Land Registry Adjudication / Land Registry Proceedings
The Land Register contains more than 24 million titles. The register shows evidence of land ownership, as well as certain interests affecting registered land (such as a mortgage, a lease, or a right of way). There are many circumstances in which someone must make an application to the Land Registry in order to register their interest, and thereby protect it.
However, what happens if you wish to object to an application regarding your property? Or if somebody else objects to your application? If the dispute cannot be resolved through negotiation, it may proceed to adjudication or court proceedings.
e.g. A and B are neighbours. A claims to have a right of way over part of B’s land and applies to the Land Registry to be registered as the proprietor of an easement. B claims there is no such right of way, and objects to the application.
e.g. A claims to have a beneficial interest in the house of her former partner by way of constructive trust, and applies to the Land Registry to register her interest. B disputes that A has such an interest and objects to the application.
Objecting to an application
Once an application has been made to the Registrar, there is a procedure to bring the application to the attention of interested parties. For example, if someone applies to register a right of way over part of your land, you can expect to receive a notice from the Registry.
As a general rule, anyone has a right to object to an application made to the Registrar. The Land Registration Act 2002 provides for just two exceptions. These relate to certain parties involved in applications to cancel a caution against first registration and applications to cancel a unilateral notice.
There is no prescribed form for objecting to an application. However it must be made in writing and should set out the grounds for the objection in a clear and logical manner. A solicitor can help do this. The objection must also be made within the prescribed period, unless an extension has been successfully sought.
The Land Registry will then consider whether or not the objection has any chance of success. If the objection is determined to be groundless, the application will not be affected. If the objection is not groundless, the applicant will be informed and certain options will be available to both sides.
There are five courses of action open to both sides once the Registry has established that an objection is not groundless:
- The application is withdrawn by the applicant;
- The objection is withdrawn by the objector;
- The parties negotiate in an attempt to reach an agreement about the application;
- One of the parties commences court proceedings; or
- There is no prospect of agreement and the matter is referred directly to the Tribunal.
Period for Negotiation
Once the person who has made the application is informed of the objection, both sides will be asked whether they wish to have time to negotiate. Many disputes can be settled through negotiation, without the need for adjudication or court proceedings.
If both parties confirm that they wish to negotiate, a specified time is given to try and reach an agreement (usually around six months). The Registry will correspond with the parties during this time to check on the progress of negotiations and give impartial advice. If an agreement is reached, the Registrar will take into account the terms of this agreement.
In the absence of an agreement, the Land Registry must refer the matter to the Land Registration division of the Property Chamber, First-tier Tribunal (“the Tribunal”). It is also worth noting that any of the parties to the dispute can ask for the matter to be referred to the Tribunal at any time. If one of the parties has commenced court proceedings, this will not of itself stop a referral being made.
Both sides are entitled to see copies of documents and correspondence sent to the Land Registry, so remember not to send anything confidential.
Referral to the Tribunal (formerly the Adjudicator)
Since 2003, an independent adjudicator has been in place to determine disputes arising out of applications to change the Land Register. On 1 July 2013 the Tribunal replaced the role of the Adjudicator to the Land Registry. Like the Adjudicator, the Tribunal is wholly independent of the Land Registry and is governed by its own rules and procedures.
A referral to the Tribunal will be accompanied by a case summary, prepared by the Registry. This will include the names and addresses of the parties and any legal representatives; a summary of the core facts of the matter; details of the application; details of the objection; a list of any documents sent; and anything else the Registrar considers to be appropriate.
The Registrar will send a copy of the case summary to the parties, who are given an opportunity to make comments on the contents. This is an opportunity for any factual errors to be corrected. The case summary is only intended to be a brief summary of the relevant facts and therefore does not set out the parties’ full arguments or evidence.
Once a matter has been referred, the Tribunal will send written notice to the parties. This will explain which party is “Applicant” and which is “Respondent” in the proceedings. Generally, the party who is considered to have to prove their case will be the Applicant. The Applicant will be the first to send their Statement of Case.
The Tribunal can also decide whether to retain jurisdiction (i.e. authority to decide the matter itself) or to direct one of the parties to commence court proceedings. If the Tribunal retains jurisdiction, it must determine the matter referred by considering the underlying merits of the substantive dispute between the parties. In presenting the case, the parties are not restricted by the arguments previously put forward to the Registrar. New arguments may be made, and expert evidence can be heard during the proceedings.
Following the proceedings, the Tribunal will usually decide one of two ways:
- Order the Land Registry to disregard the objection and give effect to the original application to change the land register (either whole or in part); or
- Order the Registry to cancel the original application.
Appealing a decision
The decision of the Tribunal may be appealed. Appeals are heard at first instance in the Upper Tribunal, and then the Court of Appeal (on limited grounds). Permission to appeal must be sought from the First-tier Tribunal within 28 days of receiving written reasons for its decision.
The Tribunal’s services are free of charge in the course of a Land Registry reference. However, it is important to remember that one side may be ordered to pay the other side’s costs, where incurred in connection with the proceedings. The order may be made on the application of a party or of the Tribunal’s own accord. The Tribunal will make this decision, having regard to “all the circumstances” of the matter, including the conduct of the parties during the proceedings. It is usually the case that the losing party pays the successful party’s costs.
Any costs that relate to the application and objection, but do not relate to proceedings before the tribunal, may be recovered from another party through the Land Registry in certain circumstances. The Tribunal has no power to make an order for costs in respect of any proceedings before the Registrar (either before or after the Tribunal proceedings).
Court proceedings may be commenced on the application of one of the parties, or after being ordered to do so by the Tribunal. If court proceedings are commenced by one of the parties, it is likely that the tribunal will adjourn its own proceedings to await the outcome. However there is no automatic halt to the tribunal proceedings.
If a party starts court proceedings (whether ordered to do so or not), they must send a written notice to the Tribunal within 14 days of the start of the court proceedings. Once the matter before the court is finally disposed of, the same party must serve on the Tribunal a copy of the final court order.
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For further information on how we can help you call our Managing Partner, Hugh Davey, or our Consulting Solicitors Tracey Ashford or Margaret Young on 0333 344 5012 or our out of office hours number on 07914 897137. Or view our enquiries page.