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Do you know exactly what you own?

Charlotte Maclean outlines the benefits of volunteering to register land - sooner rather than later.

Most landowners would not consider the voluntary registration of their land as top of their list of priorities. For many, it will appear to be a costly exercise for little benefit.

I would, however, suggest that the question should not be "can I afford voluntary registration?", but rather "can I afford not to voluntarily register my property?". While a cost/benefit analysis is clearly necessary, there is growing evidence that those who commit to registration at an early stage stand to benefit later.

As a firm, we have been involved in numerous voluntary registrations, from small plots and road verges, to whole farms and estates. This experience has given us a useful insight to the process - and the potential pitfalls of not registering at an early stage.

We recently encountered a situation whilst concluding a sale of a farm where the main access track was included on both our client's title and their neighbour's title. This was due to an historic error when the two farms were split from the original estate title, some 30 years earlier. As the neighbour had voluntarily registered their title first, their claim to the title was deemed to be more secure. 

Although this could have been disputed by our client, which might have been successful, the purchaser wanted a quick conclusion and clean purchase. Therefore, our client agreed to pay a substantial sum demanded by the neighbour for the access, rather than risk losing the purchaser. This may have been avoided had our client voluntarily registered their title first.

We also worked with an estate client with an historic but clear title, whose ownership borders a village. His title includes a five metre strip along the village edge. Most houses along the village have extended their gardens across the strip for additional garden space, but without consent from the estate as the rightful owner of this land. 

The estate is investigating voluntary registration, with a view to challenging these proprietors to either restore the ground to the estate, or purchase the area they have taken.

By holding a modern registered title, the estate's claim to this land will be secured, and they will be in a stronger position to approach the proprietors who have taken the land. The estate's intention is that the income generated from these transactions would help towards the cost of the registration process for the remainder of the estate. 

If you are a landowner considering a sale, a transfer to the next generation, new standard security, or are aware of potential title discrepancies or have an ancient title, voluntary registration is something to be given serious consideration. 

Once a decision has been taken to progress with voluntary registration, there are various options available to landowners, depending on the clarity and complexity of title held. As a firm, we have invested in significant technical mapping resources and work with Registers of Scotland to develop and improve protocol for effectively displaying mapped rights. 

 The Sasine Register

The General Register of Sasines, which is also known as the Sasine Register, dates back to 1617 and is the oldest land register in the world. Its name comes from the French word 'seizer', which means 'to take'.

The Sasine Register is a chronological list of land deeds, which contain written descriptions of properties. It is gradually being replaced by the Land Register.

The Land Register

This is a map-based register established by the Land Registration (Scotland) Act 1979. It is now in operation throughout the whole of Scotland and will eventually replace the Sasine Register.

It is a register of the title rather than a register of the deeds. When a property is registered, a Title Sheet is created and guaranteed by the estate.