The Registration Gap

Please note that this News item is not maintained, and reflects the law as at the date of publication or update.

When you purchase a property, the beneficial ownership transfers on the date of completion. However, legal ownership (or the legal title) does not transfer until registration at HM Land Registry.

The period between completion of the transaction and its registration at HM Land Registry is known as the “Registration Gap”. During this period, the seller holds the legal title on trust for the buyer, while the buyer holds the beneficial interest in the property.

The Registration Gap is not a recent development, but it is becoming an increasing problem as registrations at HM Land Registry are taking longer to complete. Buyers should note that the Registration Gap should not generally be a cause for concern as HM Land Registry process applications in priority order. However, issues may arise for buyers looking to refinance their property or landlords looking to grant leases or serve legal notices on tenants if their legal ownership of the property has not yet registered.

Steps can be taken when drafting the transactional documents to minimise the impact of the Registration Gap, such as including provisions that require the buyer to:

  • apply to register the transfer at HM Land Registry promptly and in any event within one month following completion;
  • ensure that any requisitions raised by HM Land Registry in connection with its application to register the transfer at HM Land Registry are responded to promptly and properly; and
  • send the seller official copies of the Buyer’s title within one month of completion of the registration.

In addition, HM Land Registry does have a fast-track service where conveyancers can submit a request to expedite an application if it needs to be processed more quickly. HM Land Registry may agree to expedite an application where the delay would:

  • impact another application; or
  • cause problems not related to a land transaction (such as financial or personal hardship which link to the need for registration to be completed).

For HM Land Registry to consider a request to expedite, you must provide them with evidence, such as Heads of Terms or a mortgage offer letter for a transaction which is dependent on registration of the application in question being expedited.

If you would like us to expedite an application we have submitted, we can do this on your behalf using the HM Land Registry portal. If the request for expedition is approved, the application should be processed within ten working days, subject to any requests for information (requisitions) which may be raised by HM Land Registry.

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