Dear insolvency practitioner > Chapter 16 > HM Land Registry

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1.    Inspection of the Land Registers

In addition to the land registers, which are indexed by title number, H.M.Land Registry maintains an Index of the Proprietors Names (IOPN). A search of the IOPN will produce a list of title numbers registered in the name given - though it will not take account of applications pending registration. Although the registers are open to the public documents, the IOPN is not, nor are any of the historic papers held at the Registry, other than those which are referred to on the registers. Under Rule 6 of the Land Registration (Open Registers) Rules 1991, a trustee in bankruptcy or liquidator can apply for a search of the IOPN or of any registers and supporting documents. Application is made on Form 112B.

In addition the Registrar may exercise his/her discretion to allow access to historic documents on any titles where the debtor is registered as the proprietor or where the debtor/company has recently parted with its interest. Any requests for documents must be made to the district land registry for the area in which the property is located (and not necessarily the closest to it geographically). Practitioners should specify the requisite documents, explain the reason for the request, and provide evidence of their appointment. The Registry is unable to undertake a general search through its files to ascertain if there are relevant documents in a particular case.

H.M. Land Registry Procedure on Personal Insolvency

The Land Charges Department is notified of all bankruptcies petitioned, and all orders made. A daily list of affected land registry titles that appear is then prepared. Practitioners should check that entries relating to the bankruptcy petition or order have been made by the Registry, particularly where scant information was available at the time.

Where the bankrupt jointly owns land, the title will remain registered in the names of the bankrupt and the co-owner(s). The Trustee may register a restriction or caution over the land to protect the creditors’ interest.

The trustee may apply to be registered in place of a bankrupt sole proprietor. The application to register the trustee, or a buyer from the trustee, will need supporting evidence of the trustee's appointment, and a certificate to confirm that the land is comprised in the bankrupt's estate. Similarly, on a disclaimer the applicant should certify that the appropriate notices have been served

When a bankruptcy order is discharged, the trustee may need to transfer the title back to the debtor. Merely consenting to the removal of the bankruptcy entries would not be sufficient.

Land Registry Procedures on Corporate Insolvency

Unlike bankruptcy, there is no machinery for automatically recording when a corporate proprietor of land, or a charge over land goes into liquidation.

A liquidator has wide powers to deal with a company’s property, which normally remains registered in the name of the company and, if jointly owned, of any co-owner(s). Where the liquidator, or a buyer from him, does apply to become the registered proprietor in place of the company, the application should be supported by evidence of the liquidation, the appointment, and any requisite resolutions. Similarly, on a disclaimer the applicant should certify that the appropriate notices have been served.

Land Registry Guidance

H.M. Land Registry publishes a variety of leaflets explaining its procedures. Practice Advice Leaflet No 10 deals with Personal Insolvency and Practice Advice Leaflet No 11 deals with corporate insolvency issues. Copies of these and other leaflets are available from any District Land Registry or through the Registry website on

Practitioners are reminded that this article does not cover the Land Charges Registry, based in Plymouth, which holds information on unregistered land.

(First Published in Dear IP no. 6, February 1988)

2. Registration of restrictions at the Land Registry in the case of a sole proprietor

The Land Registry has asked that the following information be provided to insolvency practitioners dealing with the bankruptcy estate of a sole proprietor of registered land where a bankruptcy restriction has been entered and the trustee in bankruptcy seeks to register a further restriction in his/her favour. 

The following abbreviations apply 

“LRA 2002” means the Land Registration Act 2002, and

“LRR 2003” means the Land Registration Rules 2003.

“IA 1986” means the Insolvency Act 1986 

1.         In the absence of some other express statutory authority, a restriction must appear to the Registrar to be necessary or desirable for at least one of the three purposes set out in LRA 2002, s. 42(1). This is so whether or not the applicant is the registered proprietor, or a person entitled to be registered as such, or a person applying on the basis that he has a sufficient interest in the entry under LRA 2002, s. 43(1)(c). 

2.         As soon as practicable after registration of a bankruptcy order under the Land Charges Act 1972, the Registrar must enter a bankruptcy restriction in the register of any affected registered estate or charge (LRA 2002, s. 86(4)). This means a registered estate or charge of which the bankrupt is sole registered proprietor (s.283(3)(a) IA 1986).  The restriction is to reflect the effect of the Insolvency Act 1986 and is prescribed by LRR 2003, r. 166. The restriction provides 

“BANKRUPTCY RESTRICTION entered under section 86(4) of the Land Registration Act 2002, as the title of [the proprietor of the registered estate] or [the proprietor of the charge dated….referred to above] appears to be affected by a bankruptcy order made by the [name] Court (Court Reference Number….) against [name of debtor] (Land Charges Reference Number WO….) 

[No disposition of the registered estate] or [No disposition of the charge] is to be registered until the trustee in bankruptcy of the property of the bankrupt is registered as proprietor of the [registered estate] or [charge]” 

3.         LRA 2002, s. 86(5) provides that, in the circumstances set out, the trustee in bankruptcy’s title to the bankrupt proprietor’s registered estate is void against a purchaser. One of these conditions is that there is no notice or restriction in the register entered under LRA 2002, s. 86. Entry of the restriction set out in 2. above, therefore, is necessary to ensure that the trustee’s interest is sufficiently protected. 

4.         The standard bankruptcy restriction, set out in 2. above, prevents the proprietor from unlawfully disposing of the registered estate. A modified form J restriction, form N or, indeed, any other form of restriction, is neither desirable nor necessary for preventing such a disposal, as the bankruptcy restriction already fulfils this function. Accordingly, LRA 2002, s. 42(1)(a) does not apply.  

5.         It also follows that no additional restriction is necessary or desirable under LRA 2002, s. 42(1)(c) because the existing form of restriction protects the trustee’s interest (and does so more effectively than either a modified form J or form N restriction).  No disposition can be registered until the trustee in bankruptcy is himself registered as proprietor. In fact, the modified form J and form N restriction are inappropriate since the effect of the bankruptcy is to prevent the bankrupt proprietor from making any dispositions of the registered estate regardless of whether notice is given to the trustee, or he consents (see, for example, IA 1986, s. 284). 

6.         As explained above, the purpose of a restriction must fall within LRA 2002, s. 42(1). It is not the purpose of a restriction to provide information about who the trustee in bankruptcy is. The trustee may, of course, apply for registration of himself as the proprietor (LRR 2003, r. 168). Although the legal estate will vest in him in any event if he is the first trustee (LRA 2002, s. 27(5)), this ensures that the register shows the trustee’s address for service.  

7.            Registration as the proprietor will, if the address for service is kept up-to-date, ensure that the trustee is given notices, which would ordinarily be served on the proprietor. Even were entry of a modified form J or form N restriction possible, it would not ensure that notice is given to the trustee in all the circumstances that would apply if he were registered as proprietor. For example, the Registrar must give the registered proprietor notice of the entry of a unilateral notice or an application by an adverse possessor under paragraph 1 of Schedule 6 to the Land Registration Act 2002, but he is not obliged to give notice to a person who is just named in a restriction (LRA 2002, s. 35 and Sch. 6, para. 2(1)(a)). 

8.         Some practitioners have commented that the trustee may not want to register himself because this may result in him becoming personally liable “if the legal interest is transferred”. However, under IA 1986, s. 306, the bankrupt’s estate vests in the trustee upon his appointment (or, in the case of the Official Receiver, on his becoming trustee). Moreover, under LRA 2002, s. 27(5), the lack of registration in his own name will not prevent the first trustee from holding the legal estate. Practitioners have commented that registration may not be a satisfactory option “where there is a secured lender who may object to the transfer”. However, since the transfer has already taken place (on the appointment of the trustee) it is difficult to see how such an objection could be sustained. Moreover, the transfer will not be caught by standard form restrictions, such as form P, because the transfer is by operation of law and not by the proprietor of the registered estate. 

9.            Practitioners have also put forward the view that the entry of a restriction in a modified form J, or form N, which expressly refers to the named trustee in bankruptcy, is desirable because otherwise the trustee will only get to hear about dispositions of the registered estate via the Official Receiver, which may prejudice the trustee’s position. However, this ignores the extent and nature of the standard bankruptcy restriction, which prevents registration of dispositions of the registered estate by the registered proprietor (unless the Official Receiver/trustee is registered as proprietor). An application to register any disposition of the registered estate by the trustee or Official Receiver must be supported by evidence that the registered estate vests in the Official Receiver or trustee, as the case may be, before the Registrar will give effect to it in the register. Should the Registrar give effect to a transfer by the Official Receiver or the trustee where the registered estate does not, in fact, vest in him or where he was not entitled to be registered as proprietor, then there would be a mistake in the register and indemnity may be payable under LRA 2002, s. 103 and Sch. 8. 

10.       The circumstances in which Land Registry will cancel a standard bankruptcy restriction are limited. Land Registry may cancel the restriction if an office copy of a court order that expressly rescinds or annuls the bankruptcy order accompanies the application. The order must expressly authorise the cancellation of the Land Charges registration as a writ or order under a specified reference number, which agrees with that set out in the bankruptcy restriction. Land Registry may also cancel a bankruptcy restriction if it registers the trustee or Official Receiver as the proprietor or gives effect to a transfer by them or a chargee exercising his power of sale where the charge was registered before the entry of the bankruptcy notice or restriction or was created before the bankruptcy proceedings. 

11.       It will not cancel the bankruptcy restriction on presentation of a certificate of discharge or an order that, whilst requiring the vacation of the land charge, does not expressly annul or rescind the bankruptcy order. For more information about the cancellation of the bankruptcy restriction, refer to Land Registry’s Practice Guide 34, in particular paragraph 4. 

12.            Practitioners have argued that a restriction in a modified form J or form N is necessary or desirable because the Official Receiver may not give notice of the bankrupt’s application to court. Presumably, given the above, the concern is that the bankrupt may obtain a court order annulling the bankruptcy order and procure the cancellation of the bankruptcy restriction without the trustee’s knowledge. However, entry of a restriction in a modified form J or form N will not ensure that the trustee receives notice of an application to the court. Rather, the debtor must give notice to the Official Receiver and to the trustee (Insolvency Rules 1986 SI 1986 No. 1925, r. 6.206(4)). If the application is made on the basis that all of the debts have been paid, the trustee must file a report. Moreover, the trustee is to attend the hearing (r. 6.210). In most, if not all, cases, the appointment of the trustee will be recorded at court (for example, under r. 6.120(5)). 

13.       It would seem that the risk of the court making an order for annulment of the bankruptcy order without the trustee’s knowledge is more theoretical than real. However, registration of the trustee as the proprietor would give the trustee much greater protection than a modified form J or form N restriction (which would also be vulnerable to cancellation in the event of the bankruptcy order being annulled). The order annulling the bankruptcy order may make express provision about the vesting of the bankrupt’s estate. Registration in the trustee’s name would make his interest clearer to the court when it is considering the terms of such an order.    

Any enquiries regarding the above should be directed towards or the Customer Services Team on 020 7166 4394. Any enquiries regarding a particular application should be addressed to the Land Registry Local Office handling that application. 

3. Application for change of address at Land Registry in the case of a sole proprietor  

Land Registry has informed the Insolvency Service that although trustees in bankruptcy are entitled to be registered as the proprietor of a property, which has vested in them, occasionally some choose to apply to amend or add to the address for service of the bankrupt proprietor instead. This is done to ensure they are made aware of any dealings in the property. 

Land Registry has informed us that this practice is not specifically permitted under the Land Registration Rules 2003 and as such they will no longer accept any applications to amend or add to the address for service of the bankrupt by trustees. 

Any enquiries regarding this article should be directed towards Alison Parine, Policy Unit, Area 5.7, 21 Bloomsbury Street, London, WC1B 3QW; telephone: 020 7637 6365 email: 

General enquiries may be directed to;

Telephone: 0207 291 6740

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