The Land Registration Act 2002 repealed and replaced the previous legislation governing land registration. In principle, this the piece of primary legislation governing the activity of the Land Registry, but further to this role, the 2002 Act was intended to facilitate the introduction of e-conveyancing. The Act was enacted following the release of a joint report between the Law Commission and the Land Registry in 2001.
1. Why was it introduced? (Political/Sociological Context)
When the Law Commission and the Land Registry published their initial proposal for changes in the law of land registration in 1998 and proposed that conveyancing might be conducted electronically, this idea was relatively unfamiliar. However, between 1998 and 2001, the two institutions managed to gather the support of the property industry and the legal practitioners for the introduction of a system of dealing with land in dematerialised form. Gradually, the introduction of such a system came to be regarded as inevitable.
The public, however, wanted the introduction of e-conveyancing, to be matched by the production of clear benefits, such as less stressful system of dealing with land, better protection of title to land and for the rights and interests that exist in land.
At the time, the majority of the titles to land were registered and the unregistered titles were become rarer. It was predicted that in very near future it would be required from all title holders to take steps to bring on the register what is left from the land in the form of unregistered titles. The continuation of two parallel systems were considered unsustainable as since 1900, the land register had been publicly accessible. It was no longer something of concern purely to the conveyancers, but also a valuable resource for the public.
A further rationale behind the Act was addressing the commonly held view that it was unreasonable to expect people to register their rights in land by simplifying the process of land registration through e-conveyancing.
2. What was the aim of the Act? (Legal Context)
The fundamental objective of the 2002 Act was that under the system of e-conveyancing which it sought to introduce, the land register would be a complete and accurate reflection of the state of the title of land at any given time. It was considered that this would enable to investigate title to land online and minimise the additional enquiries and inspections that need to be carried out.
Prior to the Land Registration Act 2002, there was no requirement that a disposition of registered land had to be entered in the register if it was to be effective. Without registration, dispositions were valid between the parties to them and many other third parties who subsequently acquired interest in the land, but not all of them. This created a registration gap. The act aimed at eliminating the lack of legal effect of dispositions to some parties in the interim period between the transfer or grant and its entry in the Land Registry.
Furthermore, there were a number of overriding interests in the land, which are not protected in the register, but nevertheless bind any person who subsequently acquires interest in the land, regardless of whether he knew of them or could easily have discovered their existence.
In light of the above, in order to achieve its overall objective, the act had to first achieve a number of smaller goals, such as protecting all express dispositions of registered land on the register unless there are good reasons for not doing so, making it impossible to make most dispositions of registered land except by registering them and significantly reducing in scope the categories of overriding interests.
3. What main changes did it make to the law?
Part 8 of the Land Registration Act 2002 creates the legal framework in which it becomes possible to transfer and create interests in registered land by electronic means.
The Act tightened the rules on adverse possession and abandoned the notion that a squatter acquires a title over the land once they have been in adverse possession for twelve years. To this effect s. 96 of the Act provides land owners with a greater protection against the acquisition of title by persons in adverse possession.
S. 4(1)(c) of the Act provides for extending the compulsory registration of titles to leases granted for more than seven years and s. 5 gives the Secretary of State the power to further reduce the length of leases, which are to be subjected to registration.
Schedule 1 and 3 of the Land Registration Act 2002 clarify the rules on unregistered interests which override respectively the first registration and the registered dispositions and s. 71 places a duty on the person applying for registration to disclose any such interests. The range of overriding interests is significantly restricted in scope – some categories were completely abolished and others are to be phased out after ten years, such as a franchise, manorial rights, the right to rent, reserved to the Crown on granting of any freehold estate, the right in respect of an embankment, sea or river wall, the right to payment in lieu of tithe and the right in respect of a repair of a church chancel.
Prior to the Land Registration Act 2002, Crown land was not subject to registration. Part 7 of the Land Registration Act 2002 makes this land registrable.
Part 11 of the Act sets up a new system of adjudication of disputes arising out of disputed applications on the register.
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