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Practice Guide 4 – Adverse possession of registered land

Updated: July 2013

Update

This edition of the guide replaces the April 2013 edition. The guide has been amended as a result of The Transfer of Tribunal Functions Order 2013.

Scope of this guide

This guide explains Land Registry’s approach to adverse possession applications in respect of registered land under the new regime set out in Schedule 6 to the Land Registration Act 2002, the procedures for making such applications, and the options available to those served with notice of such applications.

It is aimed at conveyancers and you should interpret references to ‘you’ accordingly.

Practice Guide 5 deals with adverse possession of (1) unregistered land and (2) registered land where a squatter was in adverse possession for the requisite limitation period so as to have acquired a right to be registered as proprietor before 13 October 2003.

1 Abbreviations and terms used

In this guide:

‘conveyancer’ means an authorised person within the meaning of s.18, Legal Services Act 2007 who is entitled to provide the conveyancing services referred to in paragraphs 5(1)(a) and (b) of Schedule 2 to that Act, or a person carrying out those activities in the course of their duties as a public officer. It also includes an individual or body who employs or has among their managers such an authorised person who will undertake or supervise those conveyancing activities (r.217A, LRR 2003)

‘Fee Order’ means the current Land Registration Fee Order

‘Law Com 271’ means Law Commission Report No 271: Land Registration for the Twenty-First Century, A Conveyancing Revolution

‘LRA 2002’ means the Land Registration Act 2002

‘LRR 2003’ means the Land Registration Rules 2003, as amended

‘squatter’ is used to refer to anyone in, or claiming to be in, adverse possession

‘the tribunal’ means the Land Registration division of the Property Chamber, First-tier Tribunal.

2 Introduction

2.1 The new regime – a brief overview

Prior to the coming into force of the LRA 2002, a squatter could acquire the right to be registered as proprietor of a registered estate if they had been in adverse possession of the land for a minimum of 12 years. However, the doctrine of adverse possession did not fit easily with the concept of indefeasibility of title that underlies the system of land registration. Nor could it be justified by the uncertainties as to ownership which can arise where land is unregistered; the legal estate is vested in the registered proprietor and they are identified in the register.

The LRA 2002 has created a new regime that applies only to registered land. This new regime is set out in Schedule 6 to the Act. It makes it more likely that a registered proprietor will be able to prevent an application for adverse possession of their land being completed. The following paragraphs provide a brief overview of the new regime; the remaining sections of this guide discuss it in more detail.

  • Adverse possession of registered land for 12 years of itself will no longer affect the registered proprietor’s title.

  • After 10 years’ adverse possession, the squatter will be entitled to apply to be registered as proprietor in place of the registered proprietor of the land.

  • On such an application being made the registered proprietor (and certain other persons interested in the land) will be notified and given the opportunity to oppose the application.

  • If the application is not opposed1, the squatter will be registered as proprietor in place of the registered proprietor of the land.

  • If the application is opposed, it will be rejected unless either:

  • it would be unconscionable because of an equity by estoppel for the registered proprietor to seek to dispossess the squatter and the squatter ought in the circumstances to be registered as proprietor

  • the squatter is for some other reason entitled to be registered as proprietor, or

  • the squatter has been in adverse possession of land adjacent to their own under the mistaken but reasonable belief that they are the owner of it, the exact line of the boundary with this adjacent land has not been determined and the estate to which the application relates was registered more than a year prior to the date of the application.

  • In the event that the application is rejected but the squatter remains in adverse possession for a further two years, they will then be able, subject to certain exceptions, to reapply to be registered as proprietor and this time will be so registered whether or not anyone opposes the application.

1 By ‘opposed’ we mean that a counter notice is served; see section 8 Giving counter notice to the registrar in response to notice. Instead, or at the same time, the registered proprietor may object to the application on the ground that there has not been the necessary 10 years’ adverse possession; see section 7 Objecting to the squatter’s application for the implications of such an objection.

2.2 The transitional provisions

There are important transitional provisions in the LRA 2002 covering cases where a squatter was in adverse possession of registered land for the requisite limitation period under the Limitation Act 1980 so as to have acquired the right to be registered as proprietor before 13 October 2003. This will usually have happened if the squatter was in adverse possession for at least 12 years before 13 October 2003, though sometimes a longer period will be necessary2. The transitional provisions preserve this right to be registered as proprietor, although the right can be lost.

2 For instance, if the land was owned by the Crown or an ecclesiastical corporation sole, when the period is 30 years, or was held in trust or by someone under a disability. See Practice Guide 5 – Adverse possession of (1) unregistered land (2) registered land where a right to be registered was acquired before 13 October 2003 section 4 The limitation period.

A squatter may be able to apply under either the transitional provisions or the new regime. If they make applications both under the new procedure and under the transitional provisions, we will ask for confirmation as to which application should proceed first.

Practice Guide 5 – Adverse possession of (1) unregistered land (2) registered land where a right to be registered was acquired before 13 October 2003 explains the transitional provisions in more detail and how to make an application for adverse possession under these provisions. This guide deals only with the new regime.

2.3 Application for alteration

There is a third type of application that may sometimes be made by a squatter in respect of registered land. This is where the first registration took place after the paper title had had been extinguished, meaning that the first registration was a mistake. The squatter can apply for alteration3 (the registered title being closed) and for first registration of their own title.

3 If the squatter is in actual occupation or the first proprietor has notice of the squatter’s estate, the estate vested in the proprietor will be subject to that estate: LRA 2002, s.11(4)(b) & (c). Alteration of the register will not, therefore, prejudicially affect the proprietor’s title. This means that the alteration will not constitute rectification, and so the proprietor will not be entitled to indemnity in the event that the title is closed: LRA 2002, Sch 8, para (1)(a) & 11(2)(b).

3 Adverse possession – the essentials

Adverse possession requires factual possession of the land, with the necessary intention to possess and without the owner’s consent.

You must show:

  • that the squatter and any predecessors through whom they claim have been in adverse possession for at least 10 years (or at least 60 years for Crown foreshore4) ending on the date of the application5, or

  • that the squatter has been evicted by the registered proprietor, or a person claiming under the registered proprietor, not more than six months before the date of the application, that this eviction was not pursuant to a judgment for possession, and that on the day before the eviction they and any predecessors through whom they claim had been in adverse possession of the land for a period of 10 years ending on that date6.

4 ‘Foreshore’ here means "the shore and bed of the sea and of any tidal water, below the line of the medium high tide between the spring and neap tides" (LRA 2002, Sch 6, para 13(3)). In this context ‘Crown’ includes the Duchy of Lancaster and the Duchy of Cornwall (LRA 2002, Sch 6, para 13(1)).

5 LRA 2002, Sch 6, para 1(1).

6 LRA 2002, Sch 6, para 1(2).

Note that where adverse possession is claimed in respect of land owned by a company which has been dissolved and there has been disclaimer by the Crown or Royal Duchy so that escheat has taken place, an application based on adverse possession cannot be made under Schedule 6: the registered estate will have determined.

3.1 Factual possession

In Powell v McFarlane,7 Slade J said:

"Factual possession signifies an appropriate degree of physical control. It must be a single and [exclusive] possession, though there can be a single possession exercised on behalf of several persons jointly. Thus an owner of land and a person intruding on that land without his consent cannot both be in possession of the land at the same time. The question what acts constitute a sufficient degree of exclusive physical control must depend on the circumstances, in particular the nature of the land and the manner in which land of that nature is commonly used or enjoyed … Everything must depend on the particular circumstances, but broadly, I think what must be shown as constituting factual possession is that the alleged possessor has been dealing with the land in question as an occupying owner might have been expected to deal with it and that no one else has done so."

7 (1979) 38 P & CR 452. The House of Lords approved this statement of the law in J A Pye (Oxford) Ltd v. Graham [2002] UKHL 30.

Where the land was previously open ground, fencing is strong evidence of factual possession, but it is neither indispensable nor conclusive.

3.2 The intention to possess

What is required is "not an intention to own or even an intention to acquire ownership but an intention to possess"8. This means "the intention, in one’s own name and on one’s own behalf, to exclude the world at large, including the owner with the paper title if he be not himself the possessor, so far as reasonably practicable and so far as the processes of the law will allow"9.

8 Buckinghamshire County Council v Moran (1988) 86 LGR 472, per Hoffman J, approved by House of Lords in J A Pye (Oxford) Ltd v Graham [2002] UKHL 30.

9 Powell v McFarlane (1979) 38 P & CR 452, 471-472, per Slade J, approved by House of Lords in J A Pye (Oxford) Ltd v Graham [2002] UKHL 30.

Where the squatter has been able to establish factual possession, the intention to possess will frequently be deduced from the acts making up that factual possession. But this deduction will not always be made, as Slade J explained in Powell v McFarlane10:

"In my judgment it is consistent with principle as well as authority that a person who originally entered another’s land as a trespasser, but later seeks to show that he has dispossessed the owner, should be required to adduce compelling evidence that he had the requisite animus possidendi in any case where his use of the land was equivocal, in the sense that it did not necessarily, by itself, betoken an intention on his part to claim the land as his own and exclude the true owner."

10 (1979) 38 P & CR 452, 476, cited with approval by Lord Hutton in J A Pye (Oxford) Ltd v Graham [2002] UKHL 30.

Use of land for access purposes is an example of an equivocal act. Such use over time might give rise to an easement by prescription but is not, by itself, sufficient to establish an intention to possess the land.

3.3 Possession without the owner’s consent

In Buckinghamshire County Council v Moran,11 Slade LJ explained:

"Possession is never ‘adverse’ within the meaning of the 1980 Act if it is enjoyed under a lawful title. If, therefore, a person occupies or uses land by licence of the owner with the paper title and his licence has not been duly determined, he cannot be treated as having been in ‘adverse possession’ as against the owner of the paper title."

11 [1990] Ch 623, 636.

4 Restrictions on making an application for registration based on adverse possession

The following circumstances prevent an application being made for registration based on adverse possession.

  • The registered proprietor is an enemy or detained in enemy territory, or has been an enemy or detained in enemy territory in the 12 months before the date of the application12.

  • The registered proprietor is unable because of mental disability to make decisions about issues of the kind to which an application for adverse possession would give rise, or is unable to communicate such decisions because of mental disability or physical impairment13.

  • The squatter is a defendant in proceedings which involve asserting a right to possession of the land, or judgment for possession has been given against them in the last two years14.

  • The estate in land was held on trust at any time during the period of 10 years ending on the date of the application, unless the interest of each of the beneficiaries in the estate was an interest in possession15. Arguably this means that an application cannot be made where, at any point during this period, the registered proprietor at the time (i) was dead and their estate was being administered, (ii) was bankrupt and their property was being administered by the trustee in bankruptcy or (iii) (being a company) was being wound up. In each of these cases the registered estate is subject to a form of trust16.

12 LRA 2002, Sch 6, para 8(1).

13 LRA 2002, Sch 6, para 8(2).

14 LRA 2002, Sch 6, para 1(3).

15 LRA 2002, Sch 6, para 12.

16 Ayerst v C & K (Construction) Ltd [1976] A.C. 167.

The title plans of all registered titles show only the general position of the boundaries, unless they are shown as having been determined as exact boundaries pursuant to s.60, LRA 2002. This means that it is possible for an area of land to be within a registered title, even though it falls outside the red edging on the title plan. Conversely, it is possible for an area of land not to be included within the registered title, even though it is within the red edging on the title plan. In other words, it is not possible for Land Registry to define the precise position of the boundary in question. Public Guide 19 – Title plans and boundaries provides further information on this.

If it turns out that the squatter, in fact, has documentary title to the land and what is really required is an alteration to the squatter’s and/or the squatter’s neighbour’s title plan to show the general boundary more accurately, then an application based on adverse possession is not appropriate. In these circumstances, the squatter should consider an application to alter either:

  • their title plan

  • their and their neighbour’s title plan, or

  • their neighbour’s title plan

to show the boundaries more accurately.

Such an application would need to be made in form AP1 (PDF, 89KB) identifying the title(s) to be altered. The applicant would need to make clear the nature of the alteration sought and the basis for the claim. A fee would be payable assessed under the Fee Order.

The determined boundary procedure, as discussed in Public Guide 19 – Title plans and boundaries, could also be considered.

5 Making an application for registration on the basis of adverse possession

You must make the application on form ADV1 accompanied by a statement of truth or statutory declaration that meets the following requirement17.

  • It must be made by the squatter not more than one month before the date of the application.

  • It must provide evidence (together with any supporting statements of truth or statutory declarations) of adverse possession for not less than 10 years (or 60 years for Crown foreshore).

  • If the application relates to part only of the land in a registered title, it must exhibit a plan enabling the extent of the land to be identified on the Ordnance Survey map, unless the part is referred to by reference to the title plan and this enables it to be identified.

  • If the squatter is applying under paragraph 1(2) of Schedule 6, LRA 2002 (where they have been evicted during the previous six months, but this eviction was not pursuant to a judgment for possession), it must contain the facts relied on with any appropriate exhibits.

  • It must contain confirmation that paragraph 1(3) of Schedule 6, LRA 2002 does not apply (no current possession proceedings or judgment for possession given against the squatter in the last two years).

  • It must contain confirmation by the squatter that to the best of their knowledge none of the restrictions on applications contained in paragraph 8 of Schedule 6, LRA 2002 applies (the proprietor is not an enemy or held in enemy territory or suffering from mental disability or physical impairment).

  • It must contain confirmation by the squatter that to the best of their knowledge the estate is not, and has not been during the period of adverse possession, subject to a trust (other than one where the interest of each of the beneficiaries is an interest in possession). Note that if, at any point during the period of adverse possession, the registered proprietor at the time (i) was dead and their estate was being administered, (ii) was bankrupt and their property was being administered by the trustee in bankruptcy or (iii) (being a company) was being wound up, the applicant must confirm (not necessarily in the statement of truth or statutory declaration, but in writing) that they wish to proceed with the application despite the fact that there is a view, as explained in the previous section, that in these circumstances a trust arises which prevents an application from being made. This confirmation will be apparent to anyone given notice of the application and they might object to the application on this basis18.

17 LRR 2003, r.188(1)(a) & (2).

18 See section 6.3 Notices.

Very importantly, the squatter must decide what they will do if the registered proprietor, or someone else served with notice of the application, serves a counter notice requiring the registrar to deal with the application under paragraph 5 of Schedule 6, LRA 2002. If the squatter wants to rely on one of the three conditions in that paragraph, you must ensure that this is stated in the form ADV1 and that the statement of truth or statutory declaration contains the facts that enable the squatter to rely on the condition19.

19 LRR 2003, r.188(2)(g).

If the ADV1 form contains some obvious clerical error, for example the absence of a tick in panel 11 where the supporting statement clearly discloses an intent to rely on a condition under Schedule 6 para 5, then we may contact the applicant for confirmation of the position. This is because of the views expressed in the case of Hopkins v Deacon [2011] EWCH 2899 (Ch).

You should also send any additional evidence which is thought necessary to support the claim20.

20 LRR 2003, r.188(1)(b).

You should enclose the result of a company search if the registered proprietor of the title affected is a company. Please note the point about escheat made in section 3 Adverse possession – the essentials.

You must list all the documents accompanying the application on form ADV1 and pay the appropriate fee under the Fee Order. If you do not complete the form correctly, the form ADV1 may be returned to you.

If a statement of truth is used it may be in form ST1. Form ST1 (PDF, 65KB) is designed to provide a framework for the information that must be included within an ADV1 application relating to land21. Its use is not obligatory: any statement of truth that meets the requirements of r.215A, LRR 200322 will be acceptable, as will a statutory declaration. However, using form ST1 should help you to ensure that nothing has been overlooked. If you do not use form ST1, you need to provide all the information requested by that form – such as the dates the adverse possession started and finished, the acts relied on as establishing the necessary factual possession and intention to possess, and so on.

21 Form ST2 is the equivalent form for rentcharge applications.

22 See section 14 Appendix – statement of truth.

The statements of truth or statutory declarations should be factual and, ideally, the person making the statement or declaration will use their own words rather than language copied from precedent books. The person should expressly state how the facts are known to them, if this is not implicit in the statement or declaration. Information from third parties who have observed the position on the ground but may have no knowledge of the squatter’s intentions or dealings with the owner will usually carry less weight than the squatter’s own statement or declaration. However, statements of truth or statutory declarations from neighbours and other third parties, sent in with the squatter’s statement of truth or statutory declaration, may be useful as corroborative evidence.

We can never say what the outcome of an application will be before it is made. We can only make this decision after all the evidence has been produced by the applicant, we have received responses to requisitions and the time period relating to the notices we have served has expired. For this reason, and to avoid putting words into people’s mouths, please do not send us draft statements of truth or statutory declarations for approval.

Where the application relates to land within a highway, we have to be satisfied that the factual possession did not constitute an illegal obstruction23. The point should be addressed in the application. We will normally serve notice on the highway authority before proceeding further. If the application is completed, then the registered title, to the extent it includes the highway, will be subject to the public right of way and, if the highway is maintainable at the public expense, to the highway authority’s estate in the surface24; both the right of way and highway authority’s estate will continue to operate as overriding interests25.

23 R (on the application of Wayne Smith) v The Land Registry (Peterborough Office) [2009] EWHC 328 (Admin).

24 By virtue of the Highways Act 1980, s.263.

25 Secretary of State for the Environment v Baylis (Gloucester) Ltd (2000) 80 P & CR 324 at 336-339; LRA 2002, Sch 3, para 5.

Finally, the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs has published a Guidance note on adverse possession of common land and town or village greens which is available on its website: www.defra.gov.uk. (Land Registry does not necessarily share all statements of opinion as to the law that are expressed in the guidance note.).

6 Land Registry’s response and registration

6.1 Inspection

Often the statements in statements of truth or statutory declarations, while not untrue, do not give a complete picture. For example, the person making the statement or declaration may have forgotten to mention a gate in a feature that appears, from the Ordnance Survey map, to bar access from adjoining land. Usually, therefore, we will arrange for a surveyor from Ordnance Survey to inspect the land and we will need to see their report before we can consider the application further.

You, the squatter and the registered proprietor will be informed of the inspection before it takes place.

6.2 Case law

We examine each application on its own merits. We bear in mind the case law on adverse possession but you need to remember that the court will have heard evidence and arguments from both sides, while we will normally at this stage only be hearing the squatter’s version of events. And although the facts in any application may be superficially similar to those in a reported case, they are unlikely to be identical.

6.3 Notices

If, from the evidence we have seen, we believe it to be more likely than not that the squatter is entitled to apply to be registered, we will give notice of the application, under paragraph 2 of Schedule 6, to:

  • the registered proprietor of the estate affected

  • the registered proprietor of any registered charge on that estate

  • the Treasury Solicitor or the relevant Duchy where the registered proprietor is, or may be, a company which is dissolved26

  • where the estate is leasehold, the registered proprietor of any superior registered estate, and

  • any person who has been registered as a person to be notified under paragraph 2 of Schedule 6, LRA 2002.

26 LRR 2003, r.188A.

A person given such a notice may:

  • consent to the application

  • object to the application27

  • give counter notice in form NAP to the registrar requiring the registrar to deal with the application under paragraph 5 of Schedule 6, LRA 2002,28

or

  • both object to the application and give counter notice.

27 LRA 2002, s.73(1).

28 LRA 2002, Sch 6, para 3(1).

The notice will allow 65 business days for a reply and we will enclose a copy of form NAP for the recipient to use29. Form NAP must be used for a counter notice (whether or not the recipient also wants to object). It can be, but need not be, used to give consent or to object (though any objection must be in writing30).

29 LRR 2003, rr.189 & 190.

30 LRR 2003, r.19.

The registrar may also give notice to any other person considered appropriate31. Therefore, we will normally give notice to successors in title to the registered proprietor, known or suspected from other available information or our local knowledge to have become entitled to the estate affected, such as a trustee in bankruptcy or a successor local authority. This notice will allow 15 business days for a reply as it is not a notice that the registrar is required to give under paragraph 2 of Schedule 6, LRA 2002. A person receiving such a notice will only have two options: either to consent or to object to the application. They cannot serve a counter notice in form NAP, and therefore we will not enclose form NAP with this notice.

31 LRR 2003, r.17.

6.4 Registration

If we do not receive a counter notice from any of the people given notice under paragraph 2 of Schedule 6, LRA 2002, or any objection, we will register the squatter as proprietor once the time limit has expired32. If the squatter’s application relates to the whole of an existing registered title, we will register them as proprietor of that title. If their application relates to part of an existing registered title, then we will remove that part from the existing title and register them as proprietor of that part under a new title number.

32 LRA 2002, Sch 6, para 4.

As a general principle, the registration of a squatter does not affect the priority of any interest affecting the estate33. Therefore, when a squatter is registered as proprietor of the whole or part of an existing registered title, they will take subject to the same estates, rights and interests that bound the previous proprietor. This means that existing subjective entries will be carried forward to the squatter’s new title. This general principle is subject to what we say in section 6.5 Charges.

33 LRA 2002, Sch 6, para 9(2).

6.5 Charges

The general rule is that a squatter is automatically entitled to be registered free of any registered charges (but not charges protected by a notice in the register) affecting the title immediately before their registration34.

34 LRA 2002, Sch 6, para 9(3).

There is an exception to this general rule. This is where any person receiving notice has given a counter notice and the squatter’s registration as proprietor follows an application determined by reference to whether any of the conditions in paragraph 5 of Schedule 6, LRA 2002, apply35.

35 LRA 2002, Sch 6, para 9(3) & (4).

Where the exception operates and the charge affects additional property, the squatter will be able to require the chargee to apportion the amount secured by the charge between the land in the squatter’s new registered title and the remainder of the property subject to the charge36. The apportionment will be on the basis of (1) the amount of debt secured by the charge at the time the squatter applies for apportionment and (2) the respective values of the land that was adversely possessed and the rest of the property that is subject to the charge. The chargee must discharge the squatter’s estate on payment of the amount apportioned to that estate and their costs. The chargor’s liability to the chargee will be reduced accordingly. Rr.194A – 194G, LRR 2003 set out in detail the procedures relating to apportionment. The procedures can only be instigated once the squatter has been successfully registered. Land Registry plays no part in them. They require the squatter to give notice to the chargee requesting that the charge be apportioned. The squatter is required to provide valuations of the land comprising the new registered title and the other property subject to the charge.

36 LRA 2002, Sch 6, para 10.

However, the exception may itself be qualified. Law Com 271 suggests that if the squatter’s right to be registered preceded the registered charge and the squatter was in actual occupation of the land at the time the charge was created, that right to be registered might be an overriding interest37 and so take priority over the charge38, with the result that the estate is vested in the squatter free of the charge.

37 LRA 2002, Sch 3, para 2.

38 Law Com 271, para 14.64 & 14.76.

Where the charge is not a registered charge (a common example would be a charging order), then the general principle set out in section 6.4 Registration applies. But if the squatter’s right to be registered is a proprietary interest, as Law Com 271 suggests may potentially be the case39, and the right precedes the charge, then the ‘basic rule’ as to priority40 would allow for the squatter, on registration, to take free of that charge. If, however, the squatter takes subject to the charge and it affects other property as well, then the squatter may require apportionment41.

39 Law Com 271, para 14.64 & 14.76.

40 LRA 2002, s.28.

41 LRA 2002, Sch 6, para 10, and LRR 2003, rr.194A – 194G, apply equally to charges that are not registered charges.

7 Objecting to the squatter’s application

Any person wishing to object to the squatter’s application must deliver to the registrar a written statement signed by them or their conveyancer. It must state that the objector objects to the application, state the grounds for the objection and give the objector’s full name and an address for service42. This must be a postal address, whether or not in the United Kingdom. Further postal, email or DX addresses may be given as well, but there can be no more than three addresses for service in total43. Form NAP may be used for this purpose. The objection might be on the grounds that the squatter is not entitled to apply under Schedule 6 because, for example, there has not been adverse possession (ie factual possession, with the requisite intention and without the owner’s consent) or that the possession has not been for the necessary period of time (normally 10 years)44. Sometimes the registered proprietor (or other recipient of notice) will want both to object, for example on the grounds that there has not been 10 years’ adverse possession, and to ensure that, if they lose that argument, they can take advantage of paragraph 5 of Schedule 6, so that the squatter’s application will be rejected unless any of the three conditions in that paragraph is met. In such a case, the objector must return the form NAP with two boxes ticked. They must both object, and require the application to be dealt with under paragraph 5 (see section 8 Giving counter notice to the registrar in response to notice). They must give the grounds of their objection. They do not need to say at this stage why they believe that none of the three conditions applies, but it would usually be convenient to do so if the squatter’s application indicates an intention to rely on one of them.

42 LRR 2003, r.19.

43 LRR 2003, r.198.

44 See section 3 Adverse possession – the essentials.

If a person given notice by the registrar45 objects to an application but does not indicate on form NAP that they require the application to be dealt with under paragraph 5, they will lose the opportunity to request that the application be dealt with under paragraph 5 once the 65 business day notice period has expired. In that case, it becomes immaterial whether or not the squatter can prove one of the three conditions. The squatter will be entitled to be registered as proprietor unless the objection is successful46.

45 Under LRA 2002, Sch 6, para 2.

46 LRA 2002, Sch 6, para 4.

If an objection is received, whether in response to the registrar’s notice or otherwise, then the application cannot be determined until the objection is disposed of, unless the registrar is satisfied that the objection is groundless47. If the registrar decides that the objection is not groundless, notice of the objection must be given to the squatter or their conveyancer48. The registrar will then ask both parties whether they wish to negotiate and whether they consider that it may be possible to reach an agreement. If all parties respond positively, the registrar will allow them time to settle the matter by agreement. However, as soon as it becomes clear that the two sides are unable to reach an agreement, the registrar must refer the matter to the tribunal49. This will be done immediately if the parties do not wish to negotiate.

47 LRA 2002, s.73(5) & (6).

48 LRA 2002, s.73(5).

49 LRA 2002, s.73(7).

The tribunal will then either set a date for hearing and determining the matter or direct one of the parties to start proceedings in court. Further details of the procedure to be followed and of the position as to costs will be supplied by it at that stage.

8 Giving counter notice to the registrar in response to notice

A person receiving the 65 business day notice sent under paragraph 2 of Schedule 6, LRA 2002 may choose to give counter notice to the registrar, requiring the application to be dealt with under paragraph 5 of Schedule 6, LRA 2002. The counter notice has to be in form NAP, a copy of which is sent out with the notice: it must be completed and returned to the registrar within 65 business days50.

50 LRR 2003, rr.189 & 190.

While form NAP must be used for giving counter notice, it is not necessary to use the particular copy originally sent by us. Suppose, for example, that the registered proprietor is notified by us of an application by a squatter and responds by lodging an objection using the copy of form NAP enclosed with the notice. They then decide, before the 65 business days have expired, that they wish also to give counter notice. They should do this using another copy of form NAP (which they can obtain from us if they wish).

If the squatter has not stated in their form ADV1 that they are relying on one of the three conditions in paragraph 5, then their application will be rejected when we receive the counter notice.

If the squatter is relying on one of the three conditions and counter notice is given, we will at this point (and not before) consider whether or not the statutory declaration or statement of truth sets out any facts supporting reliance on the condition and shows an arguable case for the condition being met. If we decide that it does not, the application may be rejected. If we are satisfied that it does, we will contact the people who gave the counter notice. If they dispute that the condition has been met, they can then object to the application on this ground (if they have not done so already). Unless the objection is groundless or disposed of by agreement, the registrar will refer the matter to the tribunal for resolution as described above in section 7 Objecting to the squatter’s application. If the people who gave the counter notice do not object, the squatter will be registered as proprietor.

9 The three conditions in paragraph 5 of Schedule 6

Even if the registrar receives a counter notice stating that the recipient of the notice wishes the application to be dealt with under paragraph 5 of Schedule 6, LRA 2002, the squatter is still entitled to be registered if any one of the following three conditions is met51.

51 LRA 2002, Sch 6, para 5.

9.1 The first condition

The first condition is that it would be unconscionable because of an equity by estoppel for the registered proprietor to seek to dispossess the squatter and the circumstances are such that the squatter ought to be registered as the proprietor.

This condition is intended to embody the equitable principles of proprietary estoppel as these have developed. The squatter will have to establish that an equity has arisen in their favour. To this end, they will need to show that:

  • in some way the registered proprietor encouraged or allowed the squatter to believe that they owned the land in question

  • in this belief, the squatter acted to their detriment to the knowledge of the proprietor, and

  • it would be unconscionable for the proprietor to deny the squatter the rights which they believed they had52.

52 Law Com 271, para 14.40.

Examples where this condition might apply are:

  • where the squatter has built on the registered proprietor’s land in the mistaken belief that they were the owner of it and the proprietor has knowingly acquiesced in their mistake, and

  • where neighbours have entered into an informal sale agreement for valuable consideration by which one agrees to sell the land to the other. The ‘buyer’ pays the price, takes possession of the land and treats it as their own. No steps are taken to perfect their title and there is no binding contract53.

53 Law Com 271, para 14.42.

9.2 The second condition

The second condition is that the squatter is for some other reason entitled to be registered as the proprietor.

Examples where this condition might apply are:

  • where the squatter is entitled to the land under the will or intestacy of the deceased proprietor, and

  • where the squatter contracted to buy the land and paid the purchase price, but the legal estate was never transferred to them54.

54 Law Com 271, para 14.43.

9.3 The third condition

The third condition is that the squatter has been in adverse possession of land adjacent to their own for at least 10 years under the mistaken but reasonable belief that they are the owner of it, the exact line of the boundary with this adjacent land has not been determined under section 60, LRA 2002 and the estate to which the application relates was registered more than a year prior to the date of the application.

An example of where this condition might apply is where the dividing walls or fences on an estate were erected in the wrong place55.

55 Law Com 271, para 14.46.

10 Further application by the squatter for registration

If the squatter’s application was rejected as a result of a counter notice being given and none of the three conditions in paragraph 5 of Schedule 6, LRA 2002 being met, they will be able to reapply to be registered as proprietor, provided they remain in adverse possession for a further two years from the date of rejection of the previous application56. This time the squatter will be entitled to be registered as proprietor except where:

  • the squatter is a defendant in proceedings for possession

  • there has been judgment for possession given against the squatter in the last two years, or

  • the squatter has been evicted pursuant to a judgment for possession57.

56 LRA 2002, Sch 6, para 6.

57 LRA 2002, Sch 6, paras 6 & 7.

This means that the registered proprietor, registered chargee and any other people given notice of the rejected application have at least two years in which to take steps either to evict the squatter (or at least to start proceedings to do so) or to legitimise their occupation by, for example, negotiating a licence under which the squatter can stay as licensee.

10.1 Making the application

You must make the application in form ADV1 accompanied by a statement of truth or statutory declaration which:

  • is made by the squatter not more than one month before the date of the application

  • provides evidence (together with any supporting statements of truth or statutory declarations) of adverse possession for not less than two years from the date of rejection of the original application to the date of the present application

  • if the application relates to part only of the land in a registered title, exhibits a plan enabling the extent of the land to be identified on the Ordnance Survey map, unless the previous rejected application related only to that part, or that part is referred to by reference to the title plan and this enables it to be identified

  • contains full details of the previous rejected application

  • contains confirmation by the squatter that to the best of their knowledge the restriction on applications in paragraph 8 of Schedule 6, LRA 2002 does not apply (the proprietor is not an enemy or held in enemy territory or suffering from mental disability or physical impairment)

  • contains confirmation by the squatter that to the best of their knowledge the estate is not, and has not been, subject to a trust (other than one where the interest of each of the beneficiaries is an interest in possession), and

  • contains confirmation by the squatter that paragraph 6(2) of Schedule 6, LRA 2002 does not apply (no possession proceedings, judgment for possession or eviction under a judgment for possession)58.

58 LRR 2003, r.188(1)(a) & (3).

You should also send any additional evidence which is thought necessary to support the claim59.

59 LRR 2003, r.188(1)(b).

You must list all the documents accompanying the application on form ADV1 and pay the appropriate fee under the Fee Order. If you do not complete the form correctly, the form ADV1 may be returned to you.

If a statement of truth is used it may be in form ST1. The comments made in respect of this form in section 5 Making an application for registration on the basis of adverse possession apply equally here. In particular, using the form should help you to ensure that nothing has been overlooked.

10.2 Notices

We will give notice of the further application, under r.17, LRR 2003, to:

  • the registered proprietor of the estate affected

  • the registered proprietor of any registered charge on that estate

  • where the estate is leasehold, the registered proprietor of any superior registered estate

  • any person who has been registered as a person to be notified under paragraph 2 of Schedule 6, LRA 2002, and

  • any other person the registrar considers appropriate to notify.

The notice will allow 15 business days for reply. A person given notice may either:

  • consent to the application, or

  • object to the application.

If no objection is received within the time limit from any of the persons given notice, the squatter will be registered as proprietor of the estate of which they were in adverse possession.

10.3 Objecting in response to notice

A person may object to the further application by the squatter where they do not accept that the squatter has remained in adverse possession for at least two years or where they are able to challenge any of the statements that the squatter is required to make in their second statement of truth or statutory declaration – see section 10.1 Making the application.

The objection must be made by written statement delivered to the registrar signed by the objector or their conveyancer. It must state the grounds for the objection and give the objector’s full name and an address for service60. This must be a postal address, whether or not in the United Kingdom. Further postal, email or DX addresses may be given as well, but there can be no more than three addresses for service in total61.

60 LRR 2003, r.19.

61 LRR 2003, r.198.

If an objection is received, then the application cannot be determined until the objection is disposed of, unless the registrar is satisfied that the objection is groundless62. If not groundless, the registrar must give notice of the objection to the squatter63. If the matter cannot be settled by agreement between the two parties, the registrar will refer the matter to the tribunal for resolution as described in section 7 Objecting to the squatter’s application64.

62 LRA 2002, s.73.

63 LRA 2002, s.73(5).

64 LRA 2002, s.73.

10.4 Registration

If the squatter’s application is approved, they will be registered as proprietor as described in section 6.4 Registration.

11 Application to be registered as a person to be notified of a squatter’s application

A person who has an interest in a registered estate that would be prejudiced by the registration of a squatter may apply to the registrar to be registered as a person to be notified under paragraph 2(1)(d) of Schedule 6, LRA 200265.

65 LRR 2003, r.194.

You must make the application in form ADV2 (PDF, 59KB) and pay the correct fee under the Fee Order. The applicant must satisfy the registrar they have such an interest.

If the application is approved, we will make the following entry in the proprietorship register:

"[Name] of [address] is a person entitled to be notified of an application for adverse possession under paragraph 2 of Schedule 6, Land Registration Act 2002."

To remove the entry, you may make an application in form AP1- Apply to change the register (PDF, 89KB) at any time. No fee is payable. As a safeguard, if the application is not made by a conveyancer, we will give notice of the application to the person named in the entry allowing 15 business days for reply.

12 Leasehold matters

12.1 Adverse possession of registered leasehold land

As soon as the squatter takes possession of land that is leased, time runs against the tenant.

Time does not run against the landlord until the lease expires – unless the adverse possession started before the lease, in which case time will continue to run against the landlord during the term of the lease.

Non-payment of rent before the lease expires is irrelevant. However, if a stranger wrongfully continues to receive the rent of leasehold land for 10 years, and provided that the lease is in writing and not granted by the Crown and the rent is at least £10 a year, the stranger becomes entitled to apply under paragraph 1 of Schedule 666.

66 LRA 2002, Sch 6, para 11(1); Limitation Act 1980, Sch 1, Part 1, para 6.

12.2 Encroachments onto registered land from leasehold land

As explained above67, adverse possession requires "the intention, in one’s own name and on one’s own behalf, to exclude the world at large". There is a legal presumption that a tenant who encroaches onto other land does so for the benefit of their landlord68. At least on one view, this presumption means that there is no adverse possession by a tenant and that any application under Schedule 6 to the Act should be by the tenant’s landlord69.

67 Section 3.2 The intention to possess.

68 Smirk v Lyndale Developments Ltd [1974] 3 WLR 91. The Court of Appeal approved what was said by Pennycuick V-C on the encroachment by a tenant point: [1975] Ch 317, 337. See also Tower Hamlets v Barrett [2005] EWCA Civ 923.

69 See the decision of the deputy Adjudicator in Dickenson v Longhurst Homes Ltd (REF/2007/1276).

However, the presumption, by its nature, can be rebutted by evidence that the tenant actually intended the encroachment to be for their own benefit; and we are prepared to treat the fact that the application has been made as sufficient evidence of this intention for us to proceed with the application. Furthermore, there is another view, which is that the presumption is only concerned with who might have acquired title at common law to the estate concerned and does not alter the fact that the tenant is in adverse possession, and so is irrelevant where the application is one under Schedule 6.

If an application is made under Schedule 6 by a tenant and it is not clear from the application that the applicant is aware of these points, we shall write to make them and ask if they still want to proceed with the application.

If the application proceeds and the stage is reached where notices are served, notice will be served on the tenant’s landlord that refers to the presumption and to the points made above.

13 Enquiries and suggestions

If you have a particular concern that is not covered by this guide, please contact us in advance of the transaction – see Contact details. If the transaction is particularly complex, it may be better if you make your enquiry in writing at the Land Registry office that will process your application.

If you have any comments or suggestions about our guides, please send them to:

Central Operations Group
Land Registry
Trafalgar House
Croydon
CR0 2AQ

(DX 8888 Croydon 3)

You can obtain further copies of this and of all our guides free of charge from Customer Support (see Contact details) or you can download them from our website.

14 Appendix – statement of truth

A statement of truth is a method of providing evidence in support of an application. As a result of changes made by the Land Registration (Amendment) Rules 2008, it can be accepted for land registration purposes instead of a statutory declaration.

Its adoption by Land Registry follows the precedent set by the civil courts in accepting a statement of truth as evidence in place of an affidavit or statutory declaration.

14.1 Requirements

For land registration purposes, a statement of truth is defined as follows70.

  • It is made by an individual in writing.

  • It must be signed by the person who makes it (unless they cannot sign – see section 14.3 Statement of truth made by an individual who is unable to sign it).

  • It need not be sworn or witnessed.

  • It must contain a declaration of truth in the following form: ‘I believe that the facts and matters contained in this statement are true’.

  • If a conveyancer makes the statement or signs it on someone’s behalf, the conveyancer must sign in their own name and state their capacity – see section 14.4 Signature by a conveyancer.

70 LRR 2003, r.215A.

14.2 Statement of truth signed by an individual who is unable to read

Where a statement of truth is to be signed by an individual who is unable to read, it must:

  • be signed in the presence of a conveyancer, and

  • contain a certificate made and signed by that conveyancer in the following form:

I [name and address of conveyancer] certify that I have read over the contents of this statement of truth and explained the nature and effect of any documents referred to in it and the consequences of making a false declaration to the person making this statement who signed it or made [his] or [her] mark in my presence having first (a) appeared to me to understand the statement (b) approved its content as accurate and (c) appeared to me to understand the declaration of truth and the consequences of making a false declaration.

14.3 Statement of truth made by an individual who is unable to sign it

Where a statement of truth is to be made by an individual who is unable to sign it, it must:

  • state that individual’s full name

  • be signed by a conveyancer at the direction and on behalf of that individual, and

  • contain a certificate made and signed by that conveyancer in the following form:

I [name and address of conveyancer] certify that [the person making this statement of truth has read it in my presence, approved its content as accurate and directed me to sign it on [his] or [her] behalf] or [I have read over the contents of this statement of truth and explained the nature and effect of any documents referred to in it and the consequences of making a false declaration to the person making this statement who directed me to sign it on [his] or [her] behalf] having first (a) appeared to me to understand the statement (b) approved its content as accurate and (c) appeared to me to understand the declaration of truth and the consequences of making a false declaration.

14.4 Signature by a conveyancer

Where a statement of truth is made by a conveyancer, or a conveyancer makes and signs a certificate on behalf of someone who has made a statement but is unable to read or sign it, the conveyancer:

  • must sign in their own name and not that of their firm or employer, and

  • must state the capacity in which they sign and where appropriate the name of their firm or employer.

14.5 Form ST1

Form ST1 (PDF, 65KB)

Land Registry advisory policy

We offer advice to our customers through our publications and Customer Support information and through the day-to-day handling of applications.

We provide factual information including official copies of registers, title plans and documents, searches and details of our forms and fees.

We provide procedural advice to explain how the land registration system works and how to make applications correctly. This includes:

  • advice in advance of an application, where this is requested
  • where an application is defective, advice as to the nature of the problem and what options, if any, are available to put it right
  • an approval service for estate layout plans and certain other land registration documents.

There are limits to the advice that we will provide. We will not provide legal advice.

This means that:

  • we will not approve the evidence to be produced in support of a registration application before we receive the application
  • apart from procedural advice, we will not advise on what action to take
  • we will not recommend a professional adviser but can explain how to find one.

We provide advice only about real cases, not about theoretical circumstances. We will not express a view on questions where the law is complex or unclear except where the question arises on a live registration application.

In providing this factual information and procedural advice we will:

  • be impartial
  • recognise that others may be affected by what we say
  • avoid any conflict of interest.

Contact details

For customer enquiries and to request this publication in an alternative format please contact Customer Support at customersupport@landregistry.gsi.gov.uk or telephone 0844 892 1111, or 0844 892 1122 for a Welsh-speaking service, from Monday to Friday between 8am and 6pm. Calls cost 3p a minute on a BT standard tariff, in addition to the current set up/connection charge. Calls from other tariffs, service providers and mobile phones may cost more. We do not receive any revenue from these calls.

To obtain copies of this and all our other guides, free of charge:

Information in this guide

The information in this publication is for the purpose of providing general guidance about Land Registry's procedures and policies. It is intended only as a guide and does not cover every situation that may arise. It also does not limit Land Registry's ability to use its discretion when appropriate to do so, within the land registration legislation.

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