This section is from the book "Real Property, An Introductory Explanation Of The Law Relating To Land", by Alfred F Topham. Also available from Amazon: The New Law Of Property.
1. Voluntary. - By the Land Transfer Acts, 1875 and 1897 (l), the owner of land may be registered as the proprietor of that land, and may
(/) And in the Bedford Level.
(g) 7 Anne c. 20, s. 1, and 47 & 48 Vict c. 54, s. 14.
(h) 7 Anne c. 20, s. 8.
(i) Le Neve v. Le Neve, (1748), 3 Atk. 651.
(k) Yorkshire Registry Act, 1884, s. 14.
(l) 38 & 39 Vict. c. 87, and 60 & 61 Vict. c. 65.
then transfer the land simply by a registered transfer.
One of the greatest defects of our law of land is the expense which is incurred on a sale. A purchaser is bound to investigate the whole history of the title for 30 or 40 years, and if he sells the land even a short time afterwards, the new purchaser must go through the whole trouble and expense again. This occurs, on every sale of the land.
In order to avoid this difficulty the above-mentioned Acts provide that the owner of land may prove his title to a public officer called the Registrar, and if he can prove his title to the Registrar in a manner which would satisfy a purchaser, he may be entered on the register with an absolute title, and any person buying from him need not investigate the title, but gets the whole, legal estate, subject only to such mortgages, etc.,. as are entered on the register, and to certain other rights which are mentioned later.
This reform failed under the Act of 1875, because owners were not bound to incur the cost of registration, and in most cases refused to do so.
Hence the experiment is now being tried of compulsory registration.
2. Compulsory. - By the Land Transfer Act,. 1897, registration of title is (to a certain extent) made compulsory within the County of London except the City.
The register under this Act is not a register of deeds and wills under the name of the owner, but is a register of the land itself according to its locality.
The following registers are kept: -
(1) A Map Register. - This is a series of large-scale ordnance maps, open to the inspection of the public.
Any land which is on the register is coloured pink on the plan, and is marked with a number referring to the entries in the other registers.
(2) A Proprietorship Register. - This can only be inspected by consent of the registered proprietor. It contains the name of the proprietor, i.e. the person who has the power to transfer the land by registered transfer, subject to any restrictions shown on the register.
(3) A Charges Register. - This contains a list of .the mortgages and charges created on the land.
The owner of a registered charge does not acquire the legal -estate: but priorities depend on the date of registration.
Any person interested can also place on the register any of the following: -
(1) An inhibition preventing the registered proprietor from dealing with the land at all.
E.g. if the proprietor is a married woman restrained from anticipation; or if the proprietor is a tenant for life, and there are no trustees of the settlement.
(2) A restriction preventing the registered proprietor from dealing with the land except with the consent of some other person, etc.
E.g. if a tenant for life is registered as proprietor of the mansion house, a restriction is entered preventing him from selling it without the consent of the trustees of the settlement (see p. 42).
(3) A Caution or Notice, preventing the proprietor from dealing with the land without notice being given to the person who has lodged the caution.
Thus, a person who has commenced an action against the proprietor to restrain him from selling the land can lodge a caution. He thus finds out if the proprietor attempts to sell, and can usually prevent him,
If the person who lodges the caution or restriction has no power to prevent dealings with the land, the proprietor may apply to the Registrar and have it removed.
The title may be registered in one of three ways.
1. Absolute Title. - The person first registered as proprietor with an absolute title gets an estate in fee simple in the land subject only to (m)
(1) The charges entered on the register.
(2) Easements, and other rights which cannot be entered on the register.
Eights of way and light and similar rights are not entered on the register, and a purchaser must inquire about these in the usual way.
(3) Trusts and other equities.
And the registered proprietor can, by a registered transfer, pass the fee simple to a purchaser subject only to charges (1) and easements, etc. (2), but free from trusts and equities (3) (n).
2. Qualified Title. - If the owner cannot prove his title fully, because he cannot get rid of some defect of title, he may be registered with a qualified title. The effect is the same as registration with an absolute title, but his estate is also subject to the specified defect.
3. Possessory Title. - The person in possession of the land has only to show that he is in possession, he can then be registered with a "possessory " title. The effect is the same as in the case of an absolute title except that his estate is also subject to any adverse claims which existed or were capable of arising at the time of registration.
Thus, the register does not guarantee that a person who is registered with possessory title has any title at all, because
(m) Land Transfer Act, 1875, s. 7.
(n) Ibid., s. 30.
registration does not defeat any existing claims, whether vested or contingent.
The result is that any one buying land from a person registered in this way must investigate the title in the usual way down to the date of registration. After that date, dealings with the land should appear on the register.
Registration with a possessory title is the only form of registration which is compulsory.
When Registration is compulsory
On any conveyance on sale of a sole interest in,
(I) freehold land, or
(2) leaseholds for an unexpired term of not less(o) than 40 years or two lives, in the County of London, the title must be put on the Register.
Interests in land which cannot be put on the Register.
(1) Copyholds and customary freeholds when admittance is necessary to perfect the title.
(2) Leaseholds if
(a) there is an absolute prohibition against assignment; or
(b) there is not more than 21 years still to run; or
(c) the lease was created for the purpose of a mortgage.
Thus, where a mortgage is created by sub-lease, the sub-lease cannot be put on the register separately: but is registered as a charge on the leasehold interest.
Cases in which Registration is optional.
Such as rights of way and common.
(2) Mines and minerals.
(o) Act of 1897, s. 24.
(3) Leases with less than 40 years or 2 lives, but more than 21 years unexpired.
(4) An undivided share in lands.
(5) Freeholds mixed with copyholds.
(6) Freeholds which are part of a manor.
(7) Estates in remainder.
(8) Equitable estates -
Because there does not seem to be any penalty attached to the non-registration of these.
Effect of Non-registration. - When land in the compulsory area is not on the register, a purchaser does not get the legal estate unless the land is put on the register.
When the land is once on the register, the person who has the legal estate can, if he likes, convey it in the ordinary way without registration of the transfer. The purchaser, in this case, gets the legal estate, but he is subject to this risk, that the person, whose name remains on the register as proprietor, may convey the fee simple to some one else by a registered transfer.
The purchaser can protect himself against this by putting a caution or notice on the register.
See Capital and Counties Bank v. Rhodes,  1 Ch. 631.
Thus, it would seem that when land has once been registered there is no necessity to continue to transfer it by registered transfers. A purchaser can, if he likes, investigate the title, and take a conveyance in the usual way, and simply lodge a caution against the registered proprietor. If the purchaser afterwards sells the land, he can remove his caution, and the new purchaser can put on another caution, and so on.
In this and in many other ways the necessity for registration is often avoided in practice. This result is unfortunate, for, whatever be the cause, it would be regrettable if this last attempt to simplify and cheapen the conveyance of land, and remove the risk of fraud, should end in failure, or even in such comparative failure as would lead to a prolongation for any considerable period of the existing difficulties and complications.