In Ireland, taking ownership of seemingly ‘ownerless’ land is not as easy as finder’s keepers.
Some people think that unregistered land is not owned by anyone or refer to it as ‘no man’s land’.
This is not the case.
In Ireland, all land is owned by somebody, even if the legal owner cannot be identified.
Confusingly, ‘unregistered’ land does not mean that it is not owned by someone.
There are two separate systems for recording property transactions:
Your solicitor will know which of the two systems is relevant to your case.
When a deed is lodged in the Registry of Deeds, it is not filed there permanently, it is returned to the party who lodged it for registration.
So, what options are available to you in Ireland if you wish to register a right of way or lodge a claim for squatters rights (adverse possession) against land, where you do not know who owns the land?
You can still lodge an application in the Land Registry.
Along with all the information and documentation that requires to be submitted to the Land Registry, the identity of the servient owner (the owner of the land where the right of way is) is to be shown, to the satisfaction of the authority, as far as possible.
If, for example, the owner is unknown, it will come down to some detective work by you, if you are lucky.
Enquiries can be made locally with neighbours, adjoining owners, local residents, owners of pubs, the local post office etc.
You can check the local planning department for any relevant planning applications.
Get your solicitor to check your deeds, to see if your deeds lend any clues as to who the owner of the relevant property was on a specific date.
Often, those who have been living in the area for years may know.
Sometimes people in the local area may not know who owns the road or property.
Very often, in urban areas, land has registry of deeds title, and it is difficult to establish who owns the land in question.
Searches can be conducted in the Valuation Office to try to identify the stated owner/occupier, or the owner of any superior interest.
Where the servient land is unregistered, and satisfactory evidence of the identity of the owner of the servient land is not produced, the authority may direct such searches, advertisements, notices and enquiries as it may deem necessary.
The Land Registry often will direct that an advertisement be placed in a local newspaper, and a notice be erected by the road, affording people an opportunity to lodge a valid legal objection to your application.
If no valid legal objection is received within the relevant time frame, the application will proceed to registration.
If a valid legal objection is received, you will be afforded an opportunity to reply to the objection within a specific time frame.
As regards a claim lodged for adverse possession, Rule 50 of the Land Registration Rules prescribes the service of notices of the proposed registration.
That rule allows for notices to be served on such persons as the Property Registration Authority may direct.
In practice, the Land Registry serves notice on all identified necessary notice parties, including adjoining adjacent owners, and such others as deemed appropriate or necessary.
It may be necessary to direct service of notice in a newspaper circulating in the area, the newspaper with the greatest circulation, or in another county or country.
Karen Walsh, from a farming background, is a solicitor practicing in Walsh & Partners, Solicitors, 17, South Mall, Cork (021-4270200), and author of ‘Farming and the Law’. Walsh & Partners also specialises in personal injury claims, conveyancing, probate and family law.- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org- Web: www.walshandpartners.ie