Voluntary registration in the Land Register of Scotland
In recent years there has been much discussion about ownership of land in Scotland and identifying who owns what. The Scottish Government would like the whole of Scotland to be registered in the modern map based Land Register. There are many advantages for the public to have easy access to information on land ownership and Registers of Scotland are aiming to have the Land Register “completed” by 2024.
By way of background, there are two property registers in Scotland where title deeds are registered – the General Register of Sasines and the Land Register. The Sasine Register is one of the oldest systems of Land Registration in the world and was formed in 1617. The Sasine Register is now closed to new applications and titles are gradually being transferred on to the modern Land Register. If your property has not changed hands in the last 25 years or so, your title is likely to be contained in the Sasine Register.
The main trigger for registration of title deeds in the Land Register is on sale of the property. Many residential properties have been registered in the Land Register already, these types of properties tend to change hands more frequently than rural properties and in particular farms and estates. In order to speed up the transition to the Land Register, the Keeper of the Registers of Scotland has the ability to register properties in the Land Register without the consent of the owner of the property. This system is known as Keeper Induced Registration or KIR.
As we head towards the 2024 deadline, the Keeper is using KIR more frequently. Where property owners wish to have more control over the process of registration of their title deeds, they can voluntarily register their property in the Land Register. The Keeper offers a small reduction in registration fees where owners wish to register their properties voluntarily, although the whole process is similar to purchasing a property and as such detailed examination of the titles is required to ensure that the register is accurate and truly reflects the proprietor’s ownership interest.
KIR is a useful tool and for simple titles the process may be acceptable to the property owner – it comes with no cost to the owner. However the titles to many rural properties are complex and some benefit from rights which are not contained in their title deeds but based on use of the property. For instance a farmer may have used a water supply for more than twenty years, and have the legal right to use that supply, without the right being specified in their title. These rights would normally be picked up at the point of sale of the property by a solicitor and registered accordingly. Where KIR is used to register the title, there is no way for the Keeper to know about the right, so it would not be registered and the title shown on the register would not be completely accurate.
Additionally, we often come across boundary issues on the sale of a farm or rural property and occasionally the same piece of ground can be registered to two separate parties, a situation which is often challenging to unpick. Boundary discrepancies can be ironed out or at least identified much more easily with the input and knowledge of the owner occupying the land.
In all cases it would be worth undertaking a review of your title deeds to confirm where they are registered and whether it makes sense to be proactive and take control of the registration process or not. RCCW’s Land & Rural Business team can assist with the above and a range of legal matters associated with rural business and property. Contact Ian Angus at firstname.lastname@example.org, and find out more about the team here.