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Title Deeds: Who Keeps Them?

By: Garry Crystal - Updated: 17 Nov 2018 | comments*Discuss
Title Deeds: Who Keeps Them?

Title deeds are legal documents that show who officially owns and holds title to a property or land. Titles deeds are sometimes known as land certificates and need to be officially registered with the HM Land Registry.

Why Title Deeds are Needed?

Title deeds are used as an official record of who owns the title to a property. For example, if a buyer is interested in purchasing a property then a solicitor will check the title deeds in order to make sure that the seller is entitled to sell the property. The title deeds may also have details on whether there are mortgages on the property, and whether anyone else has an interest in the property. The title deeds are also useful in gaining information on property boundaries and rights of way through a property.

Who Keeps Title Deeds?

Where the title deeds are kept is mainly dependant on whether there is a mortgage on the property or not. If there is a mortgage then the deeds will be kept by the mortgage lender. The deeds will only be returned to the owner once the mortgage on the property has been fully paid although photocopies of the deeds can be requested at any time. If no mortgage is held on a property then the title deeds will be kept by the owner. They can either be kept in the home or they can be held by a solicitor.

Property Burdens

Included in the title deeds will be a list of burdens, or obligations to the property that need to be met. These burdens can cover a wide range but they will usually include:

  • Repairs and maintenance to the property.
  • Access and rights of way for the property.
  • Restriction on using the property to run a business.
  • Information on restrictions on altering the property.
  • Whether or not the owner holds right to any roads that cross the property.
There are a number of burdens that will of course be dependant on the type of property or land. A solicitor will be able to advise if any of the language used in the title deeds is confusing or not clearly understandable.

Joint Ownership

An important part of the title deeds will be joint ownership. If the property is owned by more than one person then this will need to be included in the details. It should also set out exactly how much of the property is owned by each person, and there should be details on what will happen if the other person were to die; these details are known as survivorship details.

Survivorship Details

If there is a joint ownership on the property then having a survivorship clause is important. If the co-owner were to die then a survivorship clause will guarantee that the deceased person’s shares will go to the joint owner. If there is no survivorship clause and the property was not bought with a co-owner then details of property rights should be set down in a will. If no details are set down in a will then a legal decision will need to be made over the ownership rights.

Changing the Title Deeds

There are a number of reasons why an owner may want to change the title on property deeds. These could include if a co-owner sells or transfers their rights in the property, or if the owner wishes to sell their rights to the property. A solicitor will be needed if the title deeds are being changed, and there will be a fee for this service. If there is a mortgage on the property and if there are co-owners then the lenders or co-owners will need to agree to the changes.

Legally Binding Covenants

Covenants are legally binding rules that are set within the deeds and must be followed by the property owners. The covenants can be positive or negative. For example they may state that a property cannot be used for business purposes, that window frames on a property cannot be changed or can include agreements on property boundaries. If these covenants are broken, which does happen frequently, the property owners can be held legally liable. However, it may be that the original covenantor has long since moved on or is untraceable and so the new owners might not be held liable if breaking a covenant.

Breaching Deed Covenants

Who is liable when breaching covenants can be complicated. For example, a government or council official may make a ruling that a certain area is to become environmentally friendly and all houses must comply by changing the windows to energy efficient windows. However, if the deeds include a lifetime covenant that the windows cannot be changed then this would be a breach if the windows were altered. In this case the current property owners could be penalised for breaching the covenant. Liability over breaches of covenant can be a minefield and legal advice should always be sought if owners are considering breaking a covenant.

Title deeds are extremely important documents used as evidence of proof of ownership. Solicitors can be used when investigating the rights of ownership, but searches may also be made by the person who wishes to buy or find out who owns a property. If property is being considered for purchase then a check of the title deeds is always standard procedure and the sale should not go ahead without this information.

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Q. I am presently searching for the whereabouts to the deeds of a property I once owned and lived in.The property was purchased in 1986. Since that time my partner and I have been divorced and sadly she died in August 2016. My son has dealt with all matters pertaining to probate but after much searching we are unable to find the deeds to property. I have checked personally with the Land Registry who informed me that the property wasn't registered and after consultation with the Building Society I was informed that the deeds were handed over to I presume my former partner in 2013.I have also sent a number of emails off to all the Solicitors in the small town where the house was bought to see if they may stillhave a copy. Given that my name is still on the title deeds is it still down to me to pay the council tax on the property? If the deeds cant' be found what do I do next? Jim.
Jim - 17-Nov-18 @ 3:58 PM
Your spelling of "dependant" (sic) is the wrong one
None - 17-Nov-18 @ 2:00 PM
I am trying to find out if a relation of mine has the deeds to my late Nan’s place. She died in March 1997 the place is now derelict as they do not live there anymore. I just want to find out if their name is on the deeds.I have found out that the land and property is not registered.Can anyone help me? Thanks
flower - 8-Nov-18 @ 11:59 AM
I paid my mortgage off in 2017 nationwide...they state in a letter saying deeds were electroically held by the land registry.Does this mean I have to pay to see them?
Lesley - 1-Nov-18 @ 10:07 AM
My mortgage has been off for about 5years and I don't know who has the deeds is it the Halifax or the solicitor who I don't even know who he is
Mick - 31-Oct-18 @ 1:59 PM
Hi my solicitor is blinding me withscience so need to see if I can understand our my mum has passed away and the assent of property is on going to my daughter The mortgage was redeemed years ago I have been asked to find the deeds which it seems my mum should have had but I can't find them! The property is registered at land registry and I have the number On one hand she is telling me it's a problem that I can't find them but she is preparing the forms for the assent for me to sign?? Do I still need the deeds for a line to be drawn under all this and if so can I get copy as I can't find them!
Karen - 25-Oct-18 @ 3:05 PM
Piglet65 - Your Question:
Hi we have recently got married and want to put both our names on our house deeds, currently just my husbands name do you know how we go about this and an idea of the costs involved please?

Our Response:
The link here , should tell you all you need to know including fees.
ContractsAndAgreements - 7-Sep-18 @ 2:13 PM
Hi we have recently got married and want to put both our names on our house deeds, currently just my husbands name do you know how we go about this and an idea of the costs involved please?
Piglet65 - 4-Sep-18 @ 4:34 PM
If you'd name is on the will to have family home by your mum but not on the deed... Does that mean that you have to pay inheritance tax and the house by your mother is not yours. Does your name have to be on the deeds as well as the will.. Before death.
Trust - 26-Aug-18 @ 4:41 PM
Hi, We recently paid cash for our property and although we are now shown on land registry as the owners, we have not received a copy of the deeds. Both land registry seem to imply that paper copies are no longer required as long as our names are on the land registry database as the owners. However, my worry is that if that database should be hacked and altered for any reason, we would not be able to prove ownership. How robust is the system and can I rest assured that my claim on the property is absolute and cannot be challenged without my consent?
Mike H. - 30-Jul-18 @ 8:51 AM
@Ali - you still owe the debt to the mortgage company. You might have a copy of the deeds, but not the actual deeds Land Registry holds them.
AndyF - 24-Apr-18 @ 3:02 PM
We cashed in the endowment policy on our mortgage 6 years ago we needed the cash to keep our business going forward 6 years endowment money is due we haven't got it and are being forced to sell our house however we have the deeds to our house can we argue that we have the deeds so the house is rightfully ours
Ali - 24-Apr-18 @ 7:35 AM
@Chou - only the Land Registry can give you a copy of the deeds.
MaxB - 22-Mar-18 @ 12:33 PM
We paid off our mortgage at the end of 2017.NatWest sent a note saying our deeds are with our solisitor (we don't have a solisitor!) Where can we get a copy apart the Land Registar who charge £70?
Chou - 21-Mar-18 @ 5:36 PM
@linda - I don't think there are any old copies anymore - it's all digitised at the Land Registry. You'd only receive a copy anyway.
Chrissy - 9-Mar-18 @ 11:39 AM
I paid my mortgage and was told by the mortgage company that my deeds were destroyed as they no longer keep them.I don,t want to pay £60 to read on a hard disc that I own the property I want the old documents.
linda - 8-Mar-18 @ 10:56 AM
Can you claim for full title deeds earlier than 12 years. My father in law claimed possesionary title 11 years ago (at the time we only had to wait 10 years to upgrade). The government then changed the rules to 12 years. As he applied when the rule was 10 years, can he apply for full now?
Cris445 - 15-Jan-18 @ 9:25 AM
20 years ago a firm of solicitors did some conveyancing for us, on completion they asked if we wanted the deeds or should they keep them safe on our behalf. We agreed to the latter and it was left at that. The firm of solicitors has since been dissolved and we wrongly assumed the deeds would be sent to us. We now have no way of contacting anyone about them, so how do we find out where they are ?. Thanks Frank
Frank - 12-Jan-18 @ 6:30 PM
I bought my ex mother in laws house and put a deed of trust on it the land registry have had sight of the deed of trust but the solicitors say they carnt find it i have a letter and copy of the deeds and deed of trust recorded that they were sent back to the solicitors what can i do if they have lost them
Ged - 18-Dec-17 @ 3:47 PM
We have the “right to park one road worthy car” in a designated space in our neighbours driveway. They don’t agree even when I have shown her the deeds and land registry etc, our solicitor has written her a letter and will continue to do so. due to contesting, do all legal fees lie with them? I know they will have to pay to change the deeds etc but the solicitors fees for the letters will also be at their cost? Thanks
biltong - 7-Dec-17 @ 8:27 AM
Can I be evicted if I have the title deed of the property and i am the legal owner of the property. I don't live at the address but my daughter is, for the reason that I'm not living there they want to evict my daughteri have the original title deed of the property
Mazibuko - 30-Nov-17 @ 10:31 AM
I bought my house (cash) 3 years ago. My solicitor tols me that Title deeds were no longer issued to the owner by the land registery. Is this correct , if so why?
satnavspurs - 24-Oct-17 @ 5:01 PM
@Crete - All deeds are held by the Land Registry. A discharge fee is one of a number of administration fees charged by mortgage lenders once a mortgage has been repaid to cover the costs of returning the title deeds to you.
JenI - 19-Oct-17 @ 10:08 AM
We have just finished our mortgage with Leeds and have been told they do not hold the deeds which has been the way for 10 years and deeds are held by land registrybut we have been told we have to pay 66.00 to retrieve them is this correct.
Crete - 18-Oct-17 @ 3:53 PM
Laura - Your Question:
I’m trying to purchase a property at the moment but the sellers mortgage company are being very slow in releasing the title deeds to their solicitor. It’s been 13 weeks now. How long does it usually take? Is there anything we can do to force them to hand over the title deeds?

Our Response:
There are often many hold ups with regards to house conveyancing, for various reasons, such as problems/issues down the chain. Without knowing the reasons why, it is difficult to advise. There is little you can do to pressure the mortgage company to release the deeds - as again, the mortgage company may have its reasons for taking its time. You can only request that your solicitor attempts to find out the reason why.
ContractsAndAgreements - 13-Oct-17 @ 2:06 PM
I’m trying to purchase a property at the moment but the sellers mortgage company are being very slow in releasing the title deeds to their solicitor. It’s been 13 weeks now. How long does it usually take? Is there anything we can do to force them to hand over the title deeds?
Laura - 6-Oct-17 @ 3:39 PM
@Bren - with the deeds you should get the plans which will show you were the septic tanks is. If not the former owner should be able to tell you. Another method is to find the main building drain exit point and often the septic tank is 10 feet away in a straight line from that point. Failing that a local plumber may be able to help.
Garryku - 19-Sep-17 @ 3:56 PM
Is the septic location on the property feed?
Bren - 19-Sep-17 @ 4:49 AM
Is the location of the houses septic on a deed to the property?
Bren - 19-Sep-17 @ 4:45 AM
If a mortgage is being paid off but not yet taken off Deeds or seller does not have the document because lender hasn't completed the paperwork and property is already inprocess of being sold on what Title Document can be in included in the Bundle sent to buyer to enable searches on extent of title plan. What is a "Title Information Document". Does it show a copy of extent of title outlined in red? Thanks in anticipation
Gerry - 19-Aug-17 @ 3:15 AM
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