealings with registered land are much simpler and more cost-efficient than with unregistered land. This should result in lower legal costs.
Registering land provides greater security against the possibility of losing land to a third party application for adverse possession.
The Land Registry also offers a 25% discount on its registration fee for voluntary first registrations (compared to compulsory first registrations).
With this in mind, any independent school which owns unregistered land should give serious consideration to registration.
How to register
Schools should always take independent advice regarding a first registration. However, in summary, the process involved is as follows:
An application for first registration with the Land Registry should be completed (using the prescribed form (First Registration Application (Form FR1)). This should be submitted alongside the Documents List (Form DL), which lists the accompanying original deeds to evidence “good title” to the land for at least fifteen years prior to the date of application.
An application fee is payable to the Land Registry based on the value of the land.
All documents, forms and the fee should then be sent to HM Land Registry.
The timeframe for a first registration will vary on a case by case basis depending on the complexity of the land concerned.