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The Facts on Unclaimed Land and Property in the UK

By: Garry Crystal - Updated: 17 Jul 2017 | 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]
Joner - Your Question:
I live in a block of 4 leasehold maisonettes which have a superset garage block. There are 5 garages, one for each maisonette and one which was to be for a bungalow. The freeholder sold the land for the bungalow many years ago but not the garage which was left empty. I have been using the garage for over 12 years. Can I make a claim on it?

Our Response:
When an applicant take possession of land subject to a lease then the time period required is deemed to run against the tenant but not the landlord. Time does not begin running against the landlord until the expiry of the lease, unless the applicant went into possession before the lease was created. As you can see here , it's a little more complicated than standard procedure, so you will need to seek additional professional legal advice.
UnclaimedFinances - 18-Jul-17 @ 10:47 AM
I live in a block of 4 leasehold maisonettes which have a superset garage block. There are 5 garages, one for each maisonette and one which was to be for a bungalow. The freeholder sold the land for the bungalow many years ago but not the garage which was left empty. I have been using the garage for over 12 years. Can I make a claim on it?
Joner - 17-Jul-17 @ 1:34 PM
Curious - Your Question:
There's an old overgrown boarded up house which has been in this condition for the last 10 years at least. We have checked land registry and the house was purchased over 40 years ago however it's obvious it's not lived in and in such a state of disrepair at present, how do we go about enquiring or looking into buying the house? Who do we contact?

Our Response:
You would have to contact Land Registry to find out who owns the house and see if you can locate/approach the owner directly.
UnclaimedFinances - 3-Jul-17 @ 11:59 AM
There's an old overgrown boarded up house which has been in this condition for the last 10 years at least. We have checked land registry and the house was purchased over 40 years ago however it's obvious it's not lived in and in such a state of disrepair at present, how do we go about enquiring or looking into buying the house? Who do we contact?
Curious - 2-Jul-17 @ 7:37 PM
K - Your Question:
I have seen a property near where I live house looks like nobody lives there;the grass is untamed the Windows are boarded up.I have looked online to see if there is any information about the house but nothing comes up the house doesn't even have a door number or look like it is loved in

Our Response:
The house may look empty and may be boarded up, but it still may be owned by someone. If you attempt to take over the property as your own, you may find yourself in trouble with the law. Squatting in residential buildings (like a house or flat) is illegal. It can lead to six months in prison, a £5,000 fine or both, please see link here .
UnclaimedFinances - 30-Jun-17 @ 2:17 PM
I have seen a property near where I live house looks like nobody lives there;the grass is untamed the Windows are boardedup.I have looked online to see if there is any information about the house but nothing comes up the house doesn't even have a door number or look like it is loved in
K - 29-Jun-17 @ 10:52 PM
Barney - Your Question:
Iv come across an empty house.its in a state of repair.windowd boarded up.garden badly over grown.iv lived near by for 3 years and this house stands empty mabe longer.how do i.go about trying to claim it.any advise.

Our Response:
In addition to the information in the article you can see more about adverse possession via the link here. However, if you intend to take over or live in the house, then you could be prosecuted for squatting, please see link here.
UnclaimedFinances - 27-Jun-17 @ 3:30 PM
Iv come across an empty house.its in a state of repair.windowd boarded up.garden badly over grown.iv lived near by for 3 years and this house stands empty mabe longer.how do i.go about trying to claim it.any advise.
Barney - 27-Jun-17 @ 9:28 AM
We have lived in this village for 15 years ever since then the bit of land running along the side of the house we now own (only brought 3 years ago) has been fenced and bushed off we were sold the house as it was with the land being part of house since then we have found out its unclaimed. Can we claim this or does it make it ours as it was sold like this to us
Dan - 1-Jun-17 @ 9:10 PM
Hi, We have a strip of land to the side of our house,50'years ago Laing homes sent the transfer document to the council but they never completed the transfer,subsequently Laing homes are no longer trading and the transfer document has never been completed,can we legally fence this land off in a view to claiming the land in 10 years
nickb - 1-Jun-17 @ 6:39 PM
Ronnieson - Your Question:
Abandonded Gypsy Transit Site - I've stumbled across a derelict gypsy transit site in my area. Due to complaints from local residents back in 2004 the site was closed and the entrance filled with concrete to prevent access. It's been like this for the last 13 years. I know it's owned by the council but was wondering what the likelihood of being able to require this land for business purposes would be? Also it measures approx 18m x 65m I was wondering if anyone would have a rough guesstimate on what it might be worth.

Our Response:
I'm not quite sure what you are asking here. The land belongs to the council. If you want to buy the land, then you should approach the council to see if they wish to sell. You have no possible grounds to be able to claim the land as your own through adverse possession.
UnclaimedFinances - 26-May-17 @ 1:56 PM
Abandonded Gypsy Transit Site - I've stumbled across a derelict gypsy transit site in my area. Due to complaints from local residents back in 2004 the site was closed and the entrance filled with concrete to prevent access. It's been like this for the last 13 years. I know it's owned by the council but was wondering what the likelihood of being able to require this land for business purposes would be? Also it measures approx 18m x 65m i was wondering if anyone would have a rough guesstimate on what it might be worth.
Ronnieson - 26-May-17 @ 11:33 AM
Gaffer - Your Question:
I have used and maintained a strip of land next to my property for 20 years. it is Highway,s agency owned, and It is merely a wooded buffer between a highway and adjacent residential /agricultural land. I have gated, fenced and made use of this land and I am able to demonstrate this. Am I eligible to obtain ownership through adverse possession?

Our Response:
If the land is registered as part of the public highway, then you may find the Land Registry will reject the claim. Applications are sometimes received in respect of such land. However, the application will not be accepted to the extent it includes land which is highway maintainable at the public expense. It is quite rare for highway land not to be maintainable at the public expense. Where this is the case, however, an application can be accepted only where the facts relied on do not indicate there has been an obstruction to the highway which may be in breach of the criminal law, please see gov.uk link herein section 4. Therefore, in order to find out, you should contact Land Registry.
UnclaimedFinances - 18-May-17 @ 10:03 AM
I have used and maintained a strip of land next to my property for 20 years. it is Highway,s agency owned, and It is merely a wooded buffer between a highway and adjacent residential /agricultural land. I have gated, fenced and made use of this land and I am able to demonstrate this. Am I eligible to obtain ownership through adverse possession?
Gaffer - 17-May-17 @ 5:12 AM
Hi I have found the house that noone lived there for years. Land registry didn't have any title deeds for that estate so I send SIM request. Outcome: No registered estate Next I have checked again on land registry website and this time I was able to purchas title deeds which say that title possessory is: proprietor "person name" executrix of "name" deceased. What does all that mean and can I still try to acquire the property?? Is yes what are the first steps I could do?? Thanks
Mike - 1-Apr-17 @ 11:24 PM
Hi There is a triangle of land near our property that we have parked on for over 30 years.My husband, 20 years ago, laid road material on the land for easier parking.We live in a very small rural area with only a few houses and some of our newer neighbours park on the land.If a search reveals that this is not owned by anyone would we be able to claim it?
Lynne - 29-Mar-17 @ 1:58 PM
A friend of mine rents a bungalow with a driveway, the neighbours say that that have access across the first piece of drive to pull into their garden, which they only extended when they knew new people were moving in.It doesn't say anything in their deeds about access or does the landlords. It's apparently free land.
Nick - 28-Mar-17 @ 11:34 AM
I wonder if you can help. my Grandmother died last June and the property has not yet been reclaimed by the council. Is it possible for me to move into the property?
Bouquet - 10-Mar-17 @ 5:33 PM
@Wayne - you could try but the rest of your neighbours might have something to complain about. It's easier though if you have a situation were they wouldn't notice.
Ash - 8-Mar-17 @ 12:29 PM
I am currently looking at buying a property which is a semi detached house, there is land on the side & back of this house beyond its borders which isn't used and doesn't block access to the next street behind the house. If I were to purchase the house and then fence round this land adding to the back garden and creating a larger front & back garden and new side garden could I then claim this land and is that then a 12 year process before legally mine? Thanks
Wayne - 7-Mar-17 @ 2:50 PM
jennas - Your Question:
Hi I have found a property that has now been abandoned. the person that owned the property died in 1986 with no will or probate - her brother was living there until a month agao sadly he passed away but was never registered as an owner anyway. The property has been boarded up by police because of squatters but if I was to fence the property off and do as requested for possession eg pics and signed letters, could I still gain adverse possession, as I would also start works immediately.

Our Response:
It's a risky move. Squatting in residential buildings is illegal as is any damage to the property, please see link here.
UnclaimedFinances - 2-Mar-17 @ 11:36 AM
Dave - Your Question:
@joe. No we havent been squatting there as that is illegal but we have been doing the upkeep of the grounds and claiming money from the government for the 5 acers which is called single farm payment on it for the last 16 years as the house is registered with the land surly they would both go together? No? I have no doubt that I have clam for the land as we practically own it anyway just not on the deeds. Any thoughts?

Our Response:
You would have to seek professional legal advice regarding this in order to explore your options. However, judging by the terms of which you have taken over this land, you would stand a chance of being able to claim the house also.
UnclaimedFinances - 1-Mar-17 @ 2:50 PM
Hi I have found a property that has now been abandoned. the person that owned the property died in 1986 with no will or probate - her brother was living there until a month agao sadly he passed away but was never registered as an owner anyway.. The property has been boarded up by police because of squatters but if i was to fence the property off and do as requested for possession eg pics and signed letters, could i still gain adverse possession, as i would also start works immediately.
jennas - 1-Mar-17 @ 12:37 PM
@joe. No we havent been squatting there as that is illegal but we have been doing the upkeep of the grounds and claiming money from the government for the 5 acers which is called single farm payment on it for the last 16 years as the house is registered with the land surly they would both go together? No? I have no doubt that i have clam for the land as we practically own it anyway just not on the deeds. Any thoughts?
Dave - 1-Mar-17 @ 9:22 AM
@Dave - have you been squatting in the house or have you laid possession to it? If you haven't, then no.
Joe - 28-Feb-17 @ 11:52 AM
Hi there is a plot of land near my house in which we have been farming for 30+ years with no rent being payed the plot is 5 acers. With the 5 acers is a house. The property was last sold in 1994 and has been empty ever since. Seeing as we have been keeping up the 5 acers are we entitled to claim the house as well or just the 5 acers? Thanks
Dave - 27-Feb-17 @ 5:03 PM
Craig7 - Your Question:
Hi I have been watching a house in my street for the past 7 years nobody has gone in or out. I am thinking about taking adverse possession. But doors are locked.and garden is over grown.what would be the best way to enter property. Also how would I need to prove the possession of 10-12 years.

Our Response:
Adverse possession is based on the premise that if a legal owner of land fails to evict a squatter from their land, then the rights over that land will be lost. A long-term squatter can become the registered owner of property or land they’ve occupied without the owner’s permission. However, in order to establish possession over the land, you would have to show a 'physical' control over the house for a continuous period of 10 years (12 years if it’s not registered with Land Registry). However, at the same time squatting in residential buildings (like a house or flat) is considered illegal. It can lead to six months in prison, a £5,000 fine or both. Successful adverse possession of land usually takes place when the landowner is unaware of the possession has taken place (generally adjacent land to the property) and is less obvious, so to speak if the land has already been neglected or is unregistered. Please be aware that squatting is less conspicuous and much more risky, please see link here .
UnclaimedFinances - 22-Feb-17 @ 10:41 AM
Hi i have been watching a house in my street for the past 7 years nobody has gone in or out. I am thinking abouttaking adverse possession.But doors are locked .and garden is over grown .what would be the best way to enter property.Also how would i need to prove the possessionof 10-12 years.
Craig7 - 21-Feb-17 @ 11:46 AM
Mick - Your Question:
I am wondering where we stand. Our neighbouring nextdoor house was owned by a gentle man who was beginning to do it up to sell. Himself and ourselves discussed a price for us to buy the property without completing the work so me and my partner could knock it through and extend our house. He gave us the keys and last we heard he passed away due to his illness and for 2 years no one has visited the property. How do we find out who is dealing with the property and do we have any legal rights on the property. Regards

Our Response:
Please see gov.uk link here. With regards to whether you have any rights over the property, please also see link here.
UnclaimedFinances - 10-Jan-17 @ 12:39 PM
I am wondering where we stand. Our neighbouring nextdoor house was owned by a gentle man who was beginning to do it up to sell. Himself and ourselves discussed a price for us to buy the property without completing the work so me and my partner could knock it through and extend our house. He gave us the keys and last we heard he passed away due to his illness and for 2 years no one has visited the property. How do we find out who is dealing with the property and do we have any legal rights on the property. Regards
Mick - 9-Jan-17 @ 5:56 PM
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