On the first registration of a property, the Registrar will grant a class of title to the interest which is being registered. This title will depend on the quality of evidence of the owner’s legal right to the title. Higher the quality of evidence provided to the Registry, higher will be the title granted.
Both leasehold and freehold estates are registered with a title, and the class of title is seen stated in the Official Copies under the Proprietorship Register section on the Register.
There are four different classes of titles that are awarded.
The absolute title is the highest class of ownership and is granted to vast majority of the registered freehold titles. In a few exceptional cases where a defect in the title is apparent or some evidence is lacking, it becomes unsafe for the Registry to absolutely guarantee the owner against the risk of another person claiming right to the land.
If the interest is leasehold, the Registrar may grant the absolute title together with approving the lessor’s title. However, this is rare because the Registrar is usually not in a position to validate the lessor’s title to grant the lease and also that of the leaseholder applying for registration.
A Registrar may grant a possessory title when the owner cannot produce sufficient documentary evidence of freehold or leasehold title to an estate, or is in receipt of rents and profits, or claims to have acquired the land by adverse possession. When title deeds to prove ownership are lost or non-existent, possessory titles are granted.
This title is rare and is usually given to those with a claim under ‘Squatters Rights’ or ‘Adverse Possession.’ Mortgage companies and banks do not generally provide mortgages on properties with a possessory title. However, in to protect the lenders interests, it may be possible to obtain title insurance in certain circumstances. Possessory title may later be upgraded to absolute after a certain period.
Qualified titles are rare in practice and are awarded when the title submitted for registration is subject to certain reservations or is identified to be having some specific defect that cannot be disregarded. Though qualified registration is similar to an absolute registration, the State’s guarantee in this case will not apply to the defect in consideration.
For instance, when a title submitted for registration has some evidence of a breach of trust, a qualified title may be granted. In such a circumstance, the proprietor would take ownership in the land subject to the interests of any of his beneficiaries under the trust. Qualified titles are granted to both freehold and leasehold interests.
A Good Leasehold title, as the name suggests, applies only to leasehold interests. The Registrar grants this title only where:
- The freehold is registered with a title less than absolute
- The freehold reversion is not registered
- The applicant for leasehold registration does not submit proof of the title to the freehold reversion
Lenders generally regard a good leasehold title as unsatisfactory. Hence, it may sometimes become difficult to mortgage or sell a good leasehold property.
Titles are an important consideration when applying to register a transfer of ownership. Titles may also be upgraded under certain circumstances. The whole of England and Wales follow compulsory registration as from December 1, 1990.