My Solicitor Didn't Register My Property - What Do I Do?

mariam-abu-hussein
Mariam Abu HusseinLegal Assessment Specialist @ Lawhive
Updated on 2nd November 2023

When you buy a house there are a number of legal steps you need to take. One of these is property title registration with the Land Registry, which keeps records of all properties and their owners. 

solicitor-did-not-register-property

Recording the transfer of ownership of a property is important because it essentially confirms a new owner's legal right to that property. 

But this isn’t something that happens automatically. It’s one of the tasks a solicitor or conveyancer usually takes care of when you’re buying a house. As a homeowner in the UK, it can be frustrating, and worrying, to find out that your solicitor failed to register your property.

But, there’s no need to freak out if you suspect your solicitor did not register your property. It is fixable, but sooner rather than later. And you might want to take legal action in the event you do believe a solicitor has neglected their duty during the process of buying a house.

In this article, we’ll help you find a solution by looking at

  • Reasons why a property might not be registered with the land registry; 

  • Practical steps you can take if you find your solicitor did not register your property; 

  • Potential risks of an unregistered property;

  • Making a complaint about a solicitor who has failed to register a property.

Why is my property not registered with HM Land Registry?

There can be various reasons why your property isn’t registered with the Land Registry, and some might mean there's no immediate cause for concern. That being said, it's always worth investigating. It could be due to:  

Delays in the registration process

It’s not uncommon for the registration process to be a bit slow.

As you might imagine, the Land Registry receives thousands of applications every day. It can take anywhere between 4 weeks to 5 months to update the register, such as changing a name or transferring a property title. And when it comes to registering land or property for the first time, it can take up to 16 months

If the property transaction was quite recent, it could be you have absolutely no need to worry. Legal ownership rights are secured from the moment the application is received, not when it is processed and completed. In these cases, all you may need to do is sit back and wait for the application to be processed and completed.

Missing documentation

When you make an offer on a house and it is accepted, a solicitor gets all the official documents from the Land Registry. 

When the sale is complete, the solicitor uses the property’s title deeds and proof of your identity to officially register your new home in your name. 

It is possible that, during the course of this process, an important document was missed or a hiccup in the process caused the registration to not go through, such as a miscommunication between your solicitor and the seller’s solicitor, or even between the solicitor and the Land Registry. 

The property wasn’t registered with the previous sellers 

It is entirely possible that, if you bought a property that hasn’t been subject to any transaction since the laws on registering property in the UK changed in the 1990s, the property was unregistered. 

If your property was unregistered when you bought it, the property solicitor or conveyancer who assisted with the purchase should have made sure it was registered when you took ownership of it. 

However there’s always a possibility this may have been overlooked. 

So, what can you do if your solicitor did not register your property. Let’s take a look: 

What to do if your property is not registered with the Land Registry

Here are some steps to follow in case your property is not yet registered.

Check the registration and title deeds yourself

Before you contact your solicitor and raise hell, first double check if your property is registered and who to. You can do this through the Land Registry website by downloading the title deeds of your property. There is a small fee attached to this (£3!) but it’s surely worth it if you open them up and find your name on the deeds.

Contact your solicitor

If you do open up the deeds and find that ownership isn’t registered in your name, the first port of call is the solicitor who handled the original transaction. 

As registration is such an important step in the conveyancing process, your solicitor should be able to explain the situation and, in most cases, fix it by registering the property properly. 

There really should be no barriers to them doing this, as they’ll have likely already conducted all the necessary searches that would have flagged any issues with transferring the property into your name. 

If, however, you choose not to work with the solicitor on this matter you can voluntarily register your property through the Land Registry’s website or you can appoint a different solicitor to help you with the process to get it sorted. 

Tell your mortgage lender 

If legal proceedings could be on the card because a solicitor did not register your property, your mortgage provider could provide some clout in these situations. So, you might want to get them on side by letting them know there’s a problem with the ownership. 

If the matter is sorted quickly, you might decide not to go ahead with any legal proceedings, or there might not be a need to. But just in case, it might be a good idea to contact them and flag the issue. 

What are the risks of owning an unregistered property?

Lack of title deeds 

Title deeds prove that you own a property. Without them, it’s much harder to prove ownership, and to get hold of them you need to provide a lot of proof that you own the property. This can cause a huge headache, and long delays, when it comes to selling your property. 

Adverse possession 

Adverse possession means that someone could claim ownership of land if they’ve used it, under certain conditions, for a set amount of time. The rules around this differ depending on whether the property is registered or not. But there’s another consideration, too. 

If your property is unregistered and someone claims ownership of the land, the Land Registry wouldn’t be able to notify you and you wouldn’t get an opportunity to object.  

Property fraud

Property fraud is becoming more of a worry these days. When the Land Registry suspects foul play with an application, they try to contact the registered owner of the property. However, you guessed it, if you’re not registered at the owner, they’ll find it difficult to contact you, leaving you and your property vulnerable.

Making a complaint about a solicitor who didn’t register property

If you believe your solicitor has neglected their professional duty to file correct documents, you have every right to make a formal complaint, especially if their actions have negatively impacted your life in some way. 

If your solicitor works for a firm, you could in the first instance raise a complaint with them. But, in some cases, that may not be appropriate and a formal complaint to the regulatory bodies (either the Legal Ombudsman or the SRA) may be necessary. 

For more information and advice about making a complaint against a solicitor, check out our article: Making A Complaint About A Solicitor

Unregistered property in the UK can be vulnerable to fraud, repossession, and other action that could be devastating to you as a property owner. The first and most important step if you identify a solicitor hasn’t registered your property is to get it registered, either through a new solicitor or through voluntary registration. After that, you can decide on the right legal action to take. 

Our property solicitors are your trusted experts, on hand to provide affordable, fixed-fee legal advice and support throughout the process of buying or selling a house and beyond. 

If you need help with registering a property with the Land Registry or feel your case has been badly handled by a solicitor previously and want to find a lawyer you can rely on, tell us about your case today.

Our expert law specialists work online for fixed-fees, so you’re never caught out or surprised by hidden costs, and we deliver the highest standards of legal help and advice.

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