Ask Our Experts – Q & A on Property Law with Paul Westwell

No change

Do I need to alter the name on the deeds of my house? I changed my name when I remarried after the death of my first husband. My second husband died five years ago.

No. I presume you owned the house jointly with your first husband, so that when he died you became sole owner. In that case all you need to do is keep a copy of your second marriage certificate, which shows the change of name, in a safe place along with the death certificate of your first husband so that your executors can establish your ownership of the property when the time comes. You could update the Land Registry in the meantime as this may make matters move straight forward in the long term and protect against potential property fraud.

Strip search

We bought our house three years ago and were told by the seller that the strip of land opposite belonged to the property. We found it was not on the deeds but the sellers maintained it for over 40 years and put large stones around it painted white. How do we prove ownership if anyone ever asks? We do have an aerial photo dated 1997.

You don’t currently own the strip. The question is: does anybody else? You could apply to the Land Registry to search the index map to see if the land is currently registered. You would have to supply a plan which clearly identifies the land and an Ordnance Survey map reference. If it is registered you may be advised to leave well alone, since (if they have kept their address for service up to date) the owner will be notified if you apply to own it and could evict you. If the land isn’t registered then testimony from the previous owners and your photo could convince the Land Registry that you now own the strip through adverse possession. Your chances of success in obtaining the land will depend on the extent of your use of the land.

Manx deeds

I’m told I am to receive my uncle’s house, which is in the Isle of Man, when he dies. However he had a fire in which his title deeds were destroyed. What will be the legal implications of this when I eventually have to go to the Isle of Man to deal with it?

Unfortunately, the Isle of Man is outside of our jurisdiction and therefore we cannot advise as to what the legal implications would be. We would suggest that you contact the government on the Isle of Man to find out if they have a Land Registry and if the property is registered with such an organisation or alternatively, contact a solicitor who can practice in the Isle of Man.

Shock report

I bought a house nearly four years ago. A survey was carried out for the bank’s valuation purposes. Now I’m trying to sell, the prospective buyers’ surveyor has discovered so much damp and dry and wet rot that no-one can get a mortgage to buy the house. Surely the bank’s survey should have detected these problems?

See a solicitor immediately. A survey for a bank or building society is much less thorough than a full private survey, and since it is carried out for the lender rather than the buyer it used to be thought that if the surveyor was negligent the buyer would have no comeback. However there have been some landmark court cases which suggest this isn’t so. Given the extent of the defects to your house you could well have a claim against the bank’s surveyor.

How we can help

Should you need expert legal advice regarding any of the above or indeed any other property law matters, please contact Paul Westwell at or telephone 0161 330 6821.

Alternatively, you are welcome to attend any of our free legal surgeries. Please click here for dates and times – No appointment necessary.

The contents of this article are intended for general information purposes only and shall not be deemed to be, or constitute legal advice. We cannot accept responsibility for any loss as a result of acts or omissions taken in respect of this article.