To What Extent Have the Main Aims of the Land Registration Acts Been Met?
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LLB(HONS) LAW LAND ASSIGNMENT 2000/2001 To What Extent Have the Main Aims of the Land Registration Acts Been Met? The aims of the extensive restructuring of English property law that took place in 1925 can be accurately summarised by Lord Upjohn1: "it has been the policy of the law for over a hundred years to simplify and facilitate transactions in real property. It is of great importance that persons should be able freely and easily to raise money on the security of their tenure." Prior to 1925, the system for the transfer of land remained complex and haphazard. The legislation of 1925 sought to rectify this by several means, the most notable of which was the expansion of the registered land system. The need for a comprehensive register of title to land had long been the primary ambition of law reformers. This is plainly evident in a 1857 Royal Commission2 which wanted land owners "to deal with land in as simple and easy a manner, as far as title is concerned..." The realisation of this goal depended ultimately upon a definitive record of the rights and obligations relating to all land in England and Wales3. Consequently, the Land Registry Act (1862) introduced an early system of Land Registration. However, the system proved unworkable and an entirely new system was established by the Land Transfer Acts of 1875 and 18974. While it is true that the aims of the Royal Commission have never been fully met by the Land Registration Act (1925), the Act (and subsequent Acts)
The implication is, therefore, that there are two parallel regimes of land law that continue to operate in this country. It may well be argued that this undermines the aims of land registration but it is, however, equally important to its success. In 1987, the Law Commission readily accepted that "there are substantive differences between the two systems", but they went on to say that land registration "is ... the way forward, the new improving the old." This surrender to the inevitable is significant because a successful system of land registration depends ultimately upon addressing the failings of the old system. Consequently, this has paved the way for the introduction of computerisation and 'e-conveyancing' which would not have been possible within the unregistered land system. Under s123 of the LRA (1925), an application for registration must be made to register the title within two months of the date of transfer18; failure to register the land renders the purchaser's title void. If on examination the land can be found to have satisfactory title, certain information relating to the land is entered into a 'register'. The register for each piece of land is actually divided into three separate registers: the property register, the proprietorship register and the charges register. The property register contains a description of the property by reference to a plan and also details any rights to which the land has benefit19. The proprietorship register provides the name and address of the landowner and details of any limitations on the powers of dealing with the land.
The Law Commission proves to be a useful gauge as to whether the aims of the registered system have been met. The Commission has been successful in its endeavors to reform the system given that three Land Registration Acts43 enact Law Commission reports. Furthermore, the Commission is at the very forefront of recommending reformation of the 1925 Act and they clearly feel that the present system necessitates this level of attention44. According to the Commission, the Land Registry 'has coped well with the defects in legislation and has made the system work despite it rather than because of it.'45 It is reasonable to assume, therefore, that the time has now come for an extensive overhaul of the LRA 1925 and it is likely that forthcoming and long awaited legislation will significantly amend the 1925 Act. This need for reform is heightened by the desire for a system of electronic conveyancing. It is, however, worth bearing in mind that the concept of an absolutely comprehensive register is probably unattainable given that it is impossible to register some rights (for example, squatter's rights). Furthermore, it is impracticable to register others (for example, short tenancies and local land charges). Bibliography Chappelle, Land Law (2001), Longman Gray K & Gray S F, Elements of Land Law 3rd Ed, (2001), Butterworths Perrins B, Understanding Land Law 3rd Ed (2000), Cavendish Publishing Ltd. Riddall J G, Land Law 6th Ed, (1997) Butterworths Mackenzie J & Phillips M, A Practical Approach to Land Law 7th Ed (1997), Blackstone Press Ltd. Dalton P J, Land Law (1996), Pitman Publishing Dixon M, Lecture Notes ... Land Law (1994), Cavendish Publishing Ltd.
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