Who owns Britain?

The front page of the UK newspaper The Independent on Monday 9 April 2007 asked the question Who owns Britain? The subtitle read: It has remained a mystery for centuries. But now the biggest landowners are to reveal their vast estates.

Some of the points which stood out when reading the article…

…the task is enormous as 40 per cent of land in England and Wales has not been registered by its owners. More than half of all rural land and rural buildings are unregistered.

Land that has not been sold or mortgaged does not have to be registered and so many landowners whose property has not changed hands for a hundred years have been able to keep their ownership secret.

For property that is in the register…

The register not only reveals the owner of the land but also shows details of registered mortgages and other financial burdens, covenants and easements which benefit or adversely affect the property.

While most of urban Britain has been registered, countryside ownership remains largely unmapped

The Duchy of Lancaster (the Queen’s lands), the Duchy of Cornwall (Prince Charles’ lands), Durham Cathedral and the Duke of Norfolk lands are some of the noted land holdings which are being added to the Land Registry’s records.

For those who do not know about the UK’s Land Registry, here is a final quote from The Independent’s article.

The Land Registry in England and Wales is the world’s largest property database, helping to underpin the economy by guaranteeing ownership of many billions of pounds worth of property. As the government department responsible for maintaining the Land Register for England and Wales, its mission is to provide the world’s best service for guaranteeing ownership of land and facilitating property transactions.

Checking a title in the UK was more complex than in the US. It looks like it should get a lot better given the Land Registry is online.

The full article at The Independent’s website can be found here.


One Response to “Who owns Britain?”

  1. Neal Mody Says:

    Do you believe this will stimulate the British economy? Will there be a flurry of transactions?

    Neal – I see the shift to having all the property online as not making a difference to the market activity. The property that is ‘missing’ from the present Land Registry database is mostly land that does not change hands much. What it should do is remove the uncertainty associated with not knowing who owns what.

    As the UK makes all the records more transparent and as the internet helps with price discovery the UK will see less volatility in prices. People will be more certain of what similar property is worth. They will make offers with confidence and not overpay when buying.

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