Title deeds: what are they and why do you need them?

When buying or selling a property, it is important to consider the advice of conveyancing solicitors and real estate solicitors. An essential part of required documentation as part of the buying or selling of a property is the presence of the Title Deeds. These need to be there as proof of property ownership, but what exactly are they, and where can you find them?

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What are title deeds?

Title deeds are a series of documents which prove the ownership of a property and the history of its ownership. They will include documents which cover mortgages, lease information, contracts as well as any wills or conveyancing. This collection of documents is used to show the chain of ownership throughout the property’s history.

Who holds the title deeds?

Usually, the original copy of the title deeds is held by the solicitor you used at the time of purchase. However, if a mortgage was required when purchasing a property, then it is possible that your mortgage provider will also hold a copy.

A house owner who has no mortgage may have the original copy of the deeds, although this is not always the case. Indeed, it is not a legal requirement for the original paper copy to be handed over to the new owners during the sale.

Since 1990, it has been a legal requirement for the HM Land Registry to have a copy of the title deeds for every registered property.  These are mainly held in electronic format.  The Land Registry copy of the deeds is the definitive record of land and property ownership in England and Wales.

When do you need title deeds?

The most common reason to need title deeds is when buying or selling a property.  Typically, your solicitor will deal with the details of obtaining the title deeds of a property which you are purchasing. They will also deal with updating the deeds with new information, and making sure the HM Land Registry system copy is current.

Title deeds are also important when a property owner passes away and has left instructions in their will regarding the property.

Occasionally there is a dispute as to the rightful ownership of a property or piece of land.  In this case the title deeds would be one of the first documents referred to when settling a dispute such as this.

Generally, the title deeds are something you don’t have to worry about, as your solicitor will take care of ensuring the correct processes are followed.

How to get a copy of title deeds?

For properties in England and Wales, the Land Registry website has a “Search for land and property information” function, which will allow you to download copies of a property summary, title plan and title register. A small fee is charged.  You do not have to be the owner of the property to use this facility. Links to similar searches for properties in Scotland and Northern Ireland are included on the site.

How do I make changes to the title deeds?

Sometimes it is necessary to make changes to a set of title deeds, for example changing names after a divorce or marriage. Details about making these changes, for each specific piece of the title deed documentation can be found on the GOV.UK website. There is a small fee involved and you will need to provide proof of identity and have the application form signed by a solicitor.  Using a solicitor for the complete process might be advisable where more complicated changes are required.

How can Goughs help?

With a team of experienced property solicitors ready to help, Goughs can assist you in obtaining or altering the title deeds of a property, as well as with the whole conveyancing process. Our team of solicitors can also advise on other property issues like transfer of equity, lease extensions, plot sales and much more.

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