Where Are House Deeds Held?
When you own a property, having access to the original deeds and legal paperwork provides proof of your ownership rights. So for homeowners, knowing where this important documentation is held and how to access it is essential, especially when it comes time to sell. While practices vary, most current house deeds and title plans are stored centrally by land registries rather than kept by the owner. This article examines where residential property deeds are typically stored, why the land registry maintains most records now, and the process for obtaining deeds when required to sell houses quickly or transfer ownership.
What Are Property Deeds?
Property deeds are legal documents that show ownership and transfer rights over a residential property. They contain a legal description of the property and are signed by the previous owner transferring those rights to the purchaser. Standard deeds relating to a house purchase include:
- Conveyance Deed – This transfers legal ownership from seller to buyer. It contains details about the property, ownership rights being transferred, and declarations from both parties.
- Title Deeds – Older properties may have original title deeds showing the ‘chain of title’ listing history of previous owners. More recent properties rely on checked Land Registry records.
- Title Plan/Filed Plan – This document lodged with the Land Registry accurately maps out the property’s boundaries. The filed plan forms the official record of the property extent.
- Title Register – Provided by the Land Registry summarising key ownership details, rights and responsibilities, covenants, easements, charges secured on the property etc.
These deeds together confirm ownership and associated legal rights over a property. When selling houses quickly, buyers expect sellers to have access to such documents as proof of title.
Why Deeds are Now Centrally Held?
Traditionally, property deeds were physically handed over to the new owner upon purchase, and retained by individuals over time. However, this led to practical issues:
- Risk of damage, loss, theft – Paper deeds could easily be mislaid, damaged by water or fire etc if not properly stored.
- Difficulty proving title – Without the full deed history, sellers may struggle to prove their ownership rights on a sale.
- Slow, complex sales – Physical deed transfers were time-consuming and reliant on individuals producing documents.
To improve security and efficiency, most property deeds are now logged and stored centrally by the HM Land Registry. Sellers no longer keep previous conveyance deeds but can access registry records proving their title. Centralisation has made verifying titles simpler for buyers and facilitated quicker sales. When needing to sell houses quickly, the deeds can be swiftly accessed from the Land Registry by conveyancers.
Land Registry Registration
Today, over 86% of UK land and property is registered with the Land Registry, with registration compulsory for new transactions. When a property is sold, the conveyancing solicitor registers pertinent details with the Land Registry, typically within 2-3 months of completion. Key deeds lodged include:
- Transfer deed – Signed by the seller and buyer completing the sale. This legally transfers ownership rights.
- Title plan – Accurately mapping the property’s extent and boundaries. The Registry relies upon this filed plan.
- Mortgage deed – If a mortgage loan is secured against the property by the buyer.
- Deed of covenant – Containing any restrictive covenants attached to the property.
The Land Registry examines these documents, conducts land charges searches, and scrutinises the title before accepting registration. Once satisfied, it issues a Title Register summarising key facts like the registered owner, tenure, easements, secured loans etc.
This Title Register is considered the main proof of ownership rather than original conveyance deeds. It contains the unique Title Number used to identify the property’s Land Registry record.
When selling houses quickly, the conveyancer will access deeds from the Land Registry to compile the contract package for the buyer’s solicitor. Sellers rarely need to directly obtain deeds today. However, homeowners can request copies of deeds from the Land Registry via:
- Information on the title register – Ordering an ‘official copy’ online. This has the same validity as original deeds.
- Registry search – Requesting specific documents from the archive.
- Registry-certified copies – Obtaining certified copies of title plans or conveyance deeds. Useful if originals were lost.
The Registry aims to provide copies within 2 weeks, avoiding delays for quick sales. Only certain deeds are released to owners rather than conveyancers given their legal status. But overall the Registry system allows deeds to be swiftly accessed when selling property.
Other Places Deeds are Stored
While the Land Registry holds most deeds, some may still be kept elsewhere:
- Mortgage lender – Where the original deeds were deposited as security for repayment of the home loan. Lenders often retain deeds until the mortgage is repaid.
- Conveyancer archives – Solicitors firms who handled the initial purchase may store the client’s deeds in their archives long-term.
- Local authority – Some registers of deeds are still kept by local council archives.
- Personal storage – If original deeds were never submitted to the Land Registry, the owner may still retain them.
- Missing deeds – In some cases, deeds have been genuinely lost or destroyed over time. Proving the title then relies on registry records.
For registered property, the Land Registry remains the primary source. But dealers in quick house sales will also contact other likely places to ensure the deeds are found.
While once kept by owners, most residential property deeds are now securely stored long-term by the Land Registry to simplify title management. This allows conveyancers to swiftly access deeds when required for re-sales. Knowing the Registry provides a central repository of records makes the process of compiling evidence of title easier when looking to sell houses quickly. With over 86% of UK land now registered, homeowners can take confidence in the deeds proving their ownership rights are stored safely on their behalf.