Boundaries, title plans

Boundaries are nothing to do with conveyancing”

Attending a training course the other day, I was somewhat startled to hear the presenter say this – very firmly.

I was already aware that the Land Registry’s “general boundaries rule”, coupled with the very small scale of Land Registry title plans, make the title plan all but useless for defining the location of a boundary; the title plan is intended only to identify the approximate location of the boundaries: one then needs to inspect the site to identify boundary features and so identify (as far as possible) the exact location of the boundaries.

That said, the presenter was far more forceful on the point than I would have expected, maintaining that it is only by buyers inspecting the property’s boundaries that they can satisfy themselves where they are – or appear to be – and they should not expect their conveyancer to be able to help.  While I agree that inspection is very useful, I think it needs to be coupled with a comparison between the title plan and the boundaries on the ground, so that any apparent discrepancies can be investigated and resolved: I do not think that conveyancers can shrug off all responsibility for title plans being as accurate as possible, despite their small scale, but it does depend on the client identifying discrepancies for the conveyancer to investigate. It is, therefore, important for buyers to get a copy of the title plan and revisit the property armed with it. Where a buyer is sensible and instructs a surveyor to inspect the property for them, the surveyor should be given a copy of the title plan before he or she visits, so that the plan can be compared with the physical boundaries.

Solicitors as amateur dentists?

The presenter of the course came up with another gem: “Solicitors should no more prepare plans than do their clients’ dentistry” – and I wholeheartedly agree with that. I get clients producing amateur plans or, worse still, expecting me to mark up plans based on verbal instructions, nearly always with disastrous results. When buying or selling a piece of land that is not already the whole of a registered title, there really is no substitute for getting a proper, Land Registry compliant plan drawn up by a surveyor – preferably a Chartered Land Surveyor. The few hundred pounds it costs are well worth incurring to make sure you are buying (or selling) what you intend.

Buying a second hand house is like buying a second hand car

A final analogy from the training course was that a registered title to land is like a car registration document – a V5: careful inspection before purchase is obviously essential when buying a car, and it is no less essential when buying land and buildings. “Caveat emptor” (buyer beware) holds true, not just for boundaries but for all physical aspects of the property – the conveyancer can check the legalities but this needs to be coupled with knowledge of the physical aspects that can only be gained by a thorough inspection. Where appropriate (electrical installations, central heating systems, etc) the inspection should be by a suitable expert.


2 Comments

  1. Interesting post. So what makes a plan Land Registry compliant?

  2. I’m glad you asked that, Sue – I have answered by means of a new post at http://www.nelsonslegal.co.uk/blog/nelsons-column/plans-comply-land-registry-requirements/

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