How to Buy Land Next to Your Property

03 December 2020

There are many different reasons why you may want to buy land next to your property. You may love your house, but want a bigger garden or you might want to build an extension, a garage or driveway and the additional land would allow you to do that.

Whatever reasons you have for wanting to buy the land next to your property, there is a process you’ll have to follow and you may have to do some detective work to track down the owners.

Your first point of call would be the Land Registry, if the land you are looking to buy is in England or Wales. Scotland and Northern Ireland have their own systems and rules.

The Land Registry holds data on all registered property in England and Wales, but some property or land might not be registered. This is because the compulsory registration of land and property wasn't fully introduced until 1990. Land or property that has not been sold, transferred or mortgaged since then may not be registered.

The Land Registry reports that 80% of property in England and Wales is now registered, but there are some pockets that have never been sold and therefore never registered. Most of this land is likely to belong to the Church, Crown or aristocracy.

Unregistered land will have a legal owner. To find out who this is, you’ll need to pay a fee to the Land Registry to check the address. They also have an Ariel Land Locator for pieces of land that you can’t track down because they don’t technically have an address. This will give you a definitive answer about whether the property or land is registered.

If the land is registered, you then need to obtain all the information you need to contact the land or property owner to start negotiations.

So what do you do if the land you want to buy is unregistered? You’ll need to get your investigative skills tuned and start doing some research.

You can start by going through any adjoining registered titles to look for clues on who might own it. There is a chance that someone owned the whole area previously and could have sold on some of it and kept the rest.

Your next step could be to check the Electoral role with the local council if you are trying to purchase an abandoned property rather than land. This would show the last person who was registered to vote from that property, but that does not mean they owned the property. You can’t do this online though because you need a name to search the Electoral Role online.

Your last port of call is the neighbours as they may have valuable information on who owned the land or lived in the property you are trying to track down. Older residents who’ve lived in the area for many years could be really helpful in your quest to discover the owner and you’ll probably be surprised how long some people have been in the area.

There are mechanisms to claim land or property but you must already have taken possession of it. In other words, put a fence round it or lived in the property. This is called Adverse Possession. You’ll need to prove that you’ve occupied the land for 10 years for registered property or land and for 12 years for unregistered property or land.

The House of Lords gave a definition of factual possession in a case in 1979 that has been retained through the years. It said that the person possessing the property or land had been dealing with it in the way that an occupying owner would be expected to but hadn’t been.

Therefore, if the land next to your property was derelict and overgrown and you’d been tending it and caring for it and you’d put a fence round it, you may have factual possession of the land in any case.

As with any complex questions about property, professional advice from a Licensed Conveyancer is the best route to finding out if you can purchase the land next to your house. You can also use them to help you with negotiations and the purchase the land too.

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