Updating Scotland’s land register

All title deeds regarding ownership of land in Scotland must be registered with Registers of Scotland in Edinburgh. Currently, there are two registers. The Register of Sasines began in the 17th century and was the first land register in the world. A map based Land Register commenced in 1981 and is progressively replacing the Sasine Register.

Over 35 years later, many properties are still on the Sasine Register. The Scottish Parliament recently introduced legislation to speed up the process and set a target to complete the Land Register by 2024.

Properties on the Land Register have the benefit of having clearly defined property boundaries based on the Ordnance Survey Map, single Title Sheets disclosing title conditions, rights and securities (e.g. mortgages) and a state backed warranty of the information on the Title Sheet. The legal process to sell or transfer a property on the Land Register is also much simpler.

How is this being done?

Other than the compulsory updating of any old titles following a transfer by sale or gift, two new processes have been introduced, (1) Keeper-induced Registration (KIR) and (2) Voluntary Registration (VR). KIR is a system whereby Registers of Scotland update the title themselves. The owner is neither involved nor notified and there is no charge. Under VR, the owner’s lawyer makes the relevant application with the benefit that the owner is involved in the process. However, there is a charge in this case.

Will this affect my title deeds?

Registers of Scotland have begun the process of KIR in selected areas within Midlothian, Dumbarton and Dundee and Angus, including DD5 postcodes. This will be widened to include the whole of Scotland in the future. Only those titles which are not currently registered in the Land Register are affected.

Should I be concerned at all?

KIR is likely to work satisfactorily for properties where the titles are all similar and usually have accurate plans, such as those in modern housing estates. For many older properties the format of plans or lack of plans in the title can cause difficulties. In addition, titles for other land such as farms, forestry and large estates and commercial or industrial land, are more likely to be complex and unique as to boundaries, burdens and rights.

Registration in the Land Register can often highlight irregularities in the title particularly where there is a discrepancy between what is physically occupied and the title according to the deeds. The benefit of a VR is that the owner is in control whereas leaving matters to a KIR may mean that errors are only discovered when seeking to transfer or lease the property, or use it as security for a loan, causing unwanted delay and added expense in those transactions.

Alistair Duncan, a Partner in our Dundee office comments, “Our residential and commercial conveyancers are very experienced in dealing with the Land Register and can advise on how these proposals apply to our clients and whether Voluntary Registration might be of benefit to them.”

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