Land Registry delay: Mind the Gap

Posted by Elizabeth Cooke-Smith on
A recent case highlights the importance of accurate and timely applications for registration of matters at Land Registry.Due to an inaccurate plan being filed there was a delay in registration of the transfer of some land; and this delay resulted in a right of way over that land being registered against the title before the registration of the transfer. 

In Baker and another v Craggs [2016] EWHC 3250 (Ch), the owners of a piece of land sold part of it to Mr Craggs.  They then transferred the rest of the land to the Bakers, with a right of way over the land that they had already sold to Mr Craggs.   The question of this case was whether or not the grant of the right of way was effective.  The original owners of the Property could not possibly have the rights to grant a right of way over a piece of land that they had sold, could they?  In this case, yes,  as the sale had not yet been registered and, although there are mechanisms in place to prevent this kind of thing happening, these mechanisms can time out!

Priority of Land Registry Applications

Before a buyer parts with the money needed to conclude a purchase, an application for a time-limited period of priority is made to protect the purchase.  It means that even if registration is delayed and someone else applies to register something against the legal title in the meantime , that the proper order of priority is preserved.   When an application is made to register a document against the title of a property, your solicitor should therefore ensure that it is protected.

Land Registry Application Cancellation

If there is anything wrong with a document that is lodged at Land Registry or if they have any questions, Land Registry will notify the applicant.  When raising its enquiries, Land Registry gives a period of time (usually 20 working days) for the applicant to reply.  This is called the Cancellation Period, and this is meant to ensure that applications are not rejected on the basis of rectifiable errors.

Land Registry Compliant Plans 

In this instance, the expiry of the priority period was partly due to the delay caused by an incorrect plan being submitted to Land Registry with the transfer documentation.  The queries raised by Land Registry were then not dealt with expeditiously and so, the Cancellation Period expired.  This meant that a fresh application to register the purchase had to be made. 

An application to register the second transfer was made in the meantime and as the priority period had expired, it was registered before the first transfer.  As far as Land Registry (and the High Court!) was concerned the original owners of the Property still had the legal right to grant the right of way over the land which was now owned by Mr Craggs.  Had Mr Craggs' first application to register his purchase been in order, his priority would have been preserved and he would not have been bound by the right of way granted by the second transfer.

When preparing a property for sale, make sure that the plan will be acceptable to Land Registry.  We can help you with this and any other issues surrounding the transaction. 

About the Author

Elizabeth is a Senior Solicitor in our Build Environment Team, specialising in development.

Elizabeth Cooke-Smith
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023 8085 7309

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