Solicitor Advice: Drawing up Deeds and Contracts

Solicitor Advice: Drawing up Deeds and Contracts

What is a deed?

A title deed proves ownership of a particular property, a new title deed will be drawn up every time a property changes ownership. You will have heard the term if you have ever purchased a property, your solicitor will need to inspect the deeds thoroughly before the purchase is complete. Then once you have bought your new home the mortgage lender will hold onto the deeds, since they own the property until you have fully repaid your mortgage. 

What is a contract?

A contract is a legally binding document, which is signed by both the purchaser and seller. This contract sets out all the key details and agreements regarding the legal transfer of the property. The purchaser will complete the first section of the contract and then forward this to the vendor – this is the “offer to purchase”. The vendor can then consider the offer and decide whether or not they wish to accept it. If they want to go ahead then they sign the contract and return it to the purchaser. This process will be managed by the parties’ solicitors. 

Transfer Deed:

A Transfer deed (or deed of assignment), is the document that legally transfers the property into the name of the purchaser. The deed is drafted by the buyer’s solicitor and then transferred to the vendor’s solicitor. For the deed to be “executed” it must be signed and delivered in the presence of a witness. The seller’s solicitor will keep the deed until all money has been transferred to cover the purchase – this is called completion. At this point, the deed is lodged at the Land Registry.

Land Registry:

In Northern Ireland we have two types of land – registered and unregistered land. Registered land is dealt with by the Land Registry. The Land Registry is a record of land, houses and properties registered in Northern Ireland. They can help you search for registered land, you will need a postal address, or at the very least a map showing nearby roads and landmarks. Once the land registry has tracked down the property they will be able to tell you who owns the property any rights or charges. 

What happens if land is not registered?

Around 50% of land in Northern Ireland is registered. The remainder of unregistered land is dealt with by the Registry of Deeds. Generally registered land is rural land, or relatively new developments on the outsides of towns, etc. The land dealt with by the Registry of Deeds is usually in established urban areas. 

Under this system, each time the legal ownership of the land changes, a written summary (memorial) of the relevant document is lodged in the Registry of Deeds, along with the original Deed. This Deed is then returned to the purchaser’s solicitor and the Registry of Deeds retains this record. The registry exists to record the documents only. 

Compulsory first registration:

The compulsory first registration is the legal process that transfers property from the Registry of Deeds system to the Land Registry. All sales of land must be registered in the Land Registry, so if land within the Registry of Deeds is sold, then it must be registered with the Land Registry for first registration. The benefit of this is that the Land Registry guarantees the title, whereas the Registry of Deeds offers no guarantees. The title is then also logged on the public register, offering more clarity. 

Checking deeds and issuing contracts is a vital part of moving home, our teams can help you navigate the process. We can help you with the complexities and make sure you understand each stage of the buying and selling process. You can read our latest blog on conveyancing here