Lost or Mislaid House Deeds


As at 2022 the percentage of properties that are registered with the Land Registry exceeds 88%. However, this means that almost 12% of properties are unregistered. The majority of unregistered properties are owned by elderly people, because they purchased their properties prior to compulsory registration.

The problem with this is that elderly people are more likely to forget where their Deeds are or may not even know, e.g. where their pre-deceased spouse kept the Deeds and never passed this information on. This means that when they wish to sell the property they or rather their solicitors, are unable to deduce title to their property and this will prevent the sale from proceeding.

The purpose of this article is to explain the importance of finding your Deeds, what steps you need to take to discover their whereabouts, what to do if you cannot find them, and how this will affect your ownership and sale of the property.

Importance of Finding Your Deeds

It is essential that you take whatever time is required in unearthing the house deeds. If you are unable to do so the only remedy open to your solicitors is to apply to the Land Registry for registration of a Possessory Title. This is an inferior type of ownership and will certainly have an impact on the sale of your property or its transfer to one of your heirs.

Steps to Discover where the House Deeds are

An important preliminary step is to check to see if the property is already registered. If it is then the matter is quickly resolved by purchasing the Title Register and Title Plan, which will usually be provided to you by email within an hour of placing your order. Registration means that the large bundle of House Deeds are not required, and in any event they are likely to have been destroyed by the Land Registry, they being superfluous to proving ownership, which may explain why you can’t find them.

Where the property is not registered you should continue with your efforts to find them. It is helpful to know what they look like. In most cases there will be a large number of legal documents, such as conveyances, transfers, leases, deeds of declaration, deeds of easement, epitomies of title, abstracts of title, official searches, local land charge searches, etc. The bundle of Deeds are quite often 2-4 inches thick and may be loosely filed in a large folder or box. The documents may be a mixture of typewritten and handwritten documents, often very old, and of various paper sizes such as foolscap and quarto. Some of the Deeds will be very long, written in ink on large sheets of parchment and folded into foolscap size.

They are usually disorganised, loose and temptingly easy to dispose of.

The first place to look is your own house, with the attic or cellar being the first place to look. As they are often loose and untidy looking they may have been kept in a plastic bag, box, folders, etc. Most people do understand their importance and will have chosen a safe place to keep them that does not interfere with the tidiness of their home.

The next step would be to check with your solicitors to see if you have asked them to file them in their offices for safe-keeping.

And then your bank and former mortgagee.

You should remember that it is extremely unlikely that the Deeds will have been lost, and more likely that their filing place has been overlooked, and accordingly it is worth every effort to find them.

You should also check with your children and other relatives to see if they have been asked to store them.

Some people store Deeds in safety deposit boxes and you should therefore extend your search to include a receipt for the same.

What to Do if you Still Cannot Find Your House Deeds

If, despite all your efforts, you are still unable to trace your House Deeds you should gather together the following documents:

  • Photocopies or draft copies of any of the Deeds, no matter the condition.
  • As many of the old mortgage statements you can, going back as far as possible, particularly the annual statements.
  • Bank statements containing your name and address, again as far back as possible.
  • Council tax receipts for the address concerned, as far back as possible.
  • Utility bills containing the address concerned, as far back as possible.
  • The names and addresses of neighbours who have lived near to you and would be prepared to sign a Statement of Truth relating to their knowledge of your ownership.

You should then make an appointment with your solicitors or conveyancers, taking the above documents with you, and should ask them to apply to the Land Registry for a voluntary registration and obtain the best Title that they can.

Possessory Title

The most likely outcome of your failing to find the Deeds is obtaining a Possessory Title from the Land Registry. There are 3 Classes of Registered Titles, namely Absolute Titles (the best), Possessory Titles and Qualified Titles. If you have enough supporting documentation and evidential documents such as statements of truth, the Land Registry may provide you with an Absolute Title. This should be your aim.

A Possessory Title can be upgraded to an Absolute Title if the Deeds subsequently come to light, or at the expiration of 12 years, but this will require a further application to the Land Registry.

Err on the Side of Caution

From the enquiries I have seen there are a substantial number of people who are unable to find their House Deeds. If your property is unregistered and you know where your Deeds are, a prudent step to take would be to ask your solicitors to apply for voluntary registration. Once a property is registered you can obtain a copy of your ownership documents at any time and receive them by email the same day. Official Copies of the Title Register and Title Plan are absolute evidence of your ownership and this cannot be challenged.

Even Deeds lodged at a bank or solicitors office can be destroyed by fire or flood, so why take the chance, when registration is lose-proof?

Our Lost Deeds Search includes an application for the Title Register and Title Plan and a Search against the Land Registry Index Map, which will state if the property has been registered under a different property Title, as it may be, if it was originally registered as part of a group of properties. It will also state if there is a Caution Title registered by someone else claiming to have an interest in your property. This would put you on an immediate alert to contact the Land Registry and to challenge the Caution Title.

Lost Deeds Search

The situation often arises where the ownership deeds are lost, mislaid or destroyed by fire. If the property is registered we can obtain copies for you, usually within the hour, so this is not a problem.


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Title Register

The Land Registry Title Register holds data relating to the property ownership, purchase price, mortgage, tenure, covenants, rights of way, leases and class of title.


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Lease & Lease Plans

The Lease and its Lease Plan usually form one document and are both provided for the one fee. They are very useful in resolving disputes, particularly with car parking and other shared areas.


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