Happy Appointed Day…

…or why owning land got a little less complicated today.

Say you wanted to buy my complete collection of Doctor Who DVD’s and I wanted to sell them to you (cause being a tech-geek I’ve got the Blu-Rays now). So we do that, but I accidentally gave you my Torchwood DVD’s as well by accident. You would expect, rightly, that you would have to give me the Torchwood DVD’s back because we didn’t agree to sell/buy them and you never paid for them. That’s sensible.
But then, say I wanted to sell you my Scrap Yard. Not my whole scrap yard, just the back 100mx50m plot. But when the plot was being registered, for some reason, it’s been marked in the register that you not own 100mx100m! DISASTER!
The Land Register is always right. ALWAYS! Even when it’s wrong, it’s right. Even if the deed I wrote sold you 100x50m of land, if the Land Register said you actually owned the 100x100m plot you would own the 100x100m plot!
But I can sort this. I can just ask the keeper to change it – like we would swap back the DVD’s. WRONG! Even if I didn’t mean to sell you a piece of land, as soon as it’s registered in the Land Register and you take possession (which can include simply putting up a fence around the land) I’m screwed. I can’t get it back. I can make you pay for it, but since you are a ‘proprietor in possession’ I can’t have the Land register changed back. At least…until now!

As I write we are mere minutes away from the Land Registration Scotland Act 2012 coming into force (or #LandRegistrationScotlandAct2012Day as I have uniquely taken to calling it). This Act introduces a massive change in the way land registration works – and sorts out the ridiculous situation above.
As of today, if the Land Register doesn’t reflect the proper position under Property Law, then the (majesticly named) ‘Keeper’ can rectify the register without caring whether the interloper has taken possession of the land or not. So long as the error is ‘manifest’ (which, helpfully isn’t defined in the act) it can be fixed. Hoorah! Once more I can park my beautiful 1960’s police box in that 100x50m plot so unfairly stolen from me.

This isn’t the only change the Act makes, but it is by far the biggest. Others are mostly of Academic Interest:

  • Instead of using the OS Map to mark property, we will start using a ‘Cadastral Map‘ (which will be based on the OS Map…so yeah).
  • Advance Notices can now be lodged when a transaction is close to completion to protect a buyer’s potential Real right (stopping the terrible ‘Race to Register’; where A could sell to B and then to C, but if C managed to register his right to the land 1st, B’s deed ain’t work diddly.)
  • Lawyers have more responsibility than ever. The Keeper seems to have run out of filing cabinet space and doesn’t want to be flooded with deeds and whotnot, so now conveyancers have to “tell, not show” the Keeper what the story behind the property is and if they get it wrong they are liable to their clients for the mess they cause.
  • To make it even worse, there’s only one-shot to get it right. If the conveyancer forgets to include even the smallest of details, or doesn’t tick the teeniest of boxes, then the Keeper can now reject the entire application and send it back to be completed properly.

The 2012 Act is not a small fiddle with the rules; it completely rewrites the textbook (seriously, Gretton and Steven better get a shifty). It will also (hopefully) speed up the completion of the Land Register. This may seem inconsequential and unimportant for non-lawyers, but it will speed up land transactions in the future, leading to smaller legal bills for buyers (theoretically) and less stressful moving-days for all. It is a fantastic piece of legislation which will also markedly improve the on-line registration system. In fact, the new form (singular) in designed to be completed on-line! The legal profession may well be dragged into the 21st century, and it makes this future lawyer very happy indeed.

So, in the spirit of the season (and twitter habit for bad commemorative poems), I leave you with this:

She sprang to her twitter, while outside there was drizzle,
And away she typed hard in the land of the thistle,
As the new Act came in, and the sky did turn bright,
“Happy #LandRegistrationScotlandAct2012Day to all, and please get it right!”


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