Claim Land Free In The UK (What You Need To Know)

Did you know that 50% of the land in Britain is owned by less than 1% of the population? There are millions of acres of land in the UK that you can legally claim for free through a process of Adverse Possession; you simply need to know how it works.

Claim land free in the UK by cultivating properties that are not registered on the Land Registry. Adverse Possession applications to register properties in your name take 12 years. However, you can immediately generate an income from the land when cleared by cultivating crops or renting it out.

While you can claim unregistered land for free in the UK, there are several critical factors to take into account when you embark on your quest to join Britain’s elite property magnates. So, I will share my step-by-step guide to path your way to free land ownership in the UK.

Why Can You Legally Claim Land for Free In The UK?

Approximately 12 million acres of land in the UK has not been registered post-1990 when property owners were legally bound to do so. 

Consequently, there is an abundance of free land that could even be found around the corner from where you live.

There are several reasons for unregistered land. The most predominant reason is land that is forfeited to the crown when the property’s owner passes away without a legal Will or blood relatives, otherwise known as Bona Vacantia.

Alternatively, the property could have been owned by a business that ended up in bankruptcy. Furthermore, the property may be owned by authorities who oversee railways, gas lines, and electricity networks throughout the UK.

Another potential reason is that the land was bequeathed by a King to the aristocracy several centuries ago, and it has not been sold during that time.

Moreover, there is so much unregistered land in the UK that town planners and council leaders often advise interested parties to stake their claim to unused land.

How To Spot Potential Free Land In The UK 

The easiest way to find potential land is to look for unkept areas that are overgrown with nettles or with dilapidated buildings located on hilly terrains that would be difficult to farm. 

Another great clue is a fence that is either non-existent or in need of repair. On the other hand, the gate lock might appear old and look like it has not been opened in years.

Alternatively, look closer to home as there have been many instances when people could extend their gardens as the adjacent land was not registered.

Another great way of finding potential free land is by using Google Earth, first look at the land with a bird’s eye view, then zoom in to view the land at street level. However, be mindful that these Google images could be outdated and follow up with a visit to the specific area.

Although it does not mean that you can simply occupy the land without doing your due diligence, as that would lead to disaster.

7 Steps To Find Out Whether UK Land Is Free

Once you have identified some land that has not been well maintained, it’s time to go on a fact-finding mission to ensure that the land has not been registered.

Review the Land Registry if you are interested in a property that is situated in England or Whales. Alternatively, refer to the following registries in Northern Ireland or Scotland.

It is unnecessary to pay the £3 fee for a copy of the title plan or register. Simply use the house number and postcode to view the property on the Land Registry website. 

Circulate your cursor over the map in the middle of the property (not at the edge of the land), as you will get a pop-up notification that a deed is available for that property. If the relevant property has not been registered, the system will confirm that.

The Land Registry map features a radius of 20-30 meters which means that if your cursor is not in the middle of the land, you could pick up deeds for the adjacent property.

To improve your chances of claiming several acres of free land in the UK, widen your scope and look for numerous properties in the same area that might not have been registered.

Seven steps to find out whether locals own the land or if it has been registered:

Step 1: enquire from the adjacent landlords or neighbors whether they know the landowners of the property that you are interested in claiming.

Step 2: tap into local knowledge by asking longstanding residents if they have any information about the property.

Step 3: make inquiries at the local post office, pub, or neighborhood shop.

Step 4: review adjacent registered land deeds as they could refer to the adjoining land, including its owner.

Step 5:  consider reviewing your local or county records for information. There are several local authorities like Middlesex and Yorkshire who maintain the records of their deeds. However, you would need to have the name of the property’s current or previous owners. 

Step 6: Inquire from your local authorities to ascertain whether planning requests have been submitted for the relevant property. Applicants are mandated by law to include a signed Certificate A or Certificate B, which provides the owner’s name. 

Step 7: alternatively, review your region’s electoral register for additional information.

How Long Does It Take To Claim Land Free In The UK?

Now that you have completed your search process to confirm that the land has not been registered, it’s time to get the ball rolling by staking your claim to the property.

While it might sound straightforward, patience is advised. The entire process, from when you initially stake your claim to the land to when it may be registered in your name, takes 12 years in total.

The 12-year Adverse Possession timeline to claim free land in the UK is as follows: 

  • After five years: submit a provisional land claim application to the Land Registry.
  • After ten years: apply to the Land Registry for permanent ownership of the land.
  • After two years: you may register the property in your name if your ownership is not disputed.

While the application process is lengthy, you can immediately generate funds from the land until it is registered in your name.

Declare Your Claim To Free Land In The UK

It is important to stress that claiming free; unregistered land is perfectly legal in the UK if the land is not being used by its owner.

While proclaiming that you intend to lay claim to unused land is intimidating at first, it’s not a criminal offense unless you are knowingly stealing productive land.

First, purchase an inexpensive mobile phone with its own number, which can exclusively be used for objections relating to your claim. 

The bonus is that objectors will not have your personal mobile number, and you will know what to expect if the new mobile phone rings.

If you want to lay claim to more than one property, create several printed and laminated signs that say: “private property, trespassers may be prosecuted, including your mobile phone number.” 

Always keep these signs in your vehicle as you never know when they may be needed.

The signs should be erected at the property entrance in full view or on a building’s front door. 

Most importantly, take selfies in front of the signs with your mobile phone that include date stamps, as you will have to start keeping records in support of your claim.

It’s a great sign that you can start working the land If you have not received any irate calls from the land’s rightful owners within a month of displaying them. 

However, if you do receive an objection, focus on another unregistered parcel of free land that might be available.

Cultivate Your Free Claimed UK Land

Once you have reached the stage where there have been no objections for several weeks, it’s time to get to work.

To keep costs down and maximize your profits, start by using free or used timber and other building materials to repair the property’s gates and fences. 

You will be surprised to see how much free building material is available online on Preloved or Facebook Market Place sites.

Then it’s time to clear out the overgrown land. The quickest and easiest way to clear the property is by using Goats to consume the long nettles and long grass (that’s if you can find them). 

If the land has been used as a dumping site, the clearing process could take longer. However, it does not matter how long it takes to clear the land if you have started to do so.

Generate An Income From Your Free UK Land

Once the land is fenced off and cleared, there are several ways in which you can start generating income from it.

It may be rented to farmers who need extra grazing land for their animals, or you could rent it out to people who need allotments to grow their produce. 

Keep records of all the rental invoices. It will strengthen your claim to permanently register the land if you demonstrate that it has been rented out for several years. Alternatively, you could farm the land yourself to start making a profit from it.

In the unlikely event that someone proves to be the rightful owner of the property, they may not also lay claim to any rental income that has been generated from the property.

How To Claim Free Land At The UK Land Registry?

Once you have worked the land for five years, submit a temporary claim at the Land Registry 

to ensure that no one else will try to take possession of the free land.

It is doubtful that someone else will try to stake their claim to the land; however, if they do, the onus is on them to provide evidence that the land belongs to them.

After ten years of cultivating the land, submit a permanent claim application to the Land Registry, as there’s a great chance that your application will be successful. 

It is also ideal to submit a planning application for easily removable structures if your application is unsuccessful.

Furthermore, if another person worked the land for seven years, and you have proof that you took over cultivating it, it would take only five years to register the deed in your name. 

The added advantage is that you would have generated income from the land during that time.

Legal Requirements To Claim Land Free In The UK

Keep the land in tip-top condition to strengthen your prospects of securing a title deed in your name.

Furthermore, befriend your free property’s neighbors as they will support your Land Registry claim should a dispute arise. 

Above all else, ensure that you can provide the following evidence in support of your claim with the Land Registry:

  1. Prove Exclusive Possession Of The Free UK Land  

Provide photographic evidence that the property has a well-maintained fence.

  1. Demonstrate Intention To Claim The Free UK Land 

Provide evidence that the land is used for a specific purpose like grazing cattle or that you have built a hut or a pond.

  1. Possess The Free UK Land Without Consent

You may not claim the land if there is evidence that you requested consent from another person to work on the land.

  1. Keep Records Of All Your Free UK Land Expenses

Retain and provide records of all your invoices for building material, including rental invoices.

  1. Take Photos Of Your Work On The Free UK Land

Provide photographic evidence with geolocations and dates concerning all the work you have done on the land.

Conclusion

To claim land free in the UK is a lengthy process that demands patience and a good amount of physical labor to clear the property. However, the rewards of owning a property for free, coupled with the significant income you can generate from the land, is an undoubtedly worthwhile endeavor. You can alternatively buy your own woodland, which would take less time but cost more.

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