Can I Claim Free Land in the UK?
Looking for some free land in the UK that you can claim as your own? There are plenty of advertisements in the press and on the Internet that will attest you can easily claim free land but most of these are misleading and are basically out to take your money by means of a confidence trick. It’s true that there is a lot of unregistered land in the UK but this does not necessarily mean that the land does not belong to someone.
In fact, all land belongs to someone even if that someone is the Crown, the Church, ancient family landowners or the government. Large tracts of land in the UK remain unregistered and there are some pieces of land that are legally registered but the owner is not contactable. In this article, we will look at some of the issues surrounding so-called ‘free land’, how to find out about land registration and what rights are involved if you want to try and claim ownership of a tract of land for free.
Unregistered Land In The UK
Statistics show that around 15% of the land in the UK is still unregistered. Simply put, this means if you contact the Land Registry about a particular piece of land they will be able to confirm if it is not registered to an owner. Approximately 5.2 million acres of UK land is not registered and this includes small gardens and large estates. Although not registered, much of this land is legally owned and the owners or their representatives will hold a paper deed showing legal ownership.
Much of the unregistered land in the UK is rural and has been passed down for generations by old established families. Some unregistered land is owned by large institutions like the Church. Until 1990 it was not compulsory to register land but any land that has changed hands since that date will be registered.
Typically, unregistered land has never changed hands for generations so registration never happened. This can cause difficulties for the authorities who may want to proceed with local developments but are unable to locate an owner. The Land Registry is trying to get all land registered by 2030 but is finding this difficult to achieve.
Claiming Free Land FAQ
Is It Legal To Claim Free Land In The UK?
Yes it is perfectly legal to take possession of some unused land and after the required period to put in a claim of ownership. After 10 years of working the land you can make a claim to the Land Registry. If there is no objection from any owner after a further 2 year period you will become the registered owner of the land.
What Are Squatters Rights?
Squatting in residential buildings is illegal but taking possession of land or a non residential building is not a crime but it a civil matter. Long term possession of land by a squatter conveys rights to possession if the owner does not place an objection. A squatter must be on the land without permission from the owner so if rent has been paid the rights are void.
How Much Land In The UK Is Unregistered?
It has been estimated that around 15% of land in the UK is not registered but the land is still owned by someone. Large estates that have been passed down by old families make up a considerable amount of the unregistered land. Some is owned by the Crown and some by the Church. Any land that has changed hands since 1990 will now be registered.
Searching Out Free Land In The UK
A piece of land may look neglected or abandoned but this is not always the case. If you see a vacant property sitting on a piece of land you may make the assumption that it is abandoned but in order to find out the status of the land, you will need to undertake some investigation before contacting the Land Registry.
Make enquiries through the nearest neighbours who have land adjoining the plot. Many will have lived there for years and could help with information about the current or previous owner. Good sources of information are pubs and post offices or the local village shop.
How To Find Out If Land Is Registered
A request to the Land Registry will confirm whether or not a piece of land has a registered owner. If it is registered you can get a lot of information through this type of enquiry including finding out who owns the property. It costs £3 for a title register, £3 for a title plan and £10.80 if you want details of any flooding risk.
The title register shows the title number, the name of the owner of the property, the amount the owner paid for the land and any public rights of way. It will also show if there is a current mortgage or other charges on the land. The title plan is a map showing the location of the land and the general boundaries. The flood risk indicator shows how likely is the chance of flooding on the land.
The Law Of Adverse Possession
The law of Adverse Possession states that you can take possession without permission of the owner of a piece of land or property. If you take continuous possession for 12 years with no interruption you can apply to the Land Registry to claim legal title to the land. During the 12 year period, you can use the land and this helps to establish continuous squatter’s rights.
However, if the land is registered and the owner is traced during the period of adverse possession it will not affect the owner’s title and you may well be evicted. The matter of adverse possession is very complex and there is a lot of information on the gov.uk website.
How Long Does It Take To Claim Free Land?
The normal time frame for claiming free land is 12 years. If you take possession and use the land for 10 years you can make an application to be registered as the owner under the adverse possession law. An application may be opposed by the legal owner and could be simply rejected.
If there is no opposition and you stay on the land for a further 2 years you can reapply for the title and will become the registered owner of the land.
Can I Work Free Land?
It takes many years to become the legal owner of free land but you can start to work the land as soon as you have taken possession. If you have found a piece of land that is unregistered and you want to start down the legal path to claiming that land it is a good idea to carry out some work. This helps to prove your continuous possession after the 10 year time period needed before you can make your first claim.