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The Facts on Unclaimed Land and Property in the UK

By: Garry Crystal - Updated: 1 Oct 2019 | 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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Property next door been vacant for 25yaers now. Contacted the owner 3 times he doesn’t seem interested in selling. Needs maintenance and the garden is over grown. No one ever visits. Can I legally take over this property?
Dazzler. - 1-Oct-19 @ 11:05 AM
Can some one help me there's some land what's been in the same state for years and years how do I find out if it's registered or not iv researched no end and still a year in I'm not getting any infiy Thank you
Laura - 22-Sep-19 @ 9:10 PM
hi,the house next door has been left vacant for over three years ,furniture still inside ,the owner has moved away.the house is in very bad state of decay,front and rear gardens very over grown with brambles intruding into property through broken windows ,rats have been seen inside the house .the council is aware of the property being abandoned by the owner ,after searching for her they eventually found her but at first she denyed living there ,after visits from the council and police she admitted that she owned and lived there up until abandoning it,she state to the price that she has no intention of returning to the property, is there any way we can claim this property?.
jabbawocky - 21-Sep-19 @ 9:12 AM
Hello, We have recently had a lovely holiday in wales, we were staying quite literally in the middle of nowhere. Upon our travels we found a long abandoned house, overgrown gardens, boarded up, interior empty with plaster off the walls and floor to the dirt. It looks like it hasn’t been visited in many years except by hikers. I’m interested to know the best process towards investigating ownership, purchasing or claiming the property for renovation. Many thanks.
Kealos - 4-Sep-19 @ 11:51 PM
Hi My husband and I bought an old three-storey town house in a small town in Wales, 12 years ago.The land directly behind is neglected, covered in weeds etc.The council do not maintain it (although they prune the shrubs directly across the road on a similar piece of land).Our garden is down a lane to the side of the house and behind next door!So the land directly behind must have been our garden originally.We have had a solicitor check the deeds and she said it was written in as ours from the time the house was built and later but then just left out of the deeds.Land registry said it is not registered, probably old church land.The council wrote to us to confirm it is not theirs (I wrote to them asking to buy it).We are worried that nosey neighbours will kick up a fuss if we fence it off and start maintaining it but it is an eye-sore, so maybe not.Do you think having taken all these steps so far we can fence it off?
Steph - 30-Aug-19 @ 1:55 PM
Hi, my neighbour in his 60’s has recently abandoned the house next door. He was in his own in the house; we have lived here over 20 years and have never seen anyone else there. He said he was part of a now defunct housing coop, hadn’t paid any rent for years and has now got a nice flat bought with some inheritance. The land registry backs this up but no one from the named coop lives at the address on the registry. The council are not interested in helping and the house is in a really bad state of repair, leaking roof, plus overgrown garden and vermin. We would like to claim it but not sure of the next move. Any advice?
SMO - 24-Jul-19 @ 6:44 PM
There is an abandoned bungalow close to me with a car rotting away in the drive, can I claim this property? And how do I do it ?
Cj - 13-Jul-19 @ 8:19 PM
I found a row of 4 new build houses that have been boarded up and have been empty for at least 4 years how would I go around finding all the relevant information I need to go around rightfully claiming 1 of these properties
Matty - 4-Jul-19 @ 10:31 PM
Hello I have came across a piece of abandoned land,no buildings is on this land it is fenced all around and it has been named so I gather with a name plate on the gate.I would say this land has not been used for many year as the over grown of weeds and trees that is growing,how can one put a claim in abandoned land.
Ned - 27-Jun-19 @ 6:53 AM
My husband bought a flat which is habitable in a building where the other 3 flats are derelict... trees growing, windows broken and missing, garden overgrown, roof in need of repair. It looks like it's been empty for a long time. How can he claim the other 3 flats to restore the building and get the flats into a habitable state.
Happytrees - 1-May-19 @ 3:28 PM
I own a flat in a large house.When I moved in the estate agent details confirmed that part of the garden belonged to the flat and the previous owner of the flat also confirmed this and so since moving in, I have assumed that this was the case and so for the last seventeen years, I have tended and used this section of the garden as if it were my now and none of the other flat owners have questioned my right to do so. Now that I plan to move, the solicitor I have engaged, confirms that the deeds do not include my rights to the garden.I have asked him to apply for copies of the deeds of two of the other owners of flats in the building.Although I am aware that I can gain this information independently, I want him to establish if their sections of the gardens are included. t Some people in the building do not have any garden and I am sure that if they discovered I did not have a right to my part of the garden they would simply begin to use it and this would undermine my sale and inevitably the price of my property. My solicitor says I need to have had sole use of the garden for twenty years and that it is probably in my interests to remain in my property until this time has elapsed, at which point I can apply to the land registry to add the garden to my deeds. This would mean remaining in my property for a further 2.5 years whereas I want to sell now.The articles I have read suggest that for 'unregistered land',twelve year possession is the relevant time period. Can anyone give my advice about this please as I am at my wits end? Thank you!
Janey - 27-Apr-19 @ 7:53 AM
Hiya my partner is street homeless and is struggling to find anywhere without being moved on,hes got a tent and just needs somewhere to put it up without being moved on by police etc, do you have any advice for me please? At the moment hes in some woodland and the police have already been round so expecting a order to be handed to us at some point?!
Kel - 1-Apr-19 @ 7:19 AM
There is some unclaimed land at the back of my parents house which has been there for many years, it is full of bushes and trees and very hidden from anybody apart from me, do you think it would be possible to build some sort of cabin on there if it is unregistered and eventually after 12 years claim it as my own or would I have to fence it off for 12 years before claiming then building? I really think I could get away with having a building there for many years without anybody knowing I'm there and I am in desperate need of ahome
Rustikpix - 19-Mar-19 @ 11:10 PM
We are in the process of purchasing a property with a stone wall at the front boundary which is protected and can't be touched. At the other side of the wall is a small triangle of what can only be discribed as pavement which at is widest is about 3 metres and longest about 2 metres. This small triangle doesn't seem to belong to anyone and the builder has used it as part of the frontage of his plots. My solicitor says we need to find out who owns this triangle before our purchase can go through. We don't want this piece of land as its useless to us and not even within our boundary, the builder has claimed it recently anyway and nobody seems concerned about it. There doesn't seem to be an owner so does anyone know why it would be so important to find the owner of a plot of land at the other side of my boundary wall? It's now to the point where its holding up the house purchase and we can't go forward as the solicitor says they must find out who owns it.
Gee - 7-Mar-19 @ 10:40 AM
My Dad has rented a flat for 20 years and hasn’t paid rent for 16, he was told by the letting agent they haven’t had contact with the landlord for 10 years and they think he is dead, my dad took on the tenancy and after a few years had some maintenance issues, the letting agent had gone along with his deposit, so he stopped paying his rent hoping someone would get in touch, they never have, my Dad has maintained the property and paid the service charge all the time and would like to claim it as his own, I checked the land registry there is nothing there. How can I move on please
Prune - 25-Feb-19 @ 3:23 PM
Hello, The is an abandoned property in a neighbouring street, the neighbours haven't seen the owner for at least 6 years, I have used the Land Registry to contact the registered owner, as have my local council. Either of us have been successfully and our letters are always returned as "Not know at this address". The front garden is now used as a "car park" for the street. Is the anyway I can claim this property, should I involve a solicitor? Many thanks Baz
Baz - 23-Feb-19 @ 10:31 PM
There is a garage next to me be for and has never been used. The garage door was broken down by drug addicts I try to put it back by just placing it back on it and it falls. People secretly now use the garage as dup, I have cleaned it many times and I am tired of seeing it being abandoned. I called my solicitor W she said that the garage belongs to No on the the street, I told the man in Number 1 that the garage belongs to him and he was very angry with me and told me it is not his own and that he has nothing to do with the garage. I feel since I have been cleaning the surrounding and made amendments to the broken fence I should now claim it .
Vicky - 13-Dec-18 @ 8:26 AM
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
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