Voluntary Registration in Scotland
In Scotland, there are two registers which hold information relating to land ownership. We have the General Register of Sasines, which dates back to 1617 (making it the world’s oldest national record of land ownership) and we have the modern Land Register.
The General Register of Sasines was created using verbal property descriptions, contained within Title Deeds, and it can be difficult to interpret. A lot of older Titles that are still held in the General Register of Sasines do not refer to plans, or refer to plans which were quite often “floating shapes” and did not tie in to physical features on the ground, meaning that you must rely on the verbal description to ascertain the area of land affected by that Title. Often, these descriptions can be vague or can make reference to land being bounded by land owned by “Mr MacDonald” or “Mr Cameron” and we all know how many people have these common surnames, especially in the Highlands! Sometimes the plans attached meant that land was included in 2 or more title deeds. This results in there being competing titles and this has caused many a difficulty over the years and indeed continues to do so.
In 1979 the Land Register of Scotland was created and opened in stages. In 2003, only a few counties were still registering land in the General Register of Sasines, and in April that year it was made compulsory for all countries to enter any new land transfers (with some limited exceptions) onto the Land Register of Scotland. From 2014 all transfers must go into the Land Register. This Register is map based and ultimately, once it is complete, all of Scotland will be shown on one map and any person, for a small fee, will be able to ascertain who owns each and every corner of Scotland, using the online Land Register. It should also in time result in there being no competing titles.
Originally, the Scottish Government aimed to have all land ownership registered within the Land Register by 2024 and they are temporarily offering a 25% reduction in the registration fee payable to them, as an incentive to complete this process. The proposed timeline is considered to be optimistic by the legal profession, but that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t consider voluntarily registering land you own that is recorded within the General Register of Sasines.
So why should you consider voluntarily registering your Title? Whether this is the right option for you, will depend on your own personal circumstances. But it is worth bearing in mind that often the land someone owns may be their biggest, or most valuable asset and transferring ownership to the Land Register helps to safeguard that asset. Voluntary registration helps to determine your exact boundaries, identify what you own and simplifies future transactions, which helps to reduce costs. At the end of the process, you will be provided with a single Title Sheet which would narrate all the information about your ownership which may have previously been contained in several bulky documents, and a definitive boundary plan of the land. It is harder to challenge your title to land if it is in the Land Register, rather than remaining in the Sasine Register, if there is the possibility of there being a competing title.
If you would like to talk to a member of our Team to discuss whether this is the right option for you, and to obtain an estimate of the costs involved, please do not hesitate to get in touch with one of our friendly, experienced Conveyancers who will be happy to assist.