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The Facts on Unclaimed Land and Property in the UK

By: Garry Crystal - Updated: 10 Oct 2018 | comments*Discuss
 
Unclaimed Land Property Abandoned

It is not impossible to claim unregistered land and abandoned property in the UK but it will take some research and time. There is a legal process that must be followed when claiming unregistered land and the many thousands of abandoned properties in the UK.

Claiming Land and Property in the UK

It’s doubtful that the UK is littered with unclaimed land and property. But land or property that is unregistered can be claimed by UK citizens and the first step will be actually locating the unregistered land or property. Tracking down unclaimed land and property is known as targeting. The next step will be to check with the UK Land Registry to ensure that the targeting land or property is unregistered. The Land Registry is available for inspection and should give information on the targeted land or property.

What Constitutes Unclaimed Land and Property?

Land that has being lying empty or vacant for years may actually be available to be claimed. This can also be true of derelict and abandoned properties. A postal code of the unclaimed land or property will required by the Land Registry. A search of the property or land through the Land Registry will come with a small fee. But simply because a property or plot of land is unregistered or looks abandoned does not mean that someone does not own it. There can be legal consequences for anyone who decides to simply occupy an abandoned plot of land or property

Claiming Unregistered Land in the UK

Claiming unregistered property or land is not a simple process. In order to claim abandoned land a person must first have taken possession of the land. This means erecting fences around the land and occupying it for a certain period of time, this is known as adverse possession. The adverse possession period is 10 years for registered land and 12 years for unregistered land. The person must also be able to prove that they have been in adverse possession for this amount of time. Only then will they be able to register with the Land Registry.

Searching Out Unclaimed Land or Property

Tracing or targeting unclaimed land or property may be one of the most difficult aspects. In most cases it will involve simply searching in person around a city or town. If land does look abandoned or a property looks old and vacant then it may be unregistered. There are usually properties that look as if they have been sitting vacant for many years. But this does not mean that the property is unregistered; this is the reason that the Land Registry must be used to access information on the property or land.

Spotting Unclaimed UK Property

There are a few signs that may help when trying to find abandoned property. These signs are not definite proof that the property is abandoned but can be a guide before checking with the land registry. Signs to look out for will include:

  • Boarded up windows and doors
  • Gardens that are unkempt and overgrown
  • The property has been uninhabited for many years and neighbours are unaware of tenants living there
  • The garden is often used for people tipping rubbish
  • The property is in great need of repair
  • There have been previous reports of squatters in the abandoned property
  • Vermin can be seen in the property gardens

Squatters Rights to Legally Claim Property

Squatting in abandoned properties has a long tradition in the UK. Squatting in England and Wales is not illegal although it is unlawful under civil law, and is illegal in Scotland. Squatters can actually become the legal occupiers, and in some cases owners, of abandoned properties in the UK. Squatting simply means entering an abandoned property and squatters do have rights once inside a property. The police cannot evict squatters from an abandoned property as it is a civil matter and squatters are provided with protection by law. Again, details of ownership of the property can be found through the Land Registry.

The internet has become rife with advertisements that claim to be able to show people the easy way to claim unregistered land that does not belong to anyone. Many of these advertisements will of course come with a fee to gain this knowledge. This information is widely available through the Land Registry. A detailed fact sheet on the steps required is available as well as information on the various false claims made in these advertisements. Checking with a local Land Registry will be beneficial in order to become aware of the rules and regulations that apply to unclaimed land and property.

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[Add a Comment]
I have found an abandoned commercial property (a shop, with a flat above it) and would like to turn it into a community coffee shop. I have searched the land registry and have even phoned them, they can not locate the original deeds or the owner. If I break into this property am I breaking the law?
Gemini - 10-Oct-18 @ 6:06 PM
We have just brought a house that used to be garages just off a side road there is a large grassed area outside the house between the road and house at the front, when buying it we was told that it was thought to belong to the council but was found it did not , and surches were done finding no owners. so we moved ahead with the purchase being told that no owner could be found and that we could claim the land as the front garden also a fence had been put up meter high to show a clear boundary. One of the local residence made a complaint about something to the council and now they are saying it’s highway and we have to take the fence down even though our drive goes over the land to the house as well. I called them and asked for proof. And they refused said highway land does not have to be registered to be owned by highway. Gave us 14 days to take the fence down.
Sara - 4-Oct-18 @ 4:25 PM
I moved into an old stable block that a friend of mine bought from another friend, both have now passed away, but for some reason unknown to myself or their family, he registered the property in someone else's name, I renovated the property, but since my friends passing, I have tried to find the person who's name is on the deeds, I have hired a skip tracer as they are no longer at the address on the deeds as I would like to legally take over the property, the family have given their consent, I have lived here for 23 years now, is there any way I can legally go about claiming the property, I don't have lots of money to throw at a solicitor so need to do as much legwork as I can for myself
Timelord - 19-Sep-18 @ 9:28 AM
@mummagee - if you have been renting the property, then surely it would be the owner of the rental property who would benefit from any claim to adverse possession, not you.
JanR - 13-Sep-18 @ 10:26 AM
He have been renting a property for 20 years. Attached is a large field that we have had exclusive use of for at least 18 years and is now completely surrounded by hedgerow/ treeswith access only from within our property.We have created hard standing for vehicles and have numerous sheds and live stock on it. Have checked LR and the registered owners appear to be an investment company but have not made contact to check on the land. Google Earth shows the activity and boundaries developing over the years. Do we have a good case to claim this land?
mummagee - 12-Sep-18 @ 12:59 PM
@Benny -It all depends on who owns the land - have you checked? If your neighbour has done a deal with the owner then you can't do very much.
NathO - 10-Sep-18 @ 11:33 AM
10 months ago we moved in to a property knowing there is unclaimed land running at the back of are garden, the previous owner had cut some trees down but really didn’t do much with it, the owner before however did tend the land and planted shrubs and trees. I would like to claim this land , we have cleared some off the land planted some vegetables also we have built a chicken run with hut , are neighbour who also as access to the land,off 30 years! who as done nothing untilnow, is saying he is going to buy the land, there is plenty of the land to split between us, have I got a claim to some off the land which the previous owners have used befor me?
Benny - 8-Sep-18 @ 10:54 AM
Hi, there is a holding of land behind my garden that hasnt been touched in the 20 yrs ive been here According to LRit belonged to a company thats nowdissolved, Is it possible to take over it and use it for my own uses once fenced off? i want to cut the bushes down but dont want somebodycoming along down the line and asking for it back plus compensationfor cutting the trees and stuff down thanks
DAVAV - 24-Aug-18 @ 2:07 PM
There is a flat next to my friends that no one has lived in for atleast 10 years we recently discovered this as there was problems with vermon coming through from the the property, we found the name of the owner and an address but when we made contact we found out the owner is dead. The property is filled with rubbish and there has been squatters over the years but a great property does anyone know what my options are to take over? Also the property is in scotland Thanks.
Esd - 21-Aug-18 @ 8:10 AM
Phoenix18- Your Question:
I've identified a potential plot of land under 3 railway arches along a roadside I would like to clear if and use it as a sight for a business. I don't know who it belongs to how can I find out if it is the rail way of TFL or another petson/organisation. Could I just occupy it?

Our Response:
It is very likely this piece of land is owned (especially if it is in London). However, you cannot just randomly claim a piece of land without being prosecuted for trespassing, please see the link here .
UnclaimedFinances - 14-Aug-18 @ 2:30 PM
I've identified a potential plot of land under 3 railway arches along a roadside I would like to clear if and use it as a sight for a business. I don't know who it belongs to how can I find out if it is the rail way of TFL or another petson/organisation. Could I just occupy it?
Phoenix18 - 13-Aug-18 @ 11:26 PM
Jo - Your Question:
Many years ago my house (an end terrace) was separated and split into two by the brothers that owned it after an arguement. Both are now dead and the second house is abandoned. I have put a claim in for it but as you say this can take years. Others have recently tried to put claim to the house by securing metal gates over the doors etc. I have discovered a weak point in the separation in my cellar and could easily knock through internally. Surely then I would have the right to 'secure' the abandoned property right?

Our Response:
If you do not legally own the house, then you will be considered a squatter, please see link here . There may be relatives entitled to inherit the house via probate.
UnclaimedFinances - 6-Aug-18 @ 12:18 PM
Many years ago my house (an end terrace) was separated and split into two by the brothers that owned it after an arguement. Both are now dead and the second house is abandoned. I have put a claim in for it but as you say this can take years. Others have recently tried to put claim to the house by securing metal gates over the doors etc. I have discovered a weak point in the separation in my cellar and could easily knock through internally. Surely then I would have the right to 'secure' the abandoned property right?
Jo - 4-Aug-18 @ 2:56 PM
Absolutely brilliant informative information on how to properly secure the deeds for unwanted property’s or abandon buildings with in the uk legislation law I’m over the moon as I read thought this Pacific topic regarding the law on how to optain such assets with out breaking the law thank so so much in order for the general public to read these wonderful guidelines God bless the Queen
Billionaire Boy 2 B - 3-Aug-18 @ 1:53 AM
@MAckIf the garages are not registered then you may be able to lay claim to the land in 12 year if you can prove they have been in your possession and no one comes forward to claim ownership. If someone has parked a car there it may be for a reason and not dumped. I think you will have to see how this one unfolds. You have a better chance of claiming adverse possession if the garages and land are adjacent to yours rather than being separate. It also depends what your neighbours think and if they decide to protest.
JudgeG - 2-Aug-18 @ 3:18 PM
Hi There, there are a pair of garages by my property that are boarded up and haven't been used at all.I continue to keep the pathway clear of rubble and fly tippers.There is now an abandoned car there which is unlocked but there are no keys in it.I have called the police however they say it isn't reported as stolen and until the MOT runs out they cannot do anything.The land and garages are not registered.I cannot find them on the land registry.Could I take control fo these and clear them out.There are obvious signs of vermin should I call the environmental health or just put poison down my self.
MAck - 1-Aug-18 @ 5:49 PM
Muriel - Your Question:
HiWe have bought a flat from a housing association. When we moved in there was a patch of land within the grounds of land owned by the housing association. They landscaped the whole groinds around the house, however this patch of land in a corner was left as it was, covered in rubble and rubbish. We cleared all the rubbish away and put a garden in that we are exclusively using and maintaining. We are using this patch now since 2009 and it's partly fenced off. I wonder what the legal situation is?Thank you

Our Response:
That's a tricky question and one where you would have to seek specialised advice, as the land is obviously owned by the HA and the complication arises given you are in co-ownership with the HA. This is beyond our remit to advise.
UnclaimedFinances - 17-Jul-18 @ 10:04 AM
Hi We have bought a flat from a housing association. When we moved in there was a patch of land within the grounds of land owned by the housing association. They landscaped the whole groinds around the house, however this patch of land in a corner was left as it was, covered in rubble and rubbish. We cleared all the rubbish away and put a garden in that we are exclusively using and maintaining. We are using this patch now since 2009 and it's partly fenced off. I wonder what the legal situation is? Thank you
Muriel - 16-Jul-18 @ 12:03 PM
Poli - Your Question:
How about abandoned house, I need to check if it is registered but can someone just move in start paying bills renovate it and claim it as his after 10 years?

Our Response:
It's not quite as easy as claiming an empty building and staying in it for 10 years without issues to confront, please see link here.
UnclaimedFinances - 6-Jul-18 @ 1:40 PM
How about abandoned house, I need to check if it is registered but can someone just move in start paying bills renovate it and claim it as his after 10 years?
Poli - 4-Jul-18 @ 9:38 PM
Land - Your Question:
Thank you for you reply. No body owns this land. We have contacted Land registry who confirmed that it not registered or owned by anybody. The person who doesn’t want the signs there wants the land to be used by everyone for parking in the area. The land is next to our own land and looks as though it should be a part of it but it is not on our plans. We have been using this land for years for parking but the signs have only just gone up so that in 10 years we can apply for adverse possession. But as somebody now wants the signs to be removed do we need to do as they say?

Our Response:
You don't have to take the signs down. However, if you don't you could find yourself in a court case if your neighbours object enough to take the matter to court. If you lose, it will cost. In the case of unregistered land the application can be made after 12 years’ occupation. You may wish to seek further legal advice.
UnclaimedFinances - 2-Jul-18 @ 9:56 AM
Thank you for you reply. No body owns this land. We have contacted Land registry who confirmed that it not registered or owned by anybody. The person who doesn’t want the signs there wants the land to be used by everyone for parking in the area. The land is next to our own land and looks as though it should be a part of it but it is not on our plans. We have been using this land for years for parking but the signs have only just gone up so that in 10 years we can apply for adverse possession. But as somebody now wants the signs to be removed do we need to do as they say?
Land - 1-Jul-18 @ 10:14 AM
Land - Your Question:
There is a small section of unclaimed land next to some land that we own, we would like this for private parking. We recently put up signs in this area saying that it was private and belong to us so that we could eventually claim adverse possession but now a neighbor has contacted us to say that they object this claim to the land. We are now unsure what should happen as a formal objection can’t be given as we can’t apply for possession for another 10 years. What should we do?

Our Response:
Before you can claim adverse possession, you, the applicant must demonstrate that you have exclusively possessed the land and that the possession was both intentional and without the owner’s consent for 10 years. As you have put signs up saying the land is 'private' and you do not own the land you are now effectively trespassing. Unlawful physical entry to land or buildings can result in an injunction by the civil courts in order to prevent further trespass.
UnclaimedFinances - 26-Jun-18 @ 12:55 PM
There is a small section of unclaimed land next to some land that we own, we would like this for private parking. We recently put up signs in this area saying that it was private and belong to us so that we could eventually claim adverse possession but now a neighbor has contacted us to say that they object this claim to the land. We are now unsure what should happen as a formal objection can’t be given as we can’t apply for possession for another 10 years. What should we do?
Land - 25-Jun-18 @ 7:31 PM
ronny - Your Question:
Hello there, I have seen a small shop near where I live and been vacant and boarded up for many years.I am interested in purchasing or to take over ownership how do I about doing this?Regards,Rony

Our Response:
You cannot claim a property in this way, as you would be guilty of squatting, please see link here.
UnclaimedFinances - 21-Jun-18 @ 11:30 AM
Hello there, I have seen a small shop near where I live and been vacant and boarded up for many years. I am interested in purchasing or to take over ownership how do I about doing this? Regards, Rony
ronny - 20-Jun-18 @ 7:35 AM
Dmason- Your Question:
Hi I’ve been on a piece of land (I use for my animals) for about 8 years now. The Man who owns the land has just sprung on me that he has sold the property and land and I’m to get off. I was wondering if I had any rights to the land as I’ve been there for a number of years. my name is on the water which I pay for. Thanks

Our Response:
If the owner owns the land and you have been renting it from him, then you will have to leave by the terms of any verbal or written agreement you have with him to house your animals on his land.
UnclaimedFinances - 7-Jun-18 @ 10:39 AM
@CB - sounds like you might. It is incidences such as this where you might have a chance. Seek legal advice. It'll be worth it.
Fliss - 7-Jun-18 @ 9:25 AM
I've just discovered that the land (patio and garden) adjacent to my property and accessed via patio doors is not outlined in red on my title plans but is part of the private estate on which my house is built. I think that the mistake may have been made when the developer sold off the areas around the ground floor apartments which are next to my house which were originally meant for communal use. I have lived here for 8 1/2 years and the area is fenced off. Would I be able to have the boundaries changed or acquire the land through adverse possession? Thanks.
CB - 6-Jun-18 @ 3:04 PM
Hi I’ve been on a piece of land (I use for my animals) for about 8 years now. The Man who owns the land has just sprung on me that he has sold the property and land and I’m to get off... I was wondering if I had any rights to the land as I’ve been there for a number of years.. my name is on the water which I pay for.... Thanks
Dmason - 6-Jun-18 @ 1:22 PM
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