The Curious Case of Missing Deeds
Taylor & Emmett LLP Blog - August 2021
So, you have an empty property, you have the name of the deceased owner, but you can’t find the deeds. Sound familiar?
This complex situation arises more often than you would think during estate administration. Over long periods of time, deeds become lost and it may transpire the deceased’s ownership was never registered.
If you are trying to return a property to a habitable state, this situation can be problematic, as it cannot be transferred or sold until a successful application has been made to reconstitute the title.
The Process of Deed Reconstitution
Deed reconstitution is essentially an application to the Land Registry to reconstruct a property’s title if deeds cannot be traced. This starts with the completion of forms FR1 and DL, which must be accompanied by a statement of truth, detailing how the deeds have been lost or destroyed (form ST3). This account needs to identify:
- Who had possession of the deeds and where they were held before they were lost or destroyed
- Why the person in possession of the deeds had custody of them. For example, were they held for safekeeping or as security against a loan or lien?
- When, where and how the loss or destruction occurred
- What steps have been taken to recover the deeds
- At the time of the loss, did the owner have any mortgage, charge or lien on the property? Had they deposited the deeds with any person, firm or body as security?
- Whether the applicant is in occupation or in receipt of rent/profits
- That the applicant is entitled to apply for registration as the legal estate is vested to them or they have a right to the legal estate.
To evidence ownership of a property, you must provide documents, such as copies of title deeds or proof of possession, such as utility bills or ground rent demands. The Land Registry may also require proof of your identity to safeguard against the risk of fraud.
Some of the necessary documentation can be found within the deceased’s paperwork, but if it does not elicit all of the details required, we can carry out specific searches to assist in proving ownership. A successful application means the property can then be sold as part of the administration of the estate.
Right now, there are 100,000 families across the country living in temporary accommodation and according to government data, nearly 270,000 long-term empty homes. It is very easy to see why we must work together to return as many of these properties to a habitable state as possible.
Our specialist inheritance tracing and empty homes team has made many successful claims for the reconstitution of deeds, allowing clients to sell, transfer or take control of a property.
We act for local authorities across the UK, as well as private organisations and individuals, to help resolve all manner of empty home related matters.