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Gaining and Losing Title to Registered Land

In Horace Parshall v Clara Hackney [2013] EWCA Civ 240 the appellant (“X”) appealed against a decision that the respondent (“Y”) had acquired possessory title to a parcel of land which had formed part of his property (“the disputed land”).

In 1980 the disputed land was mistakenly included in the registered title of both parties’ properties. The situation was made worse in 2000 when the Land Registry accidently excluded the disputed land from X’s title during computerisation of its records.The appeal posed the following questions in relation to the gain and loss of title to registered land under the Limitation Act 1980 and the Land Registration Act 1925 as replaced by the Land Registration Act 2002.

  • Can a person with a registered title have “a right of action” to recover his land from a person who also has a registered title to it and who is in possession of it?
  • Can a person in possession of land, which is registered in his name, be in “adverse possession” of it within the meaning of the 1980 Act?
  • Can a person acquire a prescriptive easement over land to which he has a registered title by relying on long user as of right?

In allowing the Appeal, the Court of Appeal held

  • X was not disposed of the disputed land. Dispossession did not occur because Y’s taking of possession was not unlawful as Y also had a registered title to it, with all that entailed under the 1925 Act.
  • X had no right of action against Y for the recovery of possession because Y had not unlawfully taken possession of the disputed land. Y was entitled in law, even as against other persons with a registered title to the disputed land, to go onto it and remain in possession of it.
  • Y’s possession of the land was not “adverse possession” within the meaning of the 1980 Act. As long as Y remained registered proprietor of the disputed land that possession would be lawful and could not be adverse.
  • No easement could be acquired by Y who was, during the relevant period of user, the registered owner of both the dominant tenement and the servient tenement (the disputed land).

Elizabeth Dwomoh / 1st May 2013


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