Leasehold property is special in that the lease under which the property is held sometimes contains provisions requiring the death certificate, probate or letters of administration and a copy of any transfer of lease to a beneficiary, to be registered with (that is, produced to), the landlord within specified time limits so that the landlord is kept aware of the identity of his tenant and a fee to be paid to the landlord for the landlord’s trouble. In theory failure to register the document with the landlord could result in loss of the lease so the matter should not be overlooked.
When transferring leasehold property care must also be taken to check whether or not there are any outstanding liabilities such as arrears of ground rent or dilapidations under the lease, and preference should be made to the will to decide who should bear them. A personal representative transferring leasehold property to a beneficiary should ensure that the transfer deed contains provision by the beneficiary to indemnify the personal representative against existing and future dilapidations in respect of the property and to observe and perform the terms of the lease in the future.
Properties have either a registered title or an unregistered title and if the title is not already registered it is necessary to register it whenever a change of ownership takes place, unless the property is leasehold and there is less than seven years before the lease expires.
A registered title is one which has been investigated by the Land Registry and in respect of which the Land Registry has issued one of the following title documents: a Title Information Document or a Land Certificate, or a Charge Certificate. Such documents certify and guarantee the quality and details if the title as at the time they were issued.
If there is no such document with the title documents, it is virtually certain that the title is an unregistered one, but the position must be checked by submitting a search of the Index Map to the relevant district land registry. The fee for a search is currently £5 unless more than five titles are involved, in which case the current fee is a further £3 for each additional ten titles. In the case of an exceptionally large area of land the Registry can charge an additional fee to reflect the amount of work involved.
The search can be made by post on Land Registry form number SIM.
Land Registry forms and a note of relevant Land Registry fees can be obtained from the district land registry, from a Law Stationer, or downloaded for private use from the website www.landregistry.gov.uk. Helpful guides for the public are published on the website and the district land registries have an enquiries office that can be contacted by telephone and is able to answer questions and give assistance and advice regarding land registry requirements and procedures. The name and address of the relevant district land registry can be obtained from the Land Registry website.
On the death of a joint proprietor of land, if the title has never been registered with the Land Registry and one of the joint owner is still living, all that is necessary for the personal representative or surviving joint owner to do is to place a registrar’s copy of the death certificate with the deeds.
If the title has previously been registered in joint names, one the death of one of the registered owners, it is necessary to complete and send Land Registry form DJP, accompanied by a registrar’s copy of the death certificate of official copy of the grant of representation to the estate to the district land registry where the title is registered and quote the title number so that the death can be noted on the registers of the title. No fee is payable.
In any other case, unless the property is leasehold with less than seven years of the lease unexpired or the personal representatives sell the property and transfer it directly to the purchaser, giving the proceeds to the beneficiary entitled to inherit it (which is the cheaper and quicker course), it will be necessary to prepare a transfer of the property to the beneficiary entitled on the death (or to the trustees of the trust is a trust comes into existence as a result of the death).