When land is purchased, the new owner must apply to The Land Registry to register their ownership within a specified period. Usually this will be done by the buyer’s solicitor. If this is not done successfully, there can be detrimental consequences for landowners.
The case of Baker v Craggs (decided in 2016) demonstrates what can happen.
What happened in Baker v Craggs?
In this case Mr and Mrs Charlton sold 18 acres of land, which included some stables and a yard, to Mr Craggs in 2012. Mr Craggs’ solicitor applied to register the transfer, but there was an error in the application; The registry noticed the error and asked the buyer’s solicitor to rectify the mistake within a specified period. If the mistake was not corrected, The Land Registry would have the right to cancel Mr Craggs’ application. If this happened, a new application would then have to be submitted.
What are the consequences of missing Land Registry deadlines?
If applications are not registered within the specified period and any questions are not dealt with to The Land Registry’s satisfaction, not only will the registration of the buyer’s ownership be delayed by cancellation, but there is also a risk that other rights that benefit another person may arise over the property may affect the buyer’s ownership.
Mr Craggs’ application was subsequently cancelled and prior to its re-submission by his solicitor, Mr and Mrs Charlton sold another part of their property to Mr and Mrs Baker. The transfer of the property to Mr and Mrs Baker granted a right of way over the yard that Mr and Mrs Charlton had already sold to Mr Craggs. On investigation, it appeared that this right was granted accidentally.
The Bakers’ ownership was successfully registered and included the right of way over the yard which was sold to Mr Craggs. When Mr Craggs’ finally registered his ownership over the property he had bought, it was evident that his property was subject to the right of way which he did not expect. Mr Craggs challenged the existence of the right of way in court.
What did the Court decide?
The court confirmed that as Mr Craggs’ application to register his ownership had not been completed when Mr and Mrs Charlton accidentally created the right of way, they were the legal owners of the yard and therefore had the right to grant the right of way (albeit accidentally!).
The frustration here is that this would not have happened had his registration been dealt with in accordance with The Land Registry deadlines as he would not have lost his priority in terms of registration due to the cancellation of his application.
The court also considered other circumstances that may have suggest Mr Craggs’ ownership of the yard should take priority over the right of way, such as the fact that he was actually occupying the property at the time the right was granted. The court did consider various additional factors, but unfortunately decided that the right of way should remain over his property.
Mr Craggs is now in ownership and occupation of land that is subject to a right of way in favour of Mr and Mrs Baker which was not in existence when he believed he was purchasing the property. This will mean that he has to ensure that he does not intrude on that right and it will have long lasting effects on his use of the property and potentially any future plans he has for it.
How to avoid missing Land Registry deadlines
This case highlights the importance of ensuring that you have an excellent team of solicitors who will take all due care in dealing with your transaction. Sellers and purchasers should also take particular care to ensure that all transaction documents are properly checked by them before completion to ensure they reflect what they are intending to happen.
We have an excellent team of commercial property lawyers who can ensure that your transactions go as smoothly as possible, using careful attention to detail to ensure that cases such as this are avoided!
Need advice on newly purchased land or want to know more about access rights? Read our third party access rights blog here or speak to our specialist Commercial Property team for more information.