Jump to content
House Price Crash Forum
tstaddon

Adverse Possession

Recommended Posts

I've found an empty property (semi-derelict) which it appears, isn't registered with the Land Registry. Nobody's lived in it for over 30 years, and the previous owner died there.

If I understand the law as it stands, I can send off two forms, move in, and if, after 12 years of occupation, nobody's challenged the ownership, it's legally mine.

Since I have three kids, a four bedroom house would be nice... we don't have a £60kpa income so if this is feasible it's got to be worth a shot.

However, getting useful information about this process from an official source is like trying to get blood from a stone - unless you buy an ebook off eBay, or books about property investment.

A few questions:

1. Apart from paying my couple of quid for the paperwork, what can one do to ensure that there isn't a rightful owner, other than search the Land Registry? For example, if the previous occupant had distant relations, should I attempt to contact them?

2. Say after ten years of renovation work, someone bowls up on the doorstep and says it's theirs. Realistically, how can they prove this if the Land Registry doesn't know it's theirs?

3. What rights would I have if that happened - for example could I be evicted, and if I've spent £50k making it habitable do I have any comeback on that?

4. Does anyone have any experience of this?

5. If the government's so concerned with empty properties, WHY DOESN'T IT PUBLICISE THIS PROCEDURE?

Obviously, this isn't the most ideal route for an invester because you have to wait it out for 12 years to get a return - so the most obvious beneficiaries of this law are families who need a house for themselves, FOR THE LONG TERM.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I've found an empty property (semi-derelict) which it appears, isn't registered with the Land Registry. Nobody's lived in it for over 30 years, and the previous owner died there.

If I understand the law as it stands, I can send off two forms, move in, and if, after 12 years of occupation, nobody's challenged the ownership, it's legally mine.

Since I have three kids, a four bedroom house would be nice... we don't have a £60kpa income so if this is feasible it's got to be worth a shot.

However, getting useful information about this process from an official source is like trying to get blood from a stone - unless you buy an ebook off eBay, or books about property investment.

A few questions:

1. Apart from paying my couple of quid for the paperwork, what can one do to ensure that there isn't a rightful owner, other than search the Land Registry? For example, if the previous occupant had distant relations, should I attempt to contact them?

2. Say after ten years of renovation work, someone bowls up on the doorstep and says it's theirs. Realistically, how can they prove this if the Land Registry doesn't know it's theirs?

3. What rights would I have if that happened - for example could I be evicted, and if I've spent £50k making it habitable do I have any comeback on that?

4. Does anyone have any experience of this?

5. If the government's so concerned with empty properties, WHY DOESN'T IT PUBLICISE THIS PROCEDURE?

Obviously, this isn't the most ideal route for an invester because you have to wait it out for 12 years to get a return - so the most obvious beneficiaries of this law are families who need a house for themselves, FOR THE LONG TERM.

I have a close relation who is a retired senior land registry civil servant. According to him, the chances are that, given the circumstances, it is unlikely that anyone will challenge your possession and eventual ownership, but there is always a risk that even at the last moment someone could challenge.

In order to claim for "fee simple absolute" (your title, unchallenged and in perpetuity) you fill the forms in and pay a small fee, but until you get that ownership you are a squatter....not quite in terms of a squatter who simply invades an already possessed building while the owner is away, but the historical meaning of "squatter" which is exactly what you are considering, and this is entirely legal.

The biggest drawback is that until you have the title, you will have to spend 12 years being extremely careful to make sure you are in permanent possession (and this could mean not even going away for a short time). Possession of a property has to be palpable, demonstrable and provable.

It is unlikely that someone would after all this time suddenly make a claim. But it has been known for a claim to be made once someone else has tidied the property up and invested labour and materials in making it waterproof and habitable. On the other hand vexatious claims are as likely as valid ones and a claimant has a considerable burden of proof. They can't just roll up and say "this was my uncle's home in 1933". They need proof.

Once you are in possession of any building, usually a court order is required to remove you. You cannot be evicted without a legal process. Of course as a precaution you should change the locks and secure the building. It is important to be able to show evidence that you definitely live there......occasional possession is not good enough.

The reason the government and other agencies hardly ever publicise this perfectly legal (and noble) excercise is that there is an in-bred suspicion and ignorance amongst conventionally minded people who are confused between legal squatting and illegal squatting.

There are a few companies who specialise in finding empty and unclaimed properties. I suspect many of them are a bit dubious.

VP

Edited by VacantPossession

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

On the basis of the above, what have you got to loose? Since you won't be paying rent so worst comes to worst you could pay reliable backpackers or such (they do exist) to 'house mind' if you went on holidays. (Invest in a dog so that they had no excuse to be away for more than a night - hope you like dogs!!!) Somebody could try to claim it, but sometimes you have to take a risk. Check out discretely whether the guy who died had any close relatives (particularly locally). This might sound a bit vulturish, but since he is dead I am sure he couldn't care less, and since nobody else appears to... enjoy you new home.

Edited by Elizabeth

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Just because there's no Land Registry record doesn't mean that there's not a perfectly legal owner out there.

Registration is/was not compulsory other than on change of ownership and, even then, not all transfers were/are registerable.

For example, if someone bought the house prior to the days of the Land Registry, then they would not have a registered title but they would have title deeds. A Deed of Gift, as far as I can recall, is/was not registerable. So, if someone bought the house in the 1950's they could still be around and hold the deeds to the house. Indeed, they could have gifted the property to someone else and there still wouldn't have been a record at the Land Registry. That doesn't mean that their title to the property isn't just as legal as a LR registered title.

So my advice would be - 'If it looks too good to be true, it's probably not true.' And, as previously stated, what _you_ can help yourself to, others can do too. So, keep an eye over your shoulder for 12 long years. Even if you manage to keep it out of other squatters' hands for that time, then the real owner may well return and, justifiably, take it back after 11 years, 11 months and 30 days. They may well thank you for the care you've taken of it but they won't give you anything.

p

p

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

What abour registering an interest inthe property? Would that help securing some of the making good costs?

Edited by sp1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I won't tell you the exact location because obviously if that were the only unregistered property there, I'd be shooting myself in the foot.

The Land Registry website allows you to quick-search a given street name, town (and postcode if known) - and show you the registrations along it. You can fill in these criteria at

http://www.landregisteronline.gov.uk/lro/s...leSearchServlet

The results show on the next page (although you have to scroll down to see the results).

Any property that isn't registered, doesn't have the line

Title number (Ref) Tenure (Tenure) Last Updated (Date)

displayed at the bottom of the box.

So it's really as simple as that.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

From the FAQ

Q3.1 If no title number is revealed by the Property enquiry, does this mean that the property is unregistered?

A: Not necessarily. If no title number is revealed it may be for one of the following reasons:

- we have been unable to electronically match the property details given with our records, or

- the title numbers have not been linked to the address in the database (e.g., because at the time of registration the address was not known or was different in some way to the address supplied to us by the Post Office).

To be certain whether or not a property is registered you should complete, and post to us, the form for a Search of the Index Map

Have you sent the LRO the form?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest rigsby II

http://www.rightmove.co.uk/viewdetails-9114731.rsp

"The Adjoining farmer has however cultivated part of the garden in order to keep it tidy and it will be the Purchaser's responsibility to re-fence the boundary in conjunction with the Farmer, and to satisfy themselves that they are happy that the area of land offered agrees with that in the Title Deeds."

I think that may mean that the farmer has nicked the land, sorry I meant "kept it tidy - in perpetuity"

:)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Sorry, I should've been more precise.

If there isn't a Title number then there's a fair chance it's worth a closer look. If there is a title number, chances are it's not worth looking into.

My rule of thumb was this: the house would need to be unoccupied (which is easy enough to check) and listed as unregistered on the Land Registry site, for it to be worth a closer look.

In contrast, a local village road round here has 4 out of 6 properties listed on the Land Registry as having no Title number - however I know for a fact that all four of those properties are owner-occupied, three of which were passed down to the next generation in the family rather than sold on the open market.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
If there isn't a Title number then there's a fair chance it's worth a closer look. If there is a title number, chances are it's not worth looking into.

You still seem to be under the impression that, just because a property isn't registered at the Land Registry, the the owner's title is somehow defective and at risk. Unless the rules have been very recently changed (and I don't believe they have) there is no compulory requirement to register your title at the LR other than to record some changes of ownership after, for example, a sale. Bearing in mind that land registration has only been in force for a fairly short time - ignoring certain localities like Yorkshire who had separate rules - there must be hundreds of thousands, possibly millions, of properties in this country that aren't registered. That does not mean that the owners' title is, in any way, weaker than a registered title.

So, returning to your above comment, all that you achieve by discovering that a property doesn't appear to be registered is just that fact. It's not registered. So what? In the case of, what appears to be, an abandoned property it makes no difference, whatsoever, whether it has a Registered Title or an Unregistered one.

Rather than spending time and money on someone else's property - in the hope of getting something for nothing - why not 'invest' your money in the National Lottery. After all, the odds against making a fortune for nothing from the National Lottery is only about 14 million to one. The odds against you making a fortune out of your plan are probably a lot higher.

p

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Er... no I am not.

What I said in the case of the house I'm looking at is that it has been unoccupied for 30 years, is derelict, AND I've done a vast amount of work on trying to trace who used to live there. The old fella who lived there has been dead since the mid-70s, and in all that time, so far as I can tell, nobody's come forward to claim it.

My first question was, what ELSE can I reasonably check before 'staking my claim' in order to make sure nobody else owns the property.

If nothing else, that should tell you I am planning on making an open and honest declaration to the Land Registry, before setting foot there, that if after twelve years of searching, no rightful owner comes forward, I would like very much to assume the freehold.

What exactly is your problem with that?

It's not quite the same as living in a council flat without paying rent, and claiming ownership once the 12 year period has lapsed (which is the sort of scenario that occurred in London a few years ago and gave adversarial possession a bad name).

And where do you get the idea I've more chance of winning the lottery?

There are hundreds of thousands of abandoned properties in the UK. Okay, not all of them have no registered owner, but what is the country to do? Just let them rot until the owner, or a descendant of the owner, comes forward with anecdotal evidence that it is theirs?

One Council up here has a big redevelopment project actually stalled by the existence of SEVERAL properties with no traceable owner slap bang in the middle of the zone they want to flatten - they're in the process of working out if there's a way of CP'ing properties that nobody 'owns' since, for them, a 12 year wait and occupation of said properties in that timeframe is out of the question!

Rather than spending time and money on someone else's property...

I resent the implication.

I'm talking about going to every conceivable legal length to attempt to locate an owner if there is one, AND ONLY registering an intent to occupy (and, in 12 years' time, assume ownership) if no owner can be found.

Obviously there are data protection limitations involved: if the local council and the Land Registry don't know who owns a property then the whole process hinges on whether or not someone's got some documents stashed in a safe somewhere... perhaps a will. Which is why I asked HERE what else I can check.

There is absolutely no attempt on my part to pinch someone elses' property.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
There is absolutely no attempt on my part to pinch someone elses' property.

These laws are the ancient legal wisdom that what is abandoned should be able to be reclaimed for use. Now if this house was a table on the rubbish tip, would your detractors complain. What is the difference? Ignore your detractors. They are people who can't think beyond an interpretation of ownership, so narrow that even the law does not support it! And if they were in the same position ...??? Whatever!!!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
My first question was, what ELSE can I reasonably check before 'staking my claim' in order to make sure nobody else owns the property.

THAT'S the whole point! Somebody else DOES own the property.

Just because you can't find an entry for it on the Land Registry means absolutely nothing. The owner could be out there and has a perfect legal title to it, possibly with a set of deeds (although not, necessarily, so). I'm still convinced that you have no idea of the concept of Unregistered Land. You should follow the suggestion made by someone else to refer to specialist lawyers; they'll enjoy taking your fees.

Alternatively, the original owner may have died and the inheritors have title to it. If the owner died without any legal heirs, then the property has reverted to the Crown. SOMEONE OWNS THAT PLACE (Sorry to shout, but I don't think that you want to hear).

Sorry not to give you encouragment in your attempts at obtaining this property. Do you really believe that you've come accross some magical method of getting property for free? Do you really believe that, after all this time, the property laws of this country have been left wide open to this sort of action? Has all this been kept secret from everyone but now, in 2005, you've been let in on the secret? I apologise for being perfectly blunt - Get Real!

Up your way, don't you say something like - 'There's nowt for nowt'.

p

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Sorry, but have to support the above poster on this. If the previous freeholder of the land had any heirs then the land now belongs to them. If they died leaving no living heirs then legal title to the land reverts to the Crown.

Either way, you will need to squat on someones land (be it a relative or the Queens') for 12 years, then prove that you have had sole use/occupancy of it for that time.

By all means, go for it, but I would strongly advise that you do not spend ANY real money doing improvements to the property, as you won't have any legal claim on them and could waste a fortune.

I know someone who made a bit of money doing something fairly similar (well, not that similar). He discovered that an old derelict, abandoned set of barn buildings had change of usage approval for usage as offices... bought the barns for absolute peanuts, redeveloped them and was able to sell them on as offices for a very large profit, without having to jump through hoops applying for change of use or planning permission or anything.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
THAT'S the whole point!  Somebody else DOES own the property. 

Just because you can't find an entry for it on the Land Registry means absolutely nothing.  The owner could be out there and has a perfect legal title to it, possibly with a set of deeds (although not, necessarily, so).  I'm still convinced that you have no idea of the concept of Unregistered Land.  You should follow the suggestion made by someone else to refer to specialist lawyers; they'll enjoy taking your fees.

Alternatively, the original owner may have died and the inheritors have title to it.  If the owner died without any legal heirs, then the property has reverted to the Crown.  SOMEONE OWNS THAT PLACE (Sorry to shout, but I don't think that you want to hear).

Sorry not to give you encouragment in your attempts at obtaining this property.  Do you really believe that you've come accross some magical method of getting property for free?  Do you really believe that, after all this time, the property laws of this country have been left wide open to this sort of action?  Has all this been kept secret from everyone but now, in 2005, you've been let in on the secret?  I apologise for being perfectly blunt - Get Real!

Up your way, don't you say something like - 'There's nowt for nowt'.

p

Patprimer,

You are unreasonably giving the man a hard time. It is perfectly ok to recycle and re-use property that appears to have been of no use to anyone else for some time. It is also a well established and perfectly accepted proposition, throughout the last several hundred years.

You seem to be taking umbridge on behalf of the "owner" but it is likely there isn't one, at least not in the practical sense, the last having died for example and having no heirs. It is perfectly possible that properties are ownerless and it is not true that "someone must own it". There are vast numbers of properties exactly like this in the UK and Europe.

Of course there is no free lunch....anyone taking on such a property will pay handsomely to get it back to a liveable condition.

If you can think of a better and more constructive way of disposing of such a property then let's hear your wisdom.

VP

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
THAT'S the whole point! Somebody else DOES own the property.

The dead guy? The family he apparently didn't have? The Crown?

For the third time: I KNOW THAT! I'm TRYING to find out who owns it!

I'm not assuming for a minute that NOBODY owns it, but I do know that if the legal owner cannot be traced, then the process I intend to follow is perfectly lawful.

If you dispute that, I suggest you read The Land Registry Act 2002.

Perhaps you should also read the Hansard debates on the legislation, which explains rather well the rationale behind the law - one section goes as follows:

A squatter will be successful only against a registered proprietor who cannot be bothered to respond to the registrar's notices and take sufficient action to recover possession.

One of the Bill's aims is to make sure that land that is being neglected remains in economic use. It is a sensible derogation from the general principle that registration determines ownership that an owner who is so little concerned with the land as to fail persistently to take the simple steps required to secure possession should yield to a squatter who will.

http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld200102/ldhansrd/vo011030/text/11030-21.htm

Do you really believe that you've come accross some magical method of getting property for free?

It's not "free". As VacantPossession said, it requires a 12 year commitment to live in the place, pay your bills, and in many cases to invest significant sums of money to make the place habitable, with no guarantee you'll get that money back.

I estimate that renovating the property I've looked at to a habitable standard will cost at least £75k given that the roof's caved in and the windows are rotten through. However, it's big enough to accomodate a family of five, which means it's ideal for me (having three kids).

---------------------

I think a lot of the sentiments expressed about this issue, are based on that scandal when a squatter pulled an AP trick off on a half million pound property in London, at the expense of the local authority.

In fact, the only reason this case was even remotely contentious, was that the tenant knew the council owned it and the fact that he won the case was entirely down to negligence on the part of the council.

If the property had been privately owned, and he had pulled every conceivable string to locate the rightful owner, and the rightful owner hadn't bothered to respond, I expect most people would've given him a hearty pat on the back for stopping a very large house in their respectable neighbourhood, from falling into disrepair.

In the court, he proved that for the twelve years he'd been an occupant, he'd taken responsibility for its upkeep, burdened the cost of renovation, and kept it fairly well.

Without his intervention it's a cast iron certainty that the place would've crumbled to dust and the council would've been none the wiser, seeing as they didn't appear to know it was theirs.

Either that, or they didn't give a monkeys about it.

The court recognised that fact and gave the council a roasting for its incompetence.

And, you have to remember that I'm specifically looking into a property where, UNLIKE that case, there doesn't appear to be any living legal owner. And I'm not just saying that on the sole basis of a Land Registry Search - I've been researching it for weeks.

I don't imagine it'll be too hard to find out if it's Crown Estate.

I'm more interested in what to do if it isn't.

I know someone who made a bit of money doing something fairly similar (well, not that similar)...

Which, of course, is something I could possibly do if I can find the owner of this property - and be honest, if that happens, who loses? The owner doesn't. And I would be able to crack on with the renovation so it'd suit me fine.

To be honest, I'd rather make a fair offer on this place and spend £75k doing it up, than pay some cretinous outfit £100k more for one of their pokey new builds up the road.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Oops - I think I scared everyone off.

Must say I'm disappointed though.

There's not a lot of proactive discussion on these boards about ways to get on the housing ladder.

Are y'all just sitting here waiting for the crash?

Honestly: I know the market's well overdue for a collapse, but I for one am sick and tired of VIs and BTL investors getting their grubby mitts on BMV property at the expense of people who are desperate to get a property TO LIVE IN, yet all we ever seem to do is whinge about it.

Can't we be a bit more proactive, and start discussing ways to get on the housing ladder without becoming some cash cow for the VIs?

After all, property profiteers are only making a mint at the expense of us proles, because we're stupid enough to let them bleed us dry.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

  • 301 Brexit, House prices and Summer 2020

    1. 1. Including the effects Brexit, where do you think average UK house prices will be relative to now in June 2020?


      • down 5% +
      • down 2.5%
      • Even
      • up 2.5%
      • up 5%



×
×
  • Create New...

Important Information

We have placed cookies on your device to help make this website better. You can adjust your cookie settings, otherwise we'll assume you're okay to continue.