Title Deeds and Legal Issues

Title Deeds and legal issues

It is vitally important that you fully understand all the legal issues with the property before you legally commit to purchasing by exchanging contracts. Your solicitor should tell you if there is anything specific or unusual in the property deeds, but you may need to ASK to ensure you are fully aware of any limitations or legal obligations or restrictions that come with the new home or other property you are buying. Never use the same solicitor as the house builder or any solicitor they recommend. Your legal representative must be 100% independent and act in your interests not those of the house builder.

You can get a copy of the Title Deeds and Title Plan for any registered property at the Land Registry website for a £19.50 fee. You can also get a complete history of the property for an additional £14.95 fee.

Shared Access

This is where neighbouring homes share an access such as a shared driveway or a hallway and stairs in an apartment block. It also covers instances when someone needs access to their property via your property.  It is vital to know: Who owns the access - Is the access an established right of way - and Who is responsible for the maintenance of the access or driveway.

Rights of way and footpaths

Some rights of way and footpaths can run across private property and even gardens. The latter may be an access to the rear garden of the middle house of a terrace block, but it will still need to be marked and maintained. Remember trying to get a right of way removed after legal completion is very difficult and can be costly. It may also be the cause of a dispute with your new neighbours!

Restrictive covenants

With new homes it is common for the deeds to contain additional restrictive covenants. These are normally only for a Restriction Period, usually until the development is fully constructed and sold. They can include restrictions on the parking of commercial vehicles, caravans and trailer boats on the property. In addition, alterations and extensions may not be allowed without the prior written authorisation of the house builder. This may prevent you from building a conservatory for example. Other developer restrictions could include displaying advertisements at the property, which would include estate agents For Sale boards and not to change to colour of any boundary structure, doors windows or render. With these, most if not all will cease to be enforceable at the end of the restriction period.

However some restrictive covenants are put in place when the land is sold to restrict the use of the land and can cover a range of things.  This may include not operating a business from the property, or erecting buildings on the land, prohibiting extensions for example. These can have a big impact on your use of the property and also the adversely affect the future value.

Fencing and boundaries

You need to understand what boundaries you are responsible for and where gates and accesses are. It is vital, especially with new homes, where the plot may not be physically established or marked out before purchasing, that you understand exactly the size of property you are buying.

Chancel Repair liability

Whilst this would be extremely rare with a new home, and the developer would be legally required to disclose any liability under both the Property Misdescriptions Act 1991 and to comply with the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 and the Business Protection from Misleading Marketing Regulations 2008, it may be worth asking about this. The liability stems from a medieval law, which requires the owner of a property, usually near a church, to contribute towards the cost of any church repairs. The law has never been changed and liability for repair cost remains. However, the deeds of the property should indicate any liability, failing this it is possible to take out an inexpensive insurance (£100 for 25 years cover) against this.  In 2003 the Government ordered that all chancel obligations would end in October 2013 unless the church had noted an interest in the property.

Defective title insurance will provide you with compensation should you later discover that something detrimental is in the Title Deeds. The cost of the insurance varies depending on the property but is usually less than £500 and last for 25 years.

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