In the United States you do not need a lawyer to transfer the ownership of a home from one person to another. Deeds can be transferred simply by writing a quitclaim letter which meets certain requirements. There is no equivalent procedure in the UK. Here the transfer of ownership in land can be tricky, depending on who owns the property in question, whether it is charged by way of mortgage, whether or not the property is registered at the Land Registry, and whether the change of ownership arises by way of sale or gift. UK conveyancing matters are typically handled by a solicitor.
Ascertain whether your property is registered at the Land Registry. If your home is listed on the Land Register, you should hold office copies of the Land Register which identifies your property and specifies your property's unique title reference number. This is effectively the title deed to your property. It will give details of who owns the property, whether there is a mortgage or other charge registered against it, and whether there are any restrictions or third party interests in the property which could effectively block a transfer of ownership or a sale. If you do not hold office copies, or if you do but these are more than a few weeks old, you should apply to the Land Registry for an updated copy (see Resources).
Obtain forms TR1 and AP1 from the Land Registry if:
you own the property as an individual; and you wish to transfer ownership of the whole property; and there are no mortgages registered against the property; and there are no notices or restrictions registered against the property; and there are no entries in the Charges Register of the Land Register; and you are selling the property to a cash buyer or transferring ownership of the property as a gift.
In all other cases, or if the land is not registered at the Land Registry, you must instruct a solicitor or licensed conveyancer to deal with the transfer of ownership.
Complete form TR1. This document transfers legal ownership of the property. Follow the instructions on the form for the correct way to complete it and use the Land Registry guidance notes to help you. If you are unsure, take legal advice. The TR1 must be signed as a deed, that is, by you as the individual owner in the presence of an independent witness who must also sign and add his or her name, address and occupation.
Have the new owner complete form AP1. This is an application to the Land Registry to change to ownership details on the Land Register, that is to process the information on form TR1.
Make sure that the new owner sends the completed AP1, together with form TR1 and a cheque in respect of the Land Registry fee to the Land Registry. Details of the current applicable fee and and the relevant Land Registry office address for the property can be found on the Land Registry website. The new owner may have to pay Stamp Duty Land Tax on the transaction. Details can be obtained from HM Revenue and Customs (see Resources). The Land Registry will make the necessary changes to the Land Register and will issue a set of office copies which will show the new ownership details. Obtain a copy from the new owner for your records, or apply to the Land Registry for a further copy.
Keep a copy of the signed TR1.
Conveyancing procedures in the UK are designed to be undertaken by solicitors. It is quite unusual for an individual to seek to transfer ownership of a property himself. The Land Registry will take steps to ensure that things a solicitor would ordinarily deal with, such as money laundering compliance, have been dealt with before they will register a change of ownership.