Home > FAQs > The Facts on Unclaimed Land and Property in the UK

The Facts on Unclaimed Land and Property in the UK

By: Garry Crystal - Updated: 20 Nov 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]
Boyce - Your Question:
There is a house next door to my mates it has a bk garden that hasn't been touched for about 15 years and no1 has stayed in the house for over 15 years I was told the woman had moved to Australia but she still pays the window cleaner for the last 15 years how can I buy this house the house is in scotland

Our Response:
You can see more information via the Land Registry link here. If the house is still under ownership, you would have to contact the owner directly and request if the owner would like to sell the house.
UnclaimedFinances - 20-Nov-17 @ 2:52 PM
There is a house next door to my mates it has a bk garden that hasn't been touched for about 15 years and no1 has stayed in the house for over 15 years i was told the woman had moved to Australia but she still pays the window cleaner for the last 15 yearshow can i buy this housethe house is in scotland
Boyce - 20-Nov-17 @ 2:38 AM
LINDA - Your Question:
If land has no owner can you claim it and build on it for your own use?We have searched the land registry no owner. Have been told there was a general store on it years ago, the owners died and store pulled down eventually. No relatives could be found. We are buying the property next door and want to build a cottage on unclaimed land and the rest of the unclaimed land and land next to it convert into a working walled kitchen garden.Is this possible.

Our Response:
As specified in the article, there can be legal consequences for anyone who decides to simply occupy an abandoned plot of land or property, so you would be taking a risk. As further stated; 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.
UnclaimedFinances - 16-Nov-17 @ 12:00 PM
If land has no owner can you claim it and build on it for your own use? We have searched the land registry no owner. Have been told there was a general store on it years ago, the owners died and store pulled down eventually. No relatives could be found. We are buying the property next door and want to build a cottage on unclaimed land and the rest of the unclaimed land and land next to it convert into a working walled kitchen garden. Is this possible.
LINDA - 15-Nov-17 @ 12:08 AM
@Mentalist - you can't claim adverse possession if you're not currently living in the property.
CaS - 14-Nov-17 @ 2:32 PM
Hi, if I occupied a property for 12 years and then moved out of the property in 2012 when the law changed to being illegal to squat in a property. Do I still have the right to claim adverse possession on the property and what would be classed as proof of living there for this time?
Mentalist - 13-Nov-17 @ 9:33 PM
@Marko - you'd have to be in the place or have taken over the land for 12 years. The chances of success are pretty remote
Jessie - 6-Nov-17 @ 4:08 PM
Do you have to be UK Citezen to claim adverse possession?
Marko - 6-Nov-17 @ 2:54 PM
Ionut - Your Question:
HiI found a house today and nobody lives there , what I have to do to get the legal right to live there ?!?!?

Our Response:
You cannot take over a house just because no one lives in the house. As specified in the article, it is not easy to gain 'adverse possession' and 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. You can see more via the gov.uk link here . The article also tells you what you should do if you discover an empty property; the first thing is to check whether the property is legally owned.
UnclaimedFinances - 2-Nov-17 @ 10:14 AM
Hi I found a house today and nobody lives there , what i have to do to get the legal right to live there ?!?!?
Ionut - 1-Nov-17 @ 7:24 PM
D - Your Question:
There is an abandoned bungalow near me that has been uninhabited for 6 years, broken windows and fire damage. I would like to renovate this property to live in. No one legally owns it, however I can not move into it in the state it is. How could I gain ownership of this property?

Our Response:
If you enter the property without permission with the aim to live there, then you are affectively 'squatting', please see link here. If you are found and reported, then you could face legal action and a fine.
UnclaimedFinances - 31-Oct-17 @ 11:27 AM
There is an abandoned bungalow near me that has been uninhabited for 6 years, broken windows and fire damage. I would like to renovate this property to live in. No one legally owns it, however I can not move into it in the state it is. How could I gain ownership of this property?
D - 30-Oct-17 @ 11:37 AM
Lou - Your Question:
I am looking at trying to take over a single story derelict building (old shop) it has been empty for over 20 years. I have tried contacting the local council who told me the owner moved to Hong Kong. I have tried the land registry and the building doesn't even have an address anymore. Since enquiring with the council I have learned that they have been asking local business who owns it to know avail. How can I gain this property legally to transform it back to a working business( it needs a lot of time and money spent!)

Our Response:
You would have to keep in mind that if you took the building over without local authority permission, you would be squatting, please see link here .
UnclaimedFinances - 20-Oct-17 @ 11:55 AM
I am looking at trying to take over a single story derelict building (old shop) it has been empty for over 20 years. I have tried contacting the local council who told me the owner moved to Hong Kong. I have tried the land registry and the building doesn't even have an address anymore. Since enquiring with the council I have learned that they have been asking local business who owns it to know avail. How can I gain this property legally to transform it back to a working business( it needs a lot of time and money spent!)
Lou - 19-Oct-17 @ 10:42 AM
Pj - Your Question:
I know an old place where im from maybee used to be a farm house, been abbandoned for at least 12 years. If this place is un registered, could it be claimed? If so would it take ten years?

Our Response:
You can apply via adverse possession if you can prove you have occupied the property continuously for 10 years (12 years if it’s not registered with HM Land Registry). However,in order to do this you would have to take over the property and live there, which is effectively squatting. 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 - 11-Sep-17 @ 11:08 AM
I know an old place where im from maybee used to be a farm house, been abbandoned for at least 12 years. If this place is un registered, could it be claimed? If so would it take ten years?
Pj - 10-Sep-17 @ 1:29 AM
I currently own an end terrace that used to be a mid terrace. The old end terraced was pulled down many years ago and the land now shown as unclaimed on land registry. Im now wanting to claim the land as mine so I can put up a fence and stop fly tipping that happens there. I've been in my property for four years now and Im wondering if I can register the land and claim ownership before shelling out on a fence? Any help?
Scott - 16-Aug-17 @ 7:51 AM
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
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