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Unregistered land is land that is not registered with HM land registry but this does not mean that it is not owned, the owner of unregistered land will often have a bundle of deeds, which form a record of previous sales, mortgages and other dealings with the land. However, if the land is mortgaged, the lender normally holds the deeds as security for their loan. There is usually no public record of the information contained in the deeds.

Unregistered land UK – The facts

Unregistered land in the UK is land that it not registered with the Land Registry. This means that HM Land Registry do not have details regarding the owner of the property or land. Unregistered land is not ownerless land; all land in the UK is owned by someone, this includes scrub land, waste land and disused land. Finding the owners of abandoned property and buildings works in the same way as finding the owners of unregistered land and the same is true; all derelict buildings have an owner.  Unregistered land can also be known as disused land or a vacant land search.

  • Not all land is registered with Land Registry – over a third in England and Wales is not
  • All land and all buildings have an owner – this includes waste land, scrub land, abandoned properties, disused land, empty buildings
  • Adverse possession takes at least 12 years, sometimes as much as 30 years
  • Unregistered just means that the property or piece of land is not registered with land registry it does not mean that it is ownerless.


Finding the owners of land that is not registered is not an easy undertaking, there are no easy means of locating the owners; it is a case of investigating old documents and maps, speaking to local people and researching information. Some people do not want to find the owners of vacant land they would prefer to try and claim the land through adverse possession, this takes 12 years as a minimum and if the owner comes out of the wood work at any time then you are in trouble. We have an indepth land search if you want some expert help.

Some people suggest putting a fence round  the land and using it, this is the principle idea of adverse possession but they fail to mention what happens when you fence it off at a cost of thousands and then someone comes out and proves ownership, you have wasted your money. It is easier and more honest to simply find the owner and speak to them regarding the vacant land or building, you can then ask permission to use the land or even look at buying vacant land from them. In the UK over a third of all vacant land is not registered and finding the owners of land UK searches go on all the time.

Adverse possession

In common law, adverse possession is the process by which title to another's real property is acquired without compensation, by holding the property in a manner that conflicts with the true owner's rights for a specified period. Circumstances of the adverse possession determine the type of title acquired by the disseisor (the one who obtains the title as a result of the adverse possession action), which may be fee simple title, mineral rights, or other interest in real property.

Adverse possession's origins are based both in statutory actions and in common law precepts, so the details concerning adverse possession actions vary by jurisdiction. The required period of uninterrupted possession is governed by the statute of limitations. Other elements of adverse possession are judicial constructs. Adverse possession is sometimes called squatters rights.

Finding the owners of private roads

This can be a laborious task and is complicated; you cannot go down the adverse possession due to the frontage being used by more than one party. There are ways to trace the rightful owner of any private road but it is not easy. It may be a good idea to go straight to a professional company regarding these searches.

Abandoned properties searches

Searching the owner of abandoned property would work in the same way as finding the owners of unregistered or unclaimed land. We hope we have helped your understanding of what is unregistered land.

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