Conveyancing / property movers Q&As

21 Dec 2011

Q I just repaid my mortgage, but haven't received the title deeds to my house. Where are they likely to be?

A – Title deeds have two definitions these days. If your house deeds have yet to be registered at the Land Registry, then this is the traditional definition and means a collection of historic 'conveyances' from your seller to you, and back historically over perhaps many generations, depending on how old the house is. This can amount to a sizeable bundle. Your safe possession of this bundle is crucial, if you wish to prove you own your house. The second definition is where you have registered land, and is really just reference to the photocopy of the Land Registry's main computer record about your house. This used to be called a 'Land Certificate' if you had no mortgage, or a 'Charge Certificate' is you had a mortgage. Registration of old conveyances does have enormous advantages – and the majority of households already have registered land.

Most Lenders used to take possession of deeds as part of their security, but they no longer do essentially because it costs money to store them, and because if the land is registered they can always obtain their own copy from the Land Registry – as even a mortgage of unregistered land now triggers registration of the deeds at the Land Registry.

The 'bundle' of unregistered deeds has become only of historical importance now, though they should always be kept in case the originals are needed for reference.

As a result, if your mortgage is less than 10 years old, the chances are that the lender never had them and you should look to the solicitor who handled your last mortgage work. They may have forwarded the deeds to you and you have overlooked them,, or they may still have them in storage. But if your mortgage is over 10 years old then your Lender should perhaps be the first point of contact.

Q I am buying a house with my partner. We are not married. We are putting in different amounts to the purchase. Does that matter?

A – When buying property in joint names, you must decide whether to hold as tenants in common (i.e on the death of one, the share of the deceased does not go to the survivor but goes under their Will, which may mean to a third party) , or joint tenants. (i.e on the death of one, the survivor automatically takes the deceased's share, even if the deceased had left it in their Will to someone).  Typically married couples hold as joint tenants, but there is no longer a hard and fast rule, because there are tax advantages in holding as tenants in common.

However, that only deals with what happens on death.

If you have a lifetime relationship split, and your contributions have been unequal, how do you go about proving that, and taking out your correct percentage? By drawing up a Declaration of Trust, where both of you go into the purchase with a written document setting out the amounts you are putting in, and detailing what amounts you will receive on a sale. You can and perhaps should go further and cover such things as who pays towards the mortgage, improvements and if there is a relationship breakdown, how is the sale of the property to be managed.

Q Why do I need a survey done on the house I'm planning to buy when my mortgage company is already making me pay for a valuation?

A – Your Lender will always carry out their own valuation to determine whether the price you are paying, and the amount you want to borrow, add up financially.  They need to know that the property is worth more than the amount it is lending to you. Most Lenders will ask you to pay for this valuation, on top of an application fee for the Lender to even entertain your business.

But do not be fooled. A Lender's valuation is very basic indeed, and is strictly for their lending purposes. It is not anywhere close to being a structural survey that a buyer would wish to carry out to decide whether they wish to purchase the property.

Buyers are always advised to have a survey carried out, as this should reveal necessary repairs and often can be good ammunition to negotiate a price reduction with your Seller, if unknown expenses are revealed.