The work of the Land Registration Division
The Land Registration Division is a highly specialised and expert property law tribunal. The quality of its decisions, its specialist subject matter, and the jurisdiction to award costs means that parties before it are frequently represented by solicitors and counsel. It is also attractive and welcoming to parties representing themselves.
The Land Registration Division exercises two main jurisdictions in England and Wales.
The majority of its work consists of the determination of matters referred to it by HM Land Registry under s. 73(7) of the Land Registration Act 2002. Where an application made to HM Land Registry is disputed and the Registry considers the objection to an application not to be groundless, the matter will be referred to the Land Registration Division for determination.
At present, over 1100 such cases are referred each year. They span the whole range of real property law, including applications for title to land, boundary disputes, claims for rights of way or other easements, disputes about charges over or beneficial interests in land, and many other matters.
The Land Registration Division also exercises the original jurisdiction of the tribunal, under section 108(2) Land Registration Act 2002, to “make any order which the High Court could make for the rectification or setting aside of a document” dealing with land or any interest in land. A party to such a document may apply directly to the Tribunal, on form T410, for an order to rectify it or set it aside – on grounds, for example, of mistake; undue influence; misrepresentation; forgery or fraud.
A third jurisdiction conferred by Schedule 5 paragraph 4 Land Registration Act 2002 (appeals from decisions of registrars relating to Land Registry “network access agreements”) is not known ever to have been exercised, by the Tribunal or its predecessor the Adjudicator to HM Land Registry.
The procedure in the Land Registration Division is similar to that in the courts, with the full range of case management directions being made. Hearings are heard by a judge sitting alone and there is full costs-shifting jurisdiction. All final decisions are reserved, then issued in writing a short time after the hearing.
An important feature of the Division’s practice is its ability and willingness to sit throughout England and Wales. Face to face hearings are typically conducted in a court centre close to the parties and land involved in the proceedings, and preceded by a site visit. Since the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, the majority of hearings have been conducted remotely by Cloud Video Platform (soon to be replaced by the HMCTS Video Hearings Service), with site visits where considered necessary. Face-to-face hearings are now gradually being restored where appropriate.
The Land Registration Division is headed by the Principal Judge (since 2019, Judge Michael Michell) and currently has three other salaried judges (Judge Alexander Bastin, Judge Ewan Paton and Judge Diana Barlow). A number of fee-paid judges (currently 34) sit regularly in the Land Registration Division. They are barristers and solicitors specialising in property law, mostly in private practice.
The judges are supported by two registrars who carry out delegated judicial as well as administrative functions.
The administrative work is the responsibility of a dedicated team of staff led by a Delivery Manager.
Since 2020, the Division has moved to almost entirely “paperless” procedure. Save where a party does not have computer or smartphone access, all communications, documents and bundles are now sent and filed electronically. See the “Guidance and Information” section for further details.
The Division offers a judicial mediation service to parties.