Land Registry plans
New leases registered with the Land Registry must be accompanied by an approved plan. And it's not as simple as it sounds, says Karen French
The Land Registration Act 2002, which came into force on 13 October 2003, has had far-reaching implications for landlords, tenants and businesses occupying properties under private and commercial leases.
One of the major changes is that it is now necessary, on registration of new leases, to submit a plan clearly identifying the extent of the property. These plans may be based on Ordnance Survey (OS) mapping, or if not, must show clearly the relationship to the OS plan. There has been a significant increase in the registration of leases under the new Act as all new leases with terms over seven years or existing leases sold or granted with seven years left to run have to be registered with the Land Registry.
A new plan may be necessary when dealing with part of an existing registered title, unless it can be clearly identified by reference to the existing plan. This will bring many more retail units and commercial properties on to the Register.
When preparing any type of plan, be it a topographic survey or measured building plans (or sometimes both), for registration with the Land Registry there are a number of pitfalls that must be avoided.
- The plan must be drawn to scale, with the scale stated on the face of the plan and it must show its orientation, ie, have a north point. It is usual to have plans drawn at either 1:100 or 1:200 scale with a site location plan at either 1:1,250 (urban) or 1:2,500 (rural), taken from OS mapping.
- The plan must show sufficient detail to enable the land in the lease (including any garage, bin store or garden) to be identified on the Ordnance Survey map and, where appropriate, the landlord's title plan.
- The property must be clearly identified by suitable colouring so as not to obscure any other detail on the plan.
Any plans submitted to the Land Registry (LR) must not be photocopied or reduced so, with the aid of modern computer software packages, it is very easy to plot an electronic survey at any given scale, over and over again, with each plot being an original.
The plan must be produced from original survey data and not be a coloured copy or black and white photocopy that has been coloured. With modern technology, it is now possible to produce survey drawings in a multitude of colours that avoids the need for thick lines that extend and obliterate the detail of the boundary. The two examples below show the difference between the accepted (1) and the unaccepted (2).
All plans must be up to date and cover all the area necessary for registration. The plans must also contain a scale and a north point. The plan must not be marked 'for identification purposes only' or 'not to scale'. It is also necessary to show details of the surrounding properties so that the plan can be related to the Ordnance Survey.
It is possible to provide a plan based purely on original Ordnance Survey mapping but this will only be acceptable if all the necessary information is identified on the mapping.
The plan can show dimensions which must be clear and these should be in metric units to two decimal places only.
For lease plans of premises above ground floor level, it is necessary to indicate on the lease plan the means of access, indicating staircases, access ways and pathways which lead up from a public highway to the floor in question. It is also necessary to show areas set aside for dustbins, car parking, gardens and external staircases. The plan must identify the external boundaries of the property as well as its specific location. This will require the services of a professional surveyor to prepare the detailed survey plans required.
If a new survey drawing has been prepared for registration purposes, the information which will have been surveyed at a relatively large scale, say 1:200, will be shown on the registered title plan. These are based on OS mapping at either 1:1,250 scale or 1:2,500 scale. The original large scale plan will remain with the documentation should it be needed in the future, but it is also wise for the new owner or occupier to also retain a copy.
It will be this large scale drawing and not the information shown on the registered title plan that would need to be used for any alterations to the lease or any potential dispute. This is why it is important to survey both the interior and exterior areas of the lease (as below), although most boundary disputes are likely to relate to the external areas.
If there is a new lease being created and this involves boundary walls, fences or hedges it is also a good idea (if possible) to use the new plan to identify the ownership and responsibility of boundary features to avoid future confusion.
The lines shown on OS mapping represent physical features, although which ones they are is not specified and such maps are not intended to be scaled from with measurements taken from them being considered accurate to 1m at best. LR plans are for identification only and this is underlined by the General Boundaries Rule which describes how a line on a LR Title Plan can represent a hedge, ditch, wall or fence or any part thereof or be parallel to the legal boundary.
There are numerous other advantages to having a topographic survey or measured building survey carried out. With respect to leases, it is possible to provide area calculations very quickly, which can be invaluable, as well as design layouts for office furniture etc. Plans are also required by the Land Registry when registering new homes or business developments.
The Land Registry prepares guidelines that can help anyone through the necessary requirements, and these can be found on their website, www.landreg.gov.uk, but even with this information, the best way of producing the correct plans first time round is to engage the services of a professional to carry out the work.
Employing a professional to assist with any form of work provides a confidence in the quality of the product being offered and the level of service provided.
In the field of lease plans it is also important to employ a surveyor who is competent, trained, is a member of a professional body such as the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors and is experienced in preparing accurate lease plans to the standards required by the Land Registry.
Employing a professional means that the customer can be safe in the knowledge that the product they are being sold or that advice being given is best for the customer.