The deeds to your house serve as the means to demonstrate the property is yours. In the past, criminals have stolen deeds whilst families have been on holiday and sold their homes and all their possessions by faking their identities. Whilst such tales of woe are relatively rare, it underpins the importance of keeping your deeds safe. Solicitors generally offer a good safekeeping service, but there are some pitfalls.
Change of Address
Solicitors might offer you a place to store important documents, but this doesn’t mean they’re safe forever. Some solicitors have moved business addresses with many important documents being lost during the move. Of course, with the introduction of an electronic land registry this isn’t a massive problem any longer, but it still causes a lot of stress and heartache.
Solicitors are humans just like the rest of us. There’s always the risk of losing your deeds as a result of sloppy practice.
Theft and Disaster
Generally, thieves won’t target a solicitor’s secure offices. The security is too great to make it worth their while. And even if they managed to get away with any important documents. they couldn’t attempt to sell any houses or take out another mortgage. Solicitors already have contingency plans in place in the event of a major theft.
Disasters such as fires and floods can also occur. Again, these firms have already initiated plans in order to reduce the damage caused by such an occurrence. Important documents they hold for their clients tend to be kept in fireproof safes and watertight lockboxes, or even in security rooms/vaults.
There are alternatives to using a solicitor. Many private companies offer services where you can securely store deeds for a small fee. Take note, most UK high street banks now aren’t allowing customers to open new safety deposit boxes. Unless you already own such a box with your local bank it’s unlikely to turn into a viable option.
The best option is to make copies of your deed and hold them in multiple institutions. Some people might keep a standard paper copy hidden at home, the original with a solicitor, and an additional copy with a private company. The odds of all three copies being destroyed in quick succession are astronomical.
The Land Registry
Housing deeds have declined in their importance in recent years. Before the introduction of electronic databases they were the only way to tell who owned a house. The loss of a deed was an extremely stressful scenario which led to months of long legal complications. The electronic land registry now takes the pain away.
Since most houses have been automatically registered it means the loss of the housing deed doesn’t affect anything. Many banks and mortgage providers recently sent back their copies of housing deeds to the owners as they had no need to hold them any longer. Now, you can have peace of mind because a central database stores everything.
Whilst the land registry eliminates the need for multiple copies of housing deeds, it’s still wise to keep at least one. Generally, most solicitors do a fine job of storing your deeds, but keeping them at home in a safe or other secure device with your other important documents gives you complete control over what happens and when; it saves you a bit of money too.