Land registration errors: an owner's view
A householder whose title was affected by an error in the updating of the Ordnance Survey map, describes his experience in seeking to have it corrected
Having noted the advice given in several publications to “clear your completed mortgage on title deeds” to save heirs the problem, I set out to complete this.
In November 2015 I arranged by letter for discharge of my mortgage via a local solicitor. When this was complete he provided a copy of my title deeds in January 2016. To my surprise the title plan was incorrect – with a chunk of land cut off. During four months of trying to get this corrected via solicitor and through the Registers of Scotland (RoS) and their complaints procedure, RoS refused four times to correct their error. RoS are responsible for delineating the red boundary line on title maps, not Ordnance Survey (OS).
By my own initiative, writing to OS to complain that their map was in error, they sent a surveyor to check; he agreed and OS amended their map to show the correct boundary contour as on previous title plan maps. Eventually in April 2016, after RoS had received the OS update, my title plan was corrected.
I might add here that when the 20 year prescription period comes into effect after that length of ownership of a property, the RoS error cannot then be corrected or compensated for.
RoS continue to refuse sending amended title plans to owners for approval/amendment. In my case they have stated again recently:
“Ordnance Survey updated their data surrounding the subjects in January 2005 which was part of their Positional Accuracy Improvement (PAI) project.
“The subjects were updated manually to reflect the submitted OS data as per our normal policy. The OS data was subsequently updated in 2016 and the extent of the subjects were again manually updated to agree with the data submitted to us by OS.
“It is not the Keeper’s policy to re-issue title plans that have been updated as a result of new OS data for approval. Any updates to the OS detail should not impact on the legal title of the property shown on the title plan. It should simply be an update to the underlying detail. I recognise that, in this case, the update did affect your legal title. This should not have happened and this office has apologised for the occurrence of the error.
“Although we did use an automated system to update title plans during the PAI project this was not used in all cases.”
In other words someone actually looked at my title and took the decision to reduce it so that it coincided with the “straight line” shown on the updated OS map. That is, frankly, even more concerning to me than what I previously envisaged. It means that someone took a conscious decision to reduce my title without checking with me.
Errors causing loss
I understand that Keeper-induced registration (KIR) is to be notified to owners on completion of their unilateral RoS land registration. This system is completely alien to me: owners are having their legal titles changed without giving approval or requesting amendment where necessary!
KIR title deeds by statute should be approved or challenged by owners before they are lodged in the Land Register, and those already lodged (around 60,000) must be retrospectively sent to owners, to notify these owners and give them the opportunity for approval/amendment.
So far comments I have received from solicitors, RICS, surveyors and property owners show that there has been a complete disregard for title holders.
Apart from my own case, many other people have had similar problems with title deed errors, including one who lost one third of an acre through the 20 year rule.
I had a long telephone conversation with Stuart Ross, a land surveyor who has a surveying company. He described several cases off to me and they beggar belief in their incorrect title plans. In 2009 he wrote to Fergus Ewing on the subject (see blog at stuartjross.com/blog/), to which there was no outcome.
I am also aware of problems with the RoS ScotLIS system. Here is a typical example of five title plans that are at odds with each other, as their boundaries do not match:
||Date of sale
||32 Burnside Place
||34 Burnside Place
||36 Burnside Place
||38 Burnside Place
||2 Burnhead Road
Furthermore, it has been noted to me that solicitors are using copies of ScotLIS plans to register changes to title deeds, even though there is a clear warning on them stating: “The boundary outline is not a precise representation.”
Add to that the fact that photocopiers change the image sizes.
To exacerbate this, with the scale being used the red boundary line represents a dimension the width of a car. (See Stuart Ross's website, referred to above, for a more detailed explanation.)
Bearing in mind that it is owners that fund solicitors, surveyors and RoS in an endeavour to correct their title plan errors, I would suggest that it is time for the professional bodies to up their game and provide some much needed improvements in service to owners.