The Land Registration Rules 2003 oblige prescribed persons to provide an address for service to enable the Registry to effect service of formal notices. The registered owner of an estate, the registered proprietor of a registered charge and the beneficiary of a unilateral notice are all examples of parties who are obliged to provide an address for service. This must be a postal address (although a “care of” address may be provided). A maximum of two additional addresses (electronic or postal) may be supplied.
Failure to keep an address for service up to date can be costly. Every inaccurate address for service on the title register increases the chances of registration fraud. Although fraud victims may be entitled to an indemnity payment from the Land Registry, this may be discounted if the fraud is found to have been due to a lack of proper care by the claimant.
There are also some strict time limits for responding to communications from the Land Registry that can be problematic where addresses for service are not kept up to date. An example is a claim for adverse possession. Where a claimant is seeking to establish title to land based on evidence of ten years’ adverse possession, the Land Registry must notify the registered owner of the land which is affected. Failure on the part of the recipient to register a counter-notice within 65 business days will result in the claimant being registered as the owner. Maintenance of a current address for service is therefore an imperative for protecting a registered title.
Another example might be a unilateral notice entered against a registered title. This offers a degree of protection to a third party with an interest in land, for example, a buyer who has exchanged contracts but not yet completed its purchase. Land Registry will notify the party benefitting from the unilateral notice that an application has been made to cancel it and will proceed with the cancellation in the absence of a response by noon on the fifteenth working day following issue of notification. The opportunity to respond in time will clearly be limited in the event that Land Registry serves notice on an outdated address, or is required to post correspondence to an address outside of the UK.
Recent changes to Land Registry practice emphasise the importance of checking an address for service. Land Registry states that, from January 2013, it will “always enter an address for service in the Register in the exact format supplied to us by Royal Mail”. This could result in discrepancies between the postal address for service entered on the register and the address provided on the Land Registry application form, which could result in communications being delivered incorrectly.
Keeping up to date
Best practice for businesses is to ensure that changing their address for service at Land Registry is included on a ‘to do’ list whenever they change registered office or management offices. There is no Land Registry fee for removing, changing or adding a further address. Businesses with more than one postal address should take the opportunity to add up to three addresses for service (although electronic addresses should be added with caution, as they can become redundant over time). Keeping addresses under regular review will help not only to ensure that Land Registry communications are dealt with promptly, but also to prevent fraud.