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Can I Lay Claim to Land that is not mine?

So you have wound up here and about to read a blog on laying claim to land that you do not own so you must have already heard rumours that you can, or someone you know has done so already, or maybe you've seen a video on YouTube exciting you to the possibilities.

Let's first off start things off with a YES - You can acquire land for free that you do not own and transfer it in to your name. Though if we are to, and so you should, take note of the saying that nothing in life is for free, then we need to add that it is not going to be easy!

Surprisingly, there are still many property and parcels of land that through many different reasons remain unregistered. Quickly I need to tone down your excitement as even though this reads as if they are ownerless, all it actually means is that the said property/land has not been registered with the government.

There is around 85% of land in the UK that has been registered with the government (Land Registry). Since 1990 it has been compulsory (for those common law followers you will take this with a pinch of salt) to register your ownership of land. This then means that when anyone completes an official search on a parcel of land in the UK then the details of the owner(s) are registered and can be found. This process facilitates the likes of estate agencies / solicitors when instructed to aid with sales, local councils to make contact should needed (ie new developments / accessing underground services), disputes between neighbours / local communities and more.

So 15% remains unaccountable and unregistered (a very sizeable 5 million acres or so). Though again, not so quick... ! This is were the common misconception occurs and where agencies promising to aid you in finding free land can use this large percentage to entice your interest (and capture your finding fees). This 15% does not mean it is land that you can go after as most of it is accounted for already and it is simply due it being in the hands of the same owner(s) since pre 1990 when all the data on ownership started to be captured.

Most of the 15% will belong (owners of the deeds) to the Church and long established families who have yet to update their details with the Land Registry (not that they are legally obliged to). Their details are available though this will require of the researcher a lot more effort in finding. Most times it will be local knowledge which will lead you to finding who owns the land - A chat at the local pub bar over relying on the Land Registry!

"Freehold land can sometimes effectively become ownerless. When this happens, title to the land may, in certain circumstances, revert to the Crown as the ultimate owner of all the land in England, Wales or Northern Ireland. This process is called 'escheat'. It can happen in a variety of situations." source thecrownestate

There are though circumstances where (mostly) land does slip through the net and can sit there waiting to be acquired. This can be due to all sorts of reasons such as the death of the owner with no inheritance set, disputes and dissolving of companies, errors in setting of boundaries etc.

So, how to I claim land for free? We now know that we had to go through all the stages above in order to find a piece of land that is genuinely ownerless. From this point you need to lay claim to the land (Adverse Possession) by working on the land for 10 years where then you can make a claim to the Land Registry to place it in to your name (you need to capture evidence of this activity). This can still be effected if the real owners lay claim to it in the meantime (you can then be ejected for trespassing) or if the set post 2 year period your claim receives an objection. If after the 10 years, plus 2 years post claim period, sees you hitting no raised disputes then you should be all clear to become the new registered owner.

  • Find a plot of land that research tells you is not owned by anyone.

  • Place up notices / signs on the land stating your contact details and such wording as 'private property keep out'.

  • If no one contacts you to question why your signs are on their land then progress with working on the land (tidying up weeds / grass / fences / hedges etc).

  • Record as much as you can by way of videos and photos.

  • Remain vigilant and open with what you are doing, do not hide yourself away. If you find out there is a real owner during your 10 years then you are legally obliged to leave the land.

  • Once your 12 year term is complete you will own the land.

So, yes you can claim land for free. Land with genuinely no owner(s) is quite rare. You will need to invest 12 years in order to acquire the land legally with the Land Registry.

Title image: Pixabay

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