Passage of title

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In many legal problems it can be quite important to determine when the Title to some property or other passess from one person to another.

Title to interests in land Strictly speaking, a private citizen cannot have any title to land: all land belongs to the Crown. Instead, we say that there is an 'interest in land', and somebody owns that interest, or owns the title to that interest (same thing). In Unregistered conveyancing, legal title to an interest in land passes on execution of a Deed of Conveyance. In Registered conveyancing, if the interest is registerable, then title passes when the new ownership is entered on the Register. A deed (technically a Deed of transfer, not a conveyance) is still required to satisfy the Registrar, but the deed itself has no effect on title. Otherwise, if the interest is not registerable, the same rule applies as to unregistered conveyancing.

Typically the buyer and seller contract in advance to transfer the interest and, provided neither party attempts to rescind the Contract, the transfer itself is almost formality. If the remedy of Specific performance would be available to compel one or other party to effect the transfer, then the transfer will be 'effective in equity' from the moment of execution of the contract. Thus courts will recognize that equitable ownership has been transferred from that point; the seller retains the legal title, but on Constructive Trust for the seller. For most practical purposes, the buyer owns the interest from contract.

Title to goods The Sale of goods act (1979) states that in a Contract of sale, title passes at the time the contract is made. In many cases this will be at the moment an Offer is accepted (see: Acceptance of offer). Unless the contracting parties stipulate otherwise, and in contrast to most other jurisdictions, in English law there is no automatic passage of title on delivery of the goods. However, title by deliver does apply when the transfer of title is in the form of a gift, rather than a sale.

Title to things in action

Things in action (e.g., copyrights, debts) have no tangible presence and therefore present particular problems in the passage of title. There is specific legislation to deal with the passage of many of these articles, e.g., debts (Law Of Property Act (1925)), shares in companies (Companies act (1985)), patents, insurance policies, etc., and it is difficult to give general rules.

Land and Property Law