What are Land Registry OCE’s?
When you are looking at properties to buy, you’ll look at all the things that are important.
- Does the kitchen have room for all the equipment you need?
- Do you have enough cupboard space?
- Does it have enough bedrooms?
- Can you fit your king sized bed into the master bedroom?
- Is it walking distance to the station?
- Where are the shops and are there good schools nearby?
All these things are important to you and you’ll look at them closely before you decide to go ahead and make an offer.
When we look at a property that we’re helping a client to buy, we also look at all the things that are important. One of the first things we look at is the Office Copy Entries (known as OCEs) assuming that the property is registered.
These days most properties are registered, but occasionally we have to deal with unregistered land which we’ll cover in another article.
What are Official Copy Entries (OCE’s)?
The OCE is a document that we can download from the Land Registry. The Land Registry’s full name is Her Majesty’s Land Registry which is a non-ministerial department which was created to register the ownership of land and property in England and Wales. An OCE will tell us all the important things about the property you are hoping to buy.
We’ve set out below some of the more important pieces of information that we can find from the OCEs.
Address – the OCEs will confirm the full address of the property you are looking to buy. It will also confirm its unique title number.
Ownership – the OCEs confirm who owns the property. So we can check that the person selling the property to you has the right to sell it. Sometimes people are selling properties on behalf of others, such as parents who do not have mental capacity, in which case we’ll be asking for sight of a power of attorney. It also happens sometimes that the owner is deceased. In that situation we are dealing with the executors of their estate, in which case we will want to see the Grant of Probate and will want to ensure that the person who is signing the contract has the necessary authority to do so. Whatever the circumstances, we will carry out all the necessary checks. In addition, if the last transaction was more recent, the OCEs will tell us how long ago the current owners bought the property and how much they paid for it.
Charges – Most properties will have charges against them. The most common type of charge will be a mortgage and we will ensure that the solicitors for the seller use the money we send them to buy the property to pay off the mortgage and remove the charge. It’s also possible that we’ll see other charges against the property. If the current owner owes money to other people, they might have put charges against the property to make sure they get paid. This could be because the owner has county court judgments against him, or has taken out loans that have been secured against the property. We will investigate these, and make sure they are all dealt with, so that it does not affect your ownership of the property.
Restrictions – sometimes there will be restrictions against the property, such as restrictive covenants. This will specify restrictions on what can be done with the property. For example, when the house was built, it might have been part of a housing estate and the developers might have put restrictions on all of the properties to prevent them from redeveloping them, or building another property in the back garden, which is for the benefit of all the neighbouring properties. Often, with older properties, the restrictions are no longer relevant. It might now be common to expand or redevelop a property, but that doesn’t mean you can just ignore a restrictive covenant. We have a number of options, such as negotiating with the party who put the covenant in place to have it removed. However, if it’s a very old covenant, the party who put it in place may not be around anymore. So an alternative is to take out an insurance policy. This would mean that if you took out the policy, and then developed the property in breach of the covenant, if someone with the right to enforce the covenant complained, you could use the insurance policy to pay the covenant holder for any level of damages they want.
Cost of Indemnity Insurance?
How much the policy will cost will depend very much on the circumstances, such as how old the covenant is, and how likely it is that someone will want to try and enforce it. Who pays for the policy is a question of negotiation. We may say that the owner has to pay in order to do the deal, but they may say that you are the one that wants to do something that is in breach of the covenant, so you must pay. Sometimes we agree to split it between us.
It can also sometimes happen that we will find that the owner has already done something in breach of a restrictive covenant. In those circumstances we would either want to see that they had taken out insurance that you could rely on in case of trouble, or we would them to take out a policy to protect you in the future. Again, this can be a question of negotiation.
The OCE’s also contain a plan of the immediate area, with the property you want to buy clearly outlined in red. We will send this to you, and ask you to confirm that this is the correct property. Mistakes are rare, but they do happen. We have, for example, had a whole block of flats where all the lease plans for the flats on the right had the plans from the flats on the left and vice versa, so it’s always best to check. It’s also possible that you may think or be led to believe that a part of the land being used by the owner actually belongs to them (such as a larger area of the garden or a parking space) but unless this is reflected in the plan, you won’t automatically have the right to use that area. As you will have seen the property and we haven’t, you are the ones best placed to confirm the plan is accurate and to let us know as soon as possible if there is anything wrong.
The plan will also show other issues that might affect the plot you are aiming to buy. For example, if there is a row of houses, and a the end of the row there is an area where you all store your bins, but that area actually belongs to the house at the end (because someone has to own it) then on their plan, it will show that the storage area belongs to them (so it’s marked in red), but that you have the right to use it. On your plan, it might show the storage area in another colour (such as green) and the explanation in the OCEs will confirm that this is a bin storage area that you can use.
Once we have gone through the OCE’s and all the other documents, we will send them to you with an explanation and ask you to check everything over and ask you to let us know if you have any concerns. If you are aware of any issues that are going to affect the property, it’s a good idea to tell us as soon as you can so we can look out for them.
How Express Conveyancing can help?
If you are buying or selling a property, our Conveyancing Solicitors will review the Office Copy Entries in great detail and report to you of all matters concerning your property. We will also explain any and all restrictions affecting the property; something you see rarely advertised or explained on the Estate Agents particulars.
Contact us today to find out why you should instruct an Express Conveyancing Solicitor on your next property transaction.
Disclaimer – our articles are designed to give you guidance and information. There is no substitute for proper direct advice, particularly as everyone’s circumstances are different. If anything in this article may affect you, please contact us for advice that is specific to your circumstances.