Q. We are in the process of buying a Leasehold apartment and our solicitor has informed us that she has discovered the Freehold isn’t registered and is now concerned it may cause issues when we come to register our purchase with Land Registry. To make matters worse the seller is refusing to get the freehold registered saying it is normal for it not to be, can you help?
A. This situation frequently arises with leases which were originally granted many years ago, at a time when land titles were not generally registered. Although it was always considered good practice for a freeholder to show title to land when granting a lease, by producing copies of the title deeds this was not a strict legal requirement. Many landowners who owned large estates did not as a matter of policy deduce title when selling property by lease. Landowners with extensive landholdings, such as family estates or local councils, would not show their freehold title on the grounds as finding the deeds for any particular property would take too much effort. If the land registry could not see the freehold title when application was made for the leasehold title to be registered, they would register with ‘good leasehold’ title, to explain further Leasehold properties are usually registered with either Absolute or Good class of title when first registered. While the owner of a leasehold property might be able to show that the title had been passed through a succession of owners from the original leaseholder, they would not be able to show that the lease was granted by a landowner who was entitled to grant the lease. That was for many years considered acceptable to buyers, but today it is now less acceptable to mortgage lenders. The land registry will accept applications to upgrade good leasehold to freehold title if evidence of the freehold title can be produced. If the issue of title can be reconciled and all the additional legal documentation is up-to-date, only then would you be safe and able to proceed with the exchange of contracts. So unless this issue can be rectified as directed I would heed your solicitor’s advice to prevent problems when selling in the future.