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Where Are My Deeds?

When I first started conveyancing almost 40 years ago every property had its own set of paper deeds. Most of the properties we dealt with were still ‘unregistered’ meaning that they had not as yet been registered at the Land Registry.


Deeds Prior To Land Registration

A bundle of deeds, typically tied up with pink ribbon, consisted of:-

Conveyances.  These were the documents that proved ownership of the property. A conveyance would document the sale of the property, the date of the sale, the previous owner and the new owner and the price of the sale.  It would often (but not always) include a plan of the property, show boundary ownership and document any conditions attached to the property. Conveyances were signed by both the Seller and the Buyer and had to be witnessed by an independent witness who was over 18 years of age.

  • Leases.  Where the property was let on a long lease the original lease would form part of the deeds together with any related Notices.
  • Mortgages/Legal Charges. These documented any mortgages or loans secured on the property. They were usually in a standard form of deed supplied by the lender and documented the name and address of the lender and of the borrower, the amount borrowed and the terms and conditions of the mortgage. Mortgages also had to be signed by the borrower and witnessed in the same way in which conveyances were.
  • Marriage/Death/Change of Name – certificates were also included to provide evidence of any change of name.
  • Probate/Wills – if an owner had died and the property passed to beneficiaries then the deeds would include the Probate document or Letters of Administration if the owner had died intestate.  The deeds would often include a copy of the Will.
  • Searches – Land Charge Searches against previous owners. These could reveal charges against the property.
  • Planning permissions and building regulations consents.
  • Builder guarantees such as NHBC documents
  • Old searches.

A bundle of deeds could be a couple of feet high and it was the conveyancer’s job back then to sort the wheat from the chaff.  For an unregistered property to be sold the conveyancer acting for the seller had to produce an Epitome of Title which showed ownership going back 15 years.


The Land Registry

The Land Registry was created in 1862 to register the ownership of land and property in England and Wales. Since the Land Registration Act 2002 the Land Registry became officially known as Her Majesty’s Land Registry.

The Land Registry registers the ownership of property in England and Wales. Its purpose is to guarantee title to registered estates and interests in land. The Land Registry does this by checking the unregistered title to ensure that ownership has passed legally to the new owner, that all previous debts and claims on the land have been redeemed. It records the ownership rights of freehold properties, and leasehold properties where the lease has been granted for a term exceeding seven years.


Benefits Of Land Registration

In the words of the Land Registry : “Registration establishes proof of ownership and produces an easy-to-read document reflecting the contents of all the paper title deeds. This simplifies conveyancing, making transactions easier and potentially less costly for all involved.

All title information is kept on Land Registry’s database, reducing the need to store old and often unclear deeds. The register can be viewed quickly and securely online.

There is no better way to safeguard ownership of land and property than by registering your title with us. State-backed registration gives you greater security of title, providing you with better protection against claims of adverse possession”

When a property is registered for the first time an accurate plan is drawn up by the Land Registry to provide a precise record of the area of land owned within the title. Previously the plans contained in conveyances were often inaccurate, sometimes being hand drawn without any measurements or dimensions.


Compulsory Registration

Since 1990 it has been compulsory to register all property and land with the Land Registry.  This can either be done by voluntary first registration or it will be triggered when an unregistered property is sold, mortgaged or let on a long lease.  In practise very little property in England & Wales remains unregistered.


Land Registry Title Document

Once an unregistered property was registered with the Land Registry they retained the original deeds. The Land Registry then produce a document called ‘Official Copy Entries’.

Each property or plot of land that has been registered with the Land Registry is given a unique ‘Title Number’.

Official copy entries are made up of :

The Property Register.  This register includes the address of the property, incuding post code, the title number, the County and District. It will also include any rights or restrictions which the property benefits from or is subject to. It will make reference to any plan and may include descriptions of any lease.

  • The Proprietorship Register. This register details the current owner of the property and their address. It specifies the quality of title i.e. Title Absolute Freehold or Leasehold and any limitations on the title. It may give details of price paid or valuation and will give the date of the last sale.  It will also give details of any restrictions on the power of the current owner to sell, mortgage, charge or lease the property.
  • The Charges Register. This register contains details of registered mortgages and notice of other financial burdens secured on the property . It also gives notice of other rights and interests to which the property is subject such as leases, rights of way or covenants restricting the use of the property.

The Land Registry no longer keeps copies of every deed and document relating to the property.  Many of these were destroyed. Copies of documents such as conveyances or leases that are too lengthy to be included on the Official Register are kept.


Mortgage Lenders

Traditionally, if you took out a mortgage or loan which was to be secured on your property, the Lender would take possession of your deeds as security. The deeds would be retained by the lender until such time as the mortgage or loan was paid off and then the deeds would be returned to you or your solicitor.

In 2003 a process came into place called dematerialisation.  Lenders decided they no longer wanted to hold onto original title deeds because everything they needed was recorded at the Land Registry.  So deeds were either returned to the property owners or their solicitors or they were destroyed.



Traditionally, solicitors would hold onto a client’s title deeds following completion of a sale, if requested to do so.  With the wholesale dematerialisation of deeds mentioned above many solicitors gave their clients a choice of sending them their deeds, storing them at cost, or destroying them.

Unfortunately, during dematerialisation many beautiful documents, handwritten with original seals were destroyed although some were sent to historical archives.


Finding Your Deeds

As most property is now registered in England & Wales you can visit the Land Registry web-site at : http://www.landregistry-titledeeds.co.uk/?gclid=Cj0KEQjwtO2wBRCu0d2dkvjVi5cBEiQAMEIVGT0cCNJ_255UAQlyv7Hh10OsPlSmIlkK3UT39le3qnEaArwX8P8HAQ


This is an online portal available to the public where you can obtain, for a small fee, a copy of your deeds and the title plan.


Your Solicitor.  The solicitor who acted for you when you bought may have retained your old deeds or they may have received them from a previous lender so it is worth a try.


Your bank/lender.  It is unlikely but your bank/lender may just have retained your deeds so again it is worth a try.


If the property is unregistered and you cannot locate the deeds then you can still prove ownership of the property.  You will need to contact a conveyancing solicitor or Licensed conveyancer who will be able to help you with this.