Key points:

  • Full disclosure should be made on an application to the Land Registry for first registration
  • In particular, historic boundary disputes should be disclosed so that Land Registry has an opportunity to serve notice on adjoining owners

Facts of Mann v Dingley

The family feud at the heart of this case was essentially a boundary dispute, which turned on the interpretation of a 1939 conveyance of part of a piece of land. Mrs Mann owned land which had originally been retained by the seller under the 1939 conveyance. Her neighbours, the Dingleys, owned the land which had been sold under the 1939 conveyance. Mrs Mann applied to rectify the Dingleys' registered title to remove a triangle of land that Mrs Mann claimed was part of the land retained by the seller in 1939 (and had consequently passed to her).

History

Mrs Mann had acquired her land in 1989, at a time when both parcels of land were still unregistered. The 1989 conveyance triggered first registration of the land acquired by Mrs Mann, and Mrs Mann applied to be registered. However, Mrs Dingley objected to the application. There was some correspondence between the solicitors for both parties and the Land Registry over several years until 1994, from which it was clear that the Land Registry would have determined the issue of the boundary in favour of Mrs Mann. However, in the event, Mrs Mann's application to be registered was cancelled, apparently because her solicitors had failed to respond to a letter within the time frame laid down by Land Registry.

Some time passed, and in 2007 Mrs Dingley died. Her son then applied for first registration of the title to the Dingley land, including the disputed triangle. The application was supported by two statutory declarations made by the son, and the land was duly registered.

Present proceedings

In the present proceedings brought by Mrs Mann to rectify the Dingleys' title, the court considered the effect of the 1939 conveyance. It ruled that the triangle of land was part of the land retained by the seller under that conveyance. It had not therefore passed to Mrs Dingley, and should not have been registered as part of the first registration application made by her son.

However, since Mr Dingley was in possession of the triangle of land, under the Land Registration Act it could not be removed from his title without his consent unless either:

  1. he had - by fraud or lack of proper care - caused or substantially contributed to the mistake which led to the registration of the triangle within his title, or
  2. it would for any other reason be unjust for the triangle not to be removed.

The court began by considering whether Mr Dingley had substantially contributed to the mistake. It pointed out that, although he had been aware of it, Mr Dingley had not revealed the prior correspondence with Land Registry from 1989 - 1994 in connection with Mrs Mann's original application to be registered. In particular, Mr Dingley had not mentioned Land Registry's view, as at that time, that the boundary lay in the position asserted by Mrs Mann.

The court therefore held that Mr Dingley had substantially contributed to the mistake on the register. However, this in itself was not enough. It was also necessary to show that he had acted fraudulently or with a lack of proper care. Mrs Mann did not suggest that Mr Dingley had committed fraud, but did suggest that the mistake in the register arose from his lack of proper care.

Lack of proper care

The court ruled that Mr Dingley was not entitled to assume that Land Registry would be aware, on receipt of his application, of the previous correspondence with Mrs Mann. The correspondence was some 14 years ago. Land Registry may not have retained it and in any event there was no basis to assume that the staff member dealing with Mr Dingley's first registration application would be aware of it.

The court held that Mr Dingley was under a duty to bring the fact that there was a dispute about the land which had been the subject of correspondence with Land Registry to the attention of Land Registry. It did say however that it might have been different if Mr Dingley had warned Mrs Mann that he was going to make the application, so that she would have had an opportunity to make representations to Land Registry herself.

On that basis the court ordered the registrar to make the alteration sought by Mrs Mann and remove the triangle of land from the Dingleys' title.

Things to consider

This case underlines the importance of full disclosure on an application for first registration.

The irony of the case is that although Mrs Mann succeeded in having the triangle of land removed from her neighbours' title, she was not entitled to be registered as proprietor of the triangle in her own right. This was because legal title had reverted to the vendor under the 1989 conveyance to Mrs Mann, as a result of the non-registration of that conveyance.