Where’s the Deeds? An Introduction to Keeper Induced Registration

Ken Caldwell
Where’s the Deeds? An Introduction to Keeper Induced Registration

There is now a company on the internet that will sell you an acre on the moon for a fair price. To a lawyer this is a strange concept. The first question that springs to mind is who has title to sell an acre of such prized property? Estate agents are yet to corner this market though presumably that can be put down to the fact that viewings are expensive to arrange.

If you own your home you will have title to property here on earth and, if the home that you own is in Scotland, you will have a registered or recorded title to land. It is surprising however quite how few people know where the title deeds for their property are kept and while many people have a copy of “the Deeds” to their home the principal version of the title can sometimes be difficult to track down. Most often it will be found with your solicitor or, if you have a mortgage, your bank. Sometimes it will be with the other “important papers” that have been stuffed in the back of a cupboard.

It may come as a surprise to some to learn that Scotland has two Land Registers currently in operation, the General Register of Sasines which dates back to 1617 and the Land Register of Scotland, sprightly in comparison, being introduced only in the final quarter of last century. If one were inclined, it would be possible to trace ownership of land back to the Jacobite era through the General Register of Sasines as it is a Register of Deeds which tells the story of land passing from one owner to the next over generations.

In 1979, the Land Register was unveiled as the successor to the General Register of Sasines’ throne. This would be a Register not of Deeds but of title. Land would be mapped out clearly using a centralised map based on the Ordnance Survey map. On the Land Register, the current owner of the land would be detailed but an iron curtain would be drawn on the owners registered before that.

The task began to transfer titles to land from the old General Register of Sasines to the new Land Register. Gradually, between 1981 and 2003, county by county across Scotland, the new Land Register became operational with Renfrew starting the ball rolling and Sutherland having the dubious honour of being the last County to introduce the modern register. This, however, did not mean that titles automatically left the old register and jumped afresh onto the Land Register. Instead, initially, the law provided that only when land was sold and sold for value, would the title move from the old Register to the new.

The Land Register of Scotland is a modern forward-thinking Register of land. Since 2014 it has been paper-less. Properties are marked clearly on coloured plans and titles are stored on an electronic database which is easily accessible. It is no longer a disaster if Deeds are lost, replacements are freely on-hand and downloadable. It’s trendy! By comparison, the General Register of Sasines has become the drunk uncle that won’t leave the party. While the stories it tells remain important, everyone is anxious for its departure.

In 2014, to encourage the consignment of the General Register of Sasines to history,  the Scottish Government set Registers of Scotland the task of completing the Land Register of Scotland within ten years. In other words, all current registered owners of land in Scotland would be detailed on the Land Register of Scotland and none would remain on the General Register of Sasines. This prompted the Keeper of the Registers of Scotland to introduce a new tool to complete the task, Keeper Induced Registration or KIR.

KIR is the process whereby trained staff at Registers of Scotland will transfer a title from the General Register of Sasines to the Land Register without a sale or any other dealing involving the property. Thus while your Deeds lie dusty in the back of your cupboard, in the world of cyberspace they may be undergoing registration in the Land Register as you read these words.

Pilot trials of KIR have already begun in the Murrayfield area of Edinburgh, the Bearsden area of Glasgow and in Angus around Craigie and West Ferry in locations known as “research areas”. These are areas of land where the Keeper of Registers has an intimate knowledge of the title conditions and other matters affecting the property. It will be extended across Scotland in due course. At the time of publishing this article, a view has been taken by Registers of Scotland that due to the high volume of queries received when landowners were made aware that their property would be subject to KIR, moving forward, KIR will occur without prior notice being given to the owner.

As we enter this brave new world of Land Registration, if you wish to retain control of the registration of the title to land that you own then voluntary registration on the Land Register is encouraged. Registers of Scotland currently offer an incentive to encourage land owners with titles registered on the General Register of Sasines to make “the big switch”. Voluntary applications for registration of properties on the Land Register currently benefit from a reduced registration fee. For more information on this please contact our conveyancing solicitors craigb@patten.co.uk, lynnr@patten.co.uk and billm@patten.co.uk.

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