Understanding Land Registry and what they do is explained here.

Her majesty’s Land Registry is the bedrock for house sales and land ownership issues. It is used on a daily basis by solicitors and convanyencers or anyone who has bought a property or a piece of land will have dealt either directly or indirectly with HM Land Registry.

Online land registry searches are a popular way to ascertain the current owner of a piece of land.

Her Majesty’s Land Registry has operated as a separate government department for 146 years, as an executive agency for almost 18 years and as a trading fund for 15 years. In Scotland it is slightly different but Scottish Land registry searches can be carried out too.

Land Registry has a number of local offices, each of which is responsible for different geographical areas of England and Wales and is headed by a Land Registrar.

The Land Charges Department maintains a computerised record relating to the burdens and charges on unregistered land and providing data on bankruptcy proceedings.

There is an administrative head office.

32 Lincoln’s Inn Fields

London

WC2A 3PH

Land registry history

A system of land registration was first attempted in England and Wales under the Land Registration Act 1862. This system proved ineffective and, following further attempts in 1875 and 1897, the present system was brought into force by the Land Registration Act 1925.

Over time various areas of the country were designated areas of compulsory registration by order so in different parts of the country compulsory registration has been around longer than in others. The last order was made in 1990, so now virtually all transactions in land result in compulsory registration. One difference is when land changes ownership after death and where land is gifted rather than sold; these only became compulsorily registrable in April 1998. Similarly it became compulsory to register land when a mortgage is created on it in 1998.

There are still plots of land that are not registered with land registry, commonly referred to as unregistered land.

The 2002 act

The Land Registration Act 2002 leaves the 1925 system substantially in place but enables the future compulsory introduction of electronic conveyancing using electronic signatures to transfer and register property.

What HM Land Registry does
  • register title to land in England and Wales
  • Record dealings (for example, sales and mortgages) with registered land.

Their principal aims:

  • maintain and develop a stable, effective land registration system
  • guarantee title to registered estates and interests in land
  • enable confident dealings in property and security of title by providing ready access to up-to-date and guaranteed land information
  • match the ever more ambitious performance targets set by the Lord Chancellor

Who runs HM Land Registry?

The Chief Land Registrar is the Head of Land Registry. He is appointed by the Lord Chancellor and may resign by written notice to the Lord Chancellor and may be removed by the Lord Chancellor if he is unable or unfit to discharge the functions of his office. Otherwise he will normally hold office until he vacates it in accordance with the terms of his appointment.

Although not a statutory requirement, each year the Chief Land Registrar publishes a business plan, which includes the key performance indicators and targets for the department. Before publishing the plan, he asks the Lord Chancellor to approve the key performance indicators and targets, which are then presented to Parliament by means of written ministerial statements.