Conveyance Deeds & Deed Plans

Jon Maynard Boundaries Ltd, Boundary Demarcation and Disputes, Rights of Way, Expert Witness, Chartered Land Surveyor

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Conveyance Deeds and Deed Plans

 You are here:    Boundary Problems  |  Legal Background  |   Conveyance Deeds and Deed Plans
What is a deed?
Where are your title deeds?
The parcels clause of a conveyance
Deed plans
Transfer deeds and transfer plans
Difficulties in relying on deeds for boundary definitions
  FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Title Deeds: Where do I find my title deeds?

Title deeds: Is it possible for me to see my neighbour's title deeds?


The parcels clause is at best
an inadequate description of the size and shape of the parcel of land,
and that description lacks any quality control.

 

What is a deed?

A deed is a formal written document that has force in law to alter the rights and duties of the parties to it. To be effective a deed has to be signed, sealed and delivered. The following kinds of deeds may have relevance when investigating the position of a boundary or of a right of way.

A Conveyance (or Deed of Conveyance) is the document by which the sale of a parcel of unregistered land is effected. The estate agent may sell you a house (which happens to have a garden around it), but your conveyancing solicitor will tell you (if you should ask him) that you are buying a parcel of land (which happens to have a house upon it) together with all the benefits that come with the land but burdened by any easements that affect the land and burdened by any charges (such as the mortgage loan that enabled you to buy the land) that affect the land.

Indenture of Conveyance is effectively just an old fashioned alternative name for a conveyance.

A Transfer Deed is the document by which the sale of a parcel of registered land is effected. In practice, the transfer deed is a Land Registry pro-forma.

A Deed of Grant is the deed used to create a new easement, such as a private right of way, or a right to lay pipes or cables beneath neighbouring land. In practice, many such easements are granted at the same time as a new parcel of land is created by means of clause in the Conveyance (or the Transfer) that grants the right to the Purchaser (or the Transferee) or reserves the right to the Vendor (or the Transferor).

A Deed of Extinguishment is the deed used to terminate the right to use a private right of way.

A Deed of Variation is used to vary the terms of an earlier deed relating to the same matter. One example of its use is to correct an inaccurate description of the boundary in the parcels clause of an earlier Conveyance that relates to the same parcel of land. Another example is the deliberate re-routing of a private right of way across the servient tenement.

 

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Where are your title deeds?

If you are the owner of unregistered land with a mortgage then you will probably never have seen your title deeds as they will be held by your mortgage lender as security against the mortgage loan. Your mortgage lender will be happy to supply you with a copy of the title deeds but will charge you a fee.

If you own unregistered land and have no mortgage then you may either hold the title deeds or you may have deposited them at a bank or with a solicitor for safe keeping.

If you are the owner of registered land with a mortgage then your mortgage lender will either:

  • be holding your title deeds as security against the mortgage loan (because it would be impossible for you to sell the property if you do not hold the title deeds, then the mortgage lender is protected against you selling the property without either telling them or repaying the mortgage loan), or
  • have decided that the title deeds are not needed as security because title to registered land is guaranteed by the state and their interest in the land (the outstanding part of the mortgage loan) is protected because they have registered a charge against the title.

If your mortgage lender does not have the title deeds, then either:

  • the title deeds have been returned to you, or returned to your predecessor in title who has passed them on to you, or
  • the title deeds have been destroyed.

If the title deeds have been destroyed then it is worth enquiring of Land Registry as to whether they kept on their files a copy of the relevant pre-registration title deeds relating to your title. If they did then they will be happy to provide you with an official copy for a small fee.

 

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The parcels clause of a conveyance

Parcels Clause from a 1970 conveyance

As we have already seen on the page dealing with the Boundaries of Registered and Unregistered Land, it is the parcels clause of the conveyance that holds the key to our understanding of the boundaries of a parcel of land.

The parcels clause usually contains a phrase that is similar to one of the following phrases:

  • as the same is for the purposes of identification only shown on the plan attached
  • as the same is more particularly delineated on the plan attached
  • as the same is for the purposes of identification only more particularly delineated on the plan attached

On the face of it,
- the first of these tells us to take note of the wording of the conveyance and to ignore the plan,
- whilst the second tells us to take note of the plan and to ignore the wording of the conveyance,
- and the third one is simply confusing.
But none of this matters in practice because the courts will look at the plan to see if it gives any information that supplements the wording of the conveyance.

Let us look first at how the parcels clause describes the parcel of land with reference to its boundaries. There are a number of shortcomings that are routinely found in the parcels clause:

  • it is extremely rare for the physical feature along which the boundary runs (i.e. the 'bounds' element of a 'metes and bounds' description) to be described;
  • the parcels clause does not always quote the dimensions (part of the 'metes' element in a 'metes and bounds' description) of the parcel of land;
  • dimensions, when given, are usually approximate and qualified by descriptions such as "or thereabouts", "be it a little more or less", etc;
  • the source of the dimensions - who they were measured by, what they were measured with, to what accuracy they were measured - is never stated;
  • even when the dimensions of all sides are given, neither the directions of the sides nor the angles at the corners (the directions are part of the'metes' element in a 'metes and bounds' description) are ever given, making it impossible to know the exact shape of the parcel.

In short, the parcels clause is at best an inadequate description of the size and shape of the parcel of land, and that description lacks any quality control. It is therefore unsafe to rely on the parcels clause alone for a definition of the exact position of the boundaries. To put it another way, you shouldn't automatically assume that a given dimension is accurate simply because some unknown person has seen fit to write it into a deed or onto a deed plan. This advice holds true regardless of the status of the deed as a legal document.

Some examples of the problems encountered with dimensions are given in the following examples found on other pages of this site:

How accurate are the dimensions stated in title deeds?

Dimensions on sloping ground

The incorrectly measured boundary polygon

Forming the boundary polygon from dimensions

Scaling the boundary from the OS map

Other examples of poor boundary descriptions

 

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Deed plans

A deed plan is a plan drawn on or attached to any kind of a deed. In relation to boundaries, we might expect to encounter a conveyance plan or a transfer plan, or occasionally a plan to a Deed of Variation.

A wide range of types of plan has been pressed into use as conveyance plans. In the ideal world a conveyance plan should be at a large scale (preferably at 1:500 or at the even larger 1:250 or 1:200 scale) and should show what was actually built. I understand that conveyance plans based on such as-built surveys do exist but I have yet to see one. [Ordnance Survey maps are of course "as-built surveys" but they are not produced at scales larger than 1:1250 - so don't make the mistake of thinking that a Siteplan plot enlarged to a scale of 1:200 is as accurate as a 1:200 scale survey: the enlarged Siteplan is simply easier to read - but no more accurate than - the 1:1250 or 1:2500 scale map from which it is made.]

Here is a list of the types of conveyance plan that I do come across and of what can be wrong with each of them.

Copies of Ordnance Survey maps or of Land Registry plans. Land Registry plans are of course essentially just copies of Ordnance Survey maps. The Using Ordnance Survey maps page of this web site refers to the accuracy of Ordnance Survey mapping. The important thing to note here is that Ordnance Survey maps show the physical features that their surveyors encountered and that their surveyors do not make enquiries as to where property boundaries are. So Ordnance Survey maps do not show property boundaries. Skillful map interpretation is needed to reconcile the boundary lines on the conveyance plan with the physical features one finds on the ground.

An added problem is that the Ordnance Survey map that was used for the conveyance plan may have been published many years before the conveyance took place. The fences, hedges and even the roads shown on the map may no longer have existed, or may been relocated to other positions, long before the sale took place. In this case, the map that is used as the conveyance plan does not actually show the boundaries of the land that was sold.

Tracings of Ordnance Survey maps. A lot of conveyance plans from the first half of the twentieth century are clearly tracings made from Ordnance Survey maps. If one has to worry about the accuracy of the original Ordnance Survey map, then a tracing made from it can only contain even more inaccuracy.

Developers' layout plans or design plans. Before a green (or brown) field site becomes a housing estate it is necessary for an architect to make detailed drawings showing where all the roads, underground services, houses, and fences will go, and where the preserved trees will be allowed to remain. To save on cost, these same drawings will usually be used as the basis of the conveyance plans for the individual houses and their appurtenant land. The trouble is that operational difficulties encountered on the building site may result in the roads and underground services taking slightly different routes from those designed, meaning that the houses had to be built in slightly different places, which meant that the fences went up in places other than the architect had intended. The end result is that the conveyance plan (if it is based on the layout plan) bears little resemblance to what was actually built on the land, as can be seen in the example below.

So what does the above example tell us about deed plans (conveyance plans or transfer plans) that are based upon developer's plans that have been re-used as conveyance plans or as transfer plans?

  • That they ARE a communication from the architect to the builder, to tell the builder what to build and where to build it.
  • That they ARE NOT a blueprint that specifies exactly where the boundaries of each plot of land are supposed to be.

So how do you use a deed plan, which is the authoritative source of information concerning the locations of boundaries, to decide exactly where the boundaries are when the deed plan is as misleading as in the example above? You have to ask yourself the question, "WHAT DID THE VENDOR INTEND when he described the boundaries using this inaccurate design plan?"

Sketch plans. The very name warns of their likely inaccuracy.

Other plans. I once told a client that the plan to his 1899 conveyance was by far the most accurate I had seen. It was beautifully drawn and bore a scale of 1 inch = 30 feet (or 1:360). I later enlarged an Ordnance Survey map to the same scale, overlaid the two, and they didn't fit. Of course, it is possible that this is because the smaller scale (1:1250) Ordnance Survey map was less accurately surveyed than the conveyance plan, but somehow I doubt it (I didn't have the opportunity of checking it by doing my own survey). This incident does highlight the need to avoid taking things at their face value and to make your own independent checks.

 

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Transfer deeds and transfer plans

When registered land is sold, a Transfer Deed is used instead of a Conveyance. The stationery on which the Transfer Deed is written is a Land Registry pro-forma:

  • Form TR1 for the transfer of the whole of an existing registered title;
  • Form TP1 for the transfer of part of an existing registered title.

Form TR1 deals with the sale of the whole of the land that is registered under a particular title number. It therefore deals only with the land within the general boundaries of the title. It is therefore necessary to investigate the history to find either the TP1 Transfer or the Conveyance that was used to create the parcel of land.

The typical use of a TP1 Transfer is for the sale of a new house built on land that is owned by and is already registered to a developer. The fourth paragraph (see below) of the TP1 is the transfer deed's equivalent to the parcels clause of a conveyance.

In the example above, "the attached plan" is a developer's plan. This immediately raises the question as to whether the plan is a design plan or an "as built survey"?

 

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Difficulties in relying on deeds for boundary definitions

The first thing to recognise, as you will already have realised from reading the above, is that both the pre-registration title deeds and the post-registration title plans may contain a very poor and inaccurate description of the boundaries. Leaving these technical difficulties to one side, there may be insurmountable difficulties in gaining sight of the title deeds.

Although it is thankfully a rare occurrence, pre-registration title deeds are not immune from accidental destruction as a result of, for example, a fire in the offices in which they are held.

Then there is the attitude of the mortgage lenders towards document storage. Traditionally, they have held the title deeds for unregistered land as security against the loan that they have made to the purchaser of the land. If the mortgage lender holds the title deeds then the landowner is unable to sell the land without the mortgage lender's knowledge and agreement.

Some mortgage lenders have taken the view in relation to registered land that - because title to registered land is guaranteed by the state and because they have registered a charge against the title - there is no longer a need to hold the pre-registration title deeds as security against the loan they have made. Consequently, many sets of title deeds have been destroyed, although some have been returned to landowners. A mortgage lender who has made loans against 1,000,000 properties, and who keeps the title deeds for each property in a separate lever arch file, requires nearly 80 km (50 miles) of shelving on which to store all of those title deeds. So there is a big incentive for the mortgage lenders not to store title deeds that they don't need to store. But if they destroy those title deeds then they are assuming - rightly or wrongly - that Land Registry has made a note, on the relevant title registers, of all of the definitive information that was contained in the deeds on which first registration of the title was based.

Land Registry's policy on making and keeping copies of title deeds may best be described as patchy. Sometimes they will keep on their files a copy of a deed that is definitive and make it known, via the register for that title (as in the example below), that a copy of the deed is available: you have only to ask them for an official copy of it (and pay them a small fee) to obtain your own copy.

As an alternative to making copies of deeds, Land Registry sometimes (and perhaps this is historical and dates from an era when the copying of documents was too expensive and the electronic storage of documents was not yet available) incorporated lengthy quotations from deeds into their title registers. Such title registers were pages and pages long.

There is a modern trend for title registers to be limited to a single page of A4. Such a register has room only for the title number, the address of the property, the identity of the registered proprietor/s, the price paid, and the identity of the mortgage lender to whom the registered proprietors owe money. There is no space for lengthy quotations from deeds, nor for a reference to a deed that Land Registry has seen: so we must assume that they did not see a pre-registration deed and are thus unable to supply an official copy of such a pre-registration title deed. In such circumstances the original description of the boundary has been lost.

Now, if the pre-registration title deeds, have been destroyed and if Land Registry has not seen fit to make and keep a copy of the definitive deeds, then Land Registry's general boundary is the only description that we have of the boundary of the land within the registered title.

There is an inherent lack of precision in the general boundary, and many boundary disputes are fuelled by this imprecision. And if a dispute is taken to a court for a decision as to the true position of the boundary then the first thing that the court will do - usually during the opening statements of one or both of the barristers - is to dismiss the general boundary shown on the title plan.

If the present system is lax enough to allow, or even encourage, the loss of the original description of the legal boundary of a property, and if that lax system leaves us with a wholly unsatisfactory general boundary, then we are left to wonder whether it is the registration system itself, or at least the manner in which it is operated, that is unsatisfactory?

 

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  FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTION  
   
Title Deeds: Where do I find my title deeds?

If you own unregistered land then you will need to see your title deeds in order to discover whatever information they hold about your land.
 
If you own registered land then you will find that - because Land Registry's title plan:
  • does not tell you the exact position (only the general position) of your boundaries,
  • cannot be relied upon for scaling the dimensions of your land,
  • and normally does not tell you for which fences you are responsible
- you need to refer to your title deeds (often referred to as the pre-registration title deeds) to see if they hold any of this information. Sometimes the title deeds are, as lawyers are fond of saying, "silent on these matters."
 
So, where do you find your title deeds? Well, that depends on the circumstances.
 
If you own unregistered land and have no mortgage then you may either hold the title deeds or you may have deposited them at a bank or with a solicitor for safe keeping.
 
If you own unregistered land and have a mortgage then your mortgage lender will be holding the title deeds as security against the mortgage loan. Your mortgage lender will be happy to supply you with a copy of the title deeds but will charge you a fee for doing so.
 
If you own registered land and have a mortgage then your mortgage lender may still be holding the pre-registration title deeds and will be happy to supply you with a copy of them but will charge you a fee for doing so.
 
If you own registered land and have a mortgage then your mortgage lender may have decided that the pre-registration title deeds are not needed as security because they have registered the mortgage as a charge against the title. In this case the mortgage lender may have returned the title deeds to you or may simply have destroyed them.
 
If you own registered land and have no mortgage then you may either hold the pre-registration title deeds or you may find that they were destroyed by someone else long before you bought the property.
 
If you own registered land and the title deeds have been destroyed then there is still some hope, but only some.
      When someone applies to Land Registry to register their title to a piece of land then they have to show at least some of the pre-registration title deeds to Land Registry to prove that they have title to that land. Sometimes Land Registry simply inspects those pre-registration title deeds and then returns them to the applicant - in which case no-one now holds the pre-registration title deeds because they have long since been destroyed.
      But sometimes Land Registry sees fit to make a copy of a deed that it sees as important and in some way definitive as to the land in the registered title. In these cases, if you are in possession of the Title Register for that title, you will see a reference to the deed followed by a note beneath the entry that says something like NOTE: Copy in Certificate or NOTE: copy filed. Such a NOTE is, in effect, telling you that you can purchase an official copy of the referenced title deed.
 

 

  FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTION  
   
Title deeds: Is it possible for me to see my neighbour's title deeds?

There are three different answers to this question. No. Maybe. Yes.
 
No, because in normal circumstances your neighbour is under no obligation to show you what amounts to private information, the title deeds to the land that he owns.
 
Maybe, because Land Registry operates an open register, and every citizen is entitled to purchase a copy of the title register and title plan for any registered title in England and Wales. So if you buy the title register for your neighbour's property, and if that register makes reference to a deed followed by a note beneath the entry that says something like NOTE: Copy in Certificate or NOTE: copy filed then you know that you can purchase an official copy of the referenced title deed.
 
Yes, if you are going to Court in a litigation against your neighbour, and if your neighbour's case relies upon information contained in a title deed, then the law requires him to disclose that title deed to you (in fact, he is required to disclose to you any evidence on which he seeks to rely in his case against you).
 

 

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