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 Jun 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]
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
McBride- Your Question:
Hello there - I've seen a house that hasn't been lived in for years - it was an old woman's house when I was growing up but she has passed many years ago.I'm just wondering how I go about enquiring about it as it just going to ruin.

Our Response:
You can enquire who owns the house via the Land Registry. But you would not be able to take the house for yourself, as you will be charged with squatting, please see link here.
UnclaimedFinances - 21-May-18 @ 11:31 AM
Hello there - I've seen a house that hasn't been lived in for years - it was an old woman's house when I was growing up but she has passed many years ago. I'm just wondering how I go about enquiring about it as it just going to ruin.
McBride - 20-May-18 @ 5:10 PM
Tommy - Your Question:
Hi, I moved into a property in September , there was 3 parking spaces and a garage at the end of the garden. 1 space belonged to myself , and my neighbour said she had 2 spaces and a garage. This was all on unclaimed land. The neighbours are never there and now put parking barriers and a fence up. I struggled to get my car in and out if the space they left me. So I ripped their fence up and post creted it in a about 50cm over so I could get my car in. Now they’ve come back and want to move the fence. What rights do I have ? The 12 years is up next month. Are they allowed to put parking barriers up ? Can they Claim if I have been using the space? Also myself and another neighbour have been using their space for around a month as they spend 90% of their time out the country for months at a time.

Our Response:
If you purchased the house recently, was there nothing on the deeds which explained your parking allocation? It seems odd that the land directly in front of your garage (if the garage is yours), isn't also allocated land. However, a solicitor may inform you better what your rights are. Or you could attempt to resolve this through an alternative dispute resolution, please see link here, which will explain more. Adverse possession can work if no one else has rights to the land, or it isn't obstructing anyone else's right of way. But if the land is in multiple use, then a legal resolution would have to be reached.
UnclaimedFinances - 16-Apr-18 @ 11:52 AM
Hi, I moved into a property in September , there was 3 parking spaces and a garage at the end of the garden. 1 space belonged to myself , and my neighbour said she had 2 spaces and a garage. This was all on unclaimed land. The neighbours are never there and now put parking barriers and a fence up. I struggled to get my car in and out if the space they left me. So I ripped their fence up and post creted it in a about 50cm over so I could get my car in. Now they’ve come back and want to move the fence. What rights do I have ? The 12 years is up next month. Are they allowed to put parking barriers up ? Can they Claim if I have been using the space?Also myself and another neighbour have been using their space for around a month as they spend 90% of their time out the country for months at a time.
Tommy - 15-Apr-18 @ 10:42 PM
Shelly - Your Question:
We are buying a property and at the back are three sheds which belong to the property we are buying, the issue is another shop owner has been using the sheds for 20yrs as the property has been on a long lease before hand and the person renting didnt know they where part of her rental agreement. This man said because of this he has a right to own them? Though in the title deeds they are ours , does he have any rights?

Our Response:
If he has been using the shed for more than 10 years, he may have rights through adverse possession, yes. This matter would need to be sorted out via a solicitor and possibly through court.
UnclaimedFinances - 29-Mar-18 @ 10:19 AM
We are buying a property and at the back are three sheds which belong to the property we are buying, the issue is another shop owner has been using the sheds for 20yrs as the property has been on a long lease before hand and the person renting didnt know they where part of her rental agreement. This mansaid because of this he has a right to own them? Though in the title deeds they are ours , does he have any rights?
Shelly - 28-Mar-18 @ 1:37 PM
Littlebird - Your Question:
I’m a tenant with a fantastic relationship with my landlord and outside the back garden is a piece of scrubland which has a supportive embankment at the bottom of it near a busy road. There are random trees and brambles everywhere and people have been known to dump things over there. About 7 years ago we had a gate put into our fence so that I could use the area closest to our property for storing stuff and would love to turn it into a small allotment. The land is too treacherous to build on and is a wierd little triangle of land. Where would we stand in regard to gaining ownership of it?

Our Response:
By law it is not possible to acquire title through adverse possession of land that forms part of a highway. Many roads have a piece of land that divides a home from a road. In fact, as part of 137 Highways Act 1980, it is a criminal offence to attempt to make use of this land. Please also see link here .
UnclaimedFinances - 16-Feb-18 @ 10:32 AM
I’m a tenant with a fantastic relationship with my landlord and outside the back garden is a piece of scrubland which has a supportive embankment at the bottom of it near a busy road. There are random trees and brambles everywhere and people have been known to dump things over there. About 7 years ago we had a gate put into our fence so that I could use the area closest to our property for storing stuff and would love to turn it into a small allotment. The land is too treacherous to build on and is a wierd little triangle of land. Where would we stand in regard to gaining ownership of it?
Littlebird - 15-Feb-18 @ 11:23 AM
Marie- Your Question:
Hi We've found an empty derelict house that isn't coming up on the land registry & when we try it says."It says this when you look, Price Paid/Value Stated Data:n/aSorry, we do not have a record of any titles for this property. This does not necessarily mean that the property is unregistered"There is a tree growing out of the roof & its overgrown. We've found the owners name as it says there is 1 active business from there. But struggling to trace the owner.How would you go about claiming it?As it's just going to waste.There's also an old car sat outside that we've tried to trace but no joy.

Our Response:
It's a tricky situation if the house does not belong to you. However, if you go in to try to claim the property by fencing it off, or beginning work on it, you could be fined. Squatting in residential buildings (like a house or flat) is illegal and can lead to six months in prison, a £5,000 fine or both, please see link here.
UnclaimedFinances - 12-Feb-18 @ 9:57 AM
Hi We've found an empty derelict house that isn't coming up on the land registry & when we try it says... "It says this when you look, Price Paid/Value Stated Data: n/a Sorry, we do not have a record of any titles for this property. This does not necessarily mean that the property is unregistered" There is a tree growing out of the roof & its overgrown. We've found the owners name as it says there is 1 active business from there. But struggling to trace the owner. How would you go about claiming it?As it's just going to waste. There's also an old car sat outside that we've tried to trace but no joy.
Marie - 11-Feb-18 @ 8:24 AM
@Ange - if you have to break into the fenced part of the land, then you are effectively trespassing and can be prosecuted for such. Adverse possession usually relates to land that adjoins your property i.e at the bottom of the garden that has not been claimed by anyone. It's much more difficult to take over a piece of land that you have no real access to.
AmesJ - 5-Feb-18 @ 11:43 AM
There is a bit of land near us, that I know is owned by someone who passed away many years ago. This bit of land is surrounded by the council's land and has been fenced off due to unsafe grounds. Can I claim that land... or go and maintain it? Without trespassing? I don't want to build as grounds are unsafe only use as an allotment.
Ange - 4-Feb-18 @ 8:23 PM
@Tilly - report it to the council or the Land Registry, or even the police.
Mann - 2-Feb-18 @ 3:18 PM
I live in a converted farm outside the front is a small patch of land which has a shared access to my neighbours house. They have now claimed the land and built a wall around it. I have checked the title deeds and neither of us own the land as the boundaries exclude this piece of land. How do I go about getting the land put back to how it was.
Tilly - 30-Jan-18 @ 2:12 AM
Lukey - Your Question:
There is some abandoned garages near where I live, where people have dumped over 10 tonne of rubbish/rubble. I'm guessing there ex council, it's only a small plot 6 garages in total and its a 4 foot high with debree. I've asked the neibouring houses who owns them but they don't know and aren't bothered. How do I go about claiming and cleaning them up? I was going to take adverse possession but I don't want to spend money and time cleaning them up if they could be taken back?

Our Response:
As with all adverse possession, you would have to find who owns the properties and land first. However, whereas in some instances a person can claim adverse possession of land, for instance if the land is attached to your property, it is a little more difficult if to possess land that is not attached to your own land. In order to claim the land, you would have to prove you have taken over the land for 10 years for registered land and 12 years for unregistered land. If you begin to try to possess the land from here on in, then you risk being fined for squatting, please see link here .
UnclaimedFinances - 18-Jan-18 @ 2:10 PM
Sallyx - Your Question:
HiI have moved into a new property. Beyond my garden fence there is land that has weeds beyond 5 meters and tall trees. There is no fence on the land apart ofcourse from my fencing and school end fence and other side other property fence just like mine. No other official ‘fence’. I don’t know plot number to check it, my own postcode? School postcode? They are different so unsure.

Our Response:
Do you have neighbours who have the same situation? You may wish to enquire whether they have looked into this. It is likely there is a reason why your boundary land does not extend into this land, please see link here and here. If there is a school on the other side of the land, it may be owned by the school, but is acting as a privacy boundary so the school is not directly overlooked by residential properties. Therefore, enquiring at the school is also an option.
UnclaimedFinances - 18-Jan-18 @ 10:05 AM
There is some abandoned garages near where I live, where people have dumped over 10 tonne of rubbish/rubble. I'm guessing there ex council, it's only a small plot 6 garages in total and its a 4 foot high with debree. I've asked the neibouring houses who owns them but they don't know and aren't bothered. How do I go about claiming and cleaning them up? I was going to take adverse possession but I don't want to spend money and time cleaning them up if they could be taken back?
Lukey - 17-Jan-18 @ 7:10 PM
Hi I have moved into a new property. Beyond my garden fence there is land that has weeds beyond 5 meters and tall trees. There is no fence on the land apart ofcourse from my fencing and school end fence and other side other property fence just like mine. No other official ‘fence’. I don’t know plot number to check it, my own postcode? School postcode? They are different so unsure.
Sallyx - 17-Jan-18 @ 4:53 PM
I've seen an abandoned hotel near where i live which has been vacated following a small fire on the top floor, the first two floors have been plated over with steel sheeting to prevent trespassers, but there is still access at the back of the property via a fire escape... I've been inside, a couple of times, and apart from a small amount of fire damage on the top floor and the usual junk thats been left, ie: beds, curtains etc, it is still structurally stable... no one has been in there, other then firemen when the fire happened about ten years ago, and building contractors who have literally been round once, to erect steel plating over the doors and windows to prevent access, how would i go about claiming this property?
Alan - 22-Dec-17 @ 8:30 PM
sueky - Your Question:
We have an unadopted lane, no street lighting, not suitable for driving on, adjacent to our property and of which this land was being tipped on. Access down this lane to 2 fields that belong to a golf course. Gated at the top and at the bottom with is now barrier gates, we have keys for these and been used by us for 13 years. The lane is used by ramblers, dog walkers and horse riders. I have contacted the council and as a good will jesture they have removed tipping as they state they cannot find the owner of the lane. My question is I do have access on this lane to drive on on my deeds. Is it possible to actually own this lane?

Our Response:
You cannot claim adverse possession if other people use the lane as a right of way and have been doing so for 20 years or more. The long usage creates a legal right of way. This would come under easement claimed by prescription, please see link here .
UnclaimedFinances - 8-Dec-17 @ 11:07 AM
We have an unadopted lane, no street lighting, not suitable for driving on, adjacent to our property and of which this land was being tipped on. Access down this lane to 2 fields that belong to a golf course. Gated at the top and at the bottom with is now barrier gates, we have keys for these and been used by us for 13 years. The lane is used by ramblers, dog walkers and horse riders. I have contacted the council and as a good will jesture they have removed tipping as they state they cannot find the owner of the lane. My question is I do have access on this lane to drive on on my deeds. Is it possible to actually own this lane?
sueky - 7-Dec-17 @ 11:46 AM
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
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