Property law is a branch of law that deals with the rights and responsibilities related to ownership and possession of property. Whether you’re buying a house, starting a business, or creating a piece of art, understanding the legal concepts and terminology related to property is essential. This guide provides brief definitions of some of the key terms and concepts in property law, to help you navigate this complex area of the law.


    1. Agreement for Sale: This is the legal contract signed by both parties to the sale of the Property. The Agreement promises that the Seller will sell the Property to the Purchaser under the Conditions contained in the contract. Both the Seller and Purchaser will sign a copy of the document which will become legally binding on Exchange of Contracts and at that point the Purchaser is legally obliged to purchase the Property on Completion. Should the transaction fail to complete following Exchange, the Purchaser will be liable for the 10% deposit referred to within the contract.
    2. Assured Shorthold Tenancy Agreement (AST): This is the default legal category of residential tenancy in England and Wales.
    3. Attorney: An individual (or several individuals) is appointed by another person to act in decision making and dealings in business or legal matters on their behalf. The Power of Attorney must be obtained and Registered with the Office of Public Guardian. This document must be lodged with the Land Registry following Completion of the Property transaction.
    4. Building Regulations: These are standards set for the design and construction of buildings, to ensure the health and safety of the people using the Property.
    5. Building Scheme: In such schemes Restrictive Covenants are enforceable by individual plot owners rather than just the developer of the land. 
    6. Common Parts: These are the areas of the estate which are intended for the use of all the property owners on the estate. These include communal garden areas, accessways, footpaths etc
    7. Completion date: On Exchange of Contracts the contract will contain a date for Completion. This is the date that the Property becomes acquired by the Purchasers and they can move in.
    8. Conditions: The contract incorporates The Standard Conditions of Sale (5th Edition) which relates to residential conveyancing transactions.
    9. Conservation Area: This is an area of notable environmental or historic interest or importance and is therefore protected by law against undesirable change. This may affect a Property Owners ability to obtain planning permission to make alterations to the Property.
    10. Contract Rate: a percentage determined within the Agreement for Sale above base rate from time to time of the bank referred to..
    11. Contract Terms: The contract comprises of the Special Conditions and Standard Conditions of Sale and collectively they contain all the terms of the Agreement. The Special Conditions contain the information applicable to the specific transaction only.
    12. Conveyance/Transfer Deed. These are the documents used to transfer land from one party to another in England and Wales. Throughout the history of the land, Conveyances and Transfer Deeds are lodged with the Land Registry and contain the Rights and Covenants applicable to the transfer of land. Transfer documents (TR1) continue to be the apparatus by which the transfer of land takes place. 
    13. Covenants: A legally binding promise between landowners contained in Property Deeds. Covenants may impose Conditions, duties or Restrictions as to how the land is to be used.
    14. Declaration of Solvency: A legal document signed by the seller to protect any lender should the transaction be at undervalue. 
    15. Deed of Covenant: It can be a Condition of the Title that upon the transfer of land, the Purchaser enters into a Deed of Covenant with the Landlord or Management Company. The Deed confirms that the Purchaser will comply with the Covenants contained in the original Lease or Transfer Deed. The incoming Purchaser will be required to execute the document.
    16. Deposit: This is 10% of the purchase price paid at Exchange of Contracts. This can be reduced by agreement between the parties, however in the event that the transaction does not complete the full balance of 10% will be payable.
    17. Drainage From the 1st October 2011: Some private sewers, disposal mains and lateral drains were transferred automatically into public ownership in 2011.It may be the case that there are drains within the boundary of the property that the sewerage undertaker is not aware of. Please investigate where there are such drains at the property. If you plan to extend or make alterations to the Property in the future which is within 3 meters of any public sewer you may need to enter into a Build over agreement with the utility authority.
    18. Easements: A right granted over land owned by another person for a specific reason.
    19. Exchanged Contracts: This is the step in a house purchase process under English law where both parties sign and exchange contracts and the transaction becomes legally binding.  At this point a deposit will be payable and arrangements for buildings insurance must be made to insure from that date.
    20. Executor: An individual (or several individuals) appointed according to a will (or the intestacy rules) who is legally entitled to sell the Property. A Grant of Probate will be produced by the Probate Registry and will need to be lodged at the Land Registry following completion of the transaction.
    21. FENSA Certificate: This Certificate is evidence that the windows installed at the Property (post 2002) meet current Building Regulations Standards.
    22. Flying Freehold: This means that part of the Property lies over an area which is not included in the Title. This may cause issues in relation to the support and protection of the building and therefore an Indemnity Policy must be obtained to protect against future claims.
    23. Freehold Management Company: This is where a Management Company oversees the maintenance of the communal areas. Where this applies a Service Charge will be payable which is your proportion of the cost for this service
    24. Freehold: This is where the owner has complete and absolute ownership of the land.
    25. Green Deal: A UK Government initiative that gives Homeowners the opportunity to pay for energy saving home improvements through the savings on their energy bills.
    26. Ground Rent: The regular payments made by the holder of the leasehold Title to the freeholder or superior leaseholder as required under the terms of a Lease.
    27. Help to Buy: There are a number of government schemes to help people who are unable to afford to buy a home, two of which are help to buy equity loans and help to buy mortgage guarantees.
    28. HETAS Certificate: This Certificate demonstrates that the installation of the log burner at the property was carried out in accordance with the relevant Building Regulations.
    29. Indemnity Policy: This is an insurance policy, which provides cover to you and your mortgage company against a defect in the title.
    30. Index Map Search: This search confirms whether the property is registered with the Land Registry.
    31. Japanese Knotweed. A plant which was imported into the UK by the Victorians as an ornamental plant. The plant can grow at prodigious rates and its seeds can lay dormant in the soil for up to 20 years. It is an offence to plant or grow Japanese Knotweed and if present on the land the landowner is under a legal obligation to control it. Japanese Knotweed can only be removed by specialist licensed contractors who must dispose of it as controlled waste under the Environmental Protection Act 1990.
    32. Land Registry Official Copy Entries: When land is registered, the Land Registry’s Register contains all the details of the title to the Property. The Land Registry can provide an Official Copy of the Register which is a document equivalent to the title deeds and will contain all the information regarding the title including Rights, Covenants etc.
    33. Land Registry: The non-ministerial department of the Government created to register land and property in England and Wales.
    34. Landlord: The legal owner of Property that is leased or rented to another.
    35. Lease: The Lease is a contract between a landowner and a Tenant for a specific period of time, in return for a periodic payment, known as a Ground Rent. A Lease will Grant Rights for the benefit of the Property conveyed, Reserve Rights for the retained land and contain obligations and Covenants on the part of both the Tenant and the Landlord. A Lease will contain provisions as the repair and insurance of the building and will place Restrictions on how the Property may be used.
    36. Leasehold: This is where a party purchases the right to occupy the Property for a specific length of time. There is often a Ground Rent to be paid throughout the term of the Lease to the landowner. When the Lease term expires, the Property reverts to the landowner. Encumbrances: An Encumbrance is a burden or obstruction on the Property which will not prohibit the transfer of the Property but may lessen the value. An Encumbrance may be financial or non- financial.
    37. Limited Title: Where the Seller has not lived at the Property and has no knowledge/ limited knowledge of the Property he sells with Limited Guarantee. In such cases Buyers should rely solely on their own investigations and the Surveyor Report as the Sellers cannot be held responsible for any errors made in replying to enquiries before contract.
    38. Listed Building: A building judged to be of national importance in terms of architectural or historical interest. Listed Building Consent together with the necessary Planning and Building Regulations Consent must be obtained prior to any alterations are made to the structure or physical appearance of the property.
    39. Matrimonial Home Rights Notice: A notice registered against the title to give protection to a spouse or civil partner under the Family Law Act 1996 where the property is owned by one party but the other party has a right of occupation. 
    40. Mortgage: A legal agreement by which a lending institution lends money (at interest) in order to allow the purchase of a Property, in exchange for taking Title of the Property. Upon repayment of the Mortgage, any interest in the Property by the lender is void.
    41. NHBC Guarantee (National House Building Council). Provides newly built or converted private housing with a 10-year buildmark structural warranty. Mortgage Lenders require a warranty of this kind to be in place before lending on a newly built property. NHBC requires builders to adhere to strict technical standards in addition to complying with Building Regulations.
    42. Non-standard construction: A Property which is built from materials that do not conform to the “standard”. Standard being walls made from stone or brick and a roof made of slate or tile. Properties of this type are not acceptable to Lenders unless a PR Certificate is available to show that remedial works have been carried out to rectify the construction.
    43. Overage Agreement: An agreement between the seller and purchaser of a property or land which makes provision for the future additional payment, should certain events happen.
    44. Overriding Interests: These include rights which may be apparent from inspection of the Property, but which may not be disclosed in any documentation provided. These include but are not limited to; rights of ownership or occupation, rights of way or shared access, rights of common.
    45. Planning Permission: The formal permission from a local authority for the erection or alteration of buildings or similar developments.
    46. Possessory Title: This is awarded by the Land Registry when ownership of the land is unclear. This is not considered to be a “good title” to the Property and can be refused by some Mortgage Lenders. An Indemnity Policy can be obtained to protect the interests of a Purchaser and Lender.
    47. Power of Attorney (POA): The power to represent or act for another individual’s behalf in respect of private affairs, business, or other legal matters. A Lasting Power of Attorney is a legal document.
    48. Probate: The Legal and financial processes involved in dealing with the Property of a person who has died. In these circumstances the Property will be sold by the Executors to the Estate of the legal owner of the Property.
    49. Property: In Conveyancing, Property means actual land and any buildings or fixtures on the land. 
    50. Purchase from Family Member: Where the Property is being purchased between family members, it is important to establish whether the Property is being sold at an Undervalue. In these circumstances an Indemnity Policy and Declaration of Solvency will need to be obtained.
    51. Purchase Price: The consideration agreed in the Contract to be paid in return for ownership of the Property.
    52. Purchaser(s): The individual(s) who has agreed to pay the Purchase Price in return for ownership of the Property on the Completion Date. The Purchaser(s) may be purchasing with the aid of a Mortgage or with cash.
    53. Restriction: A Restriction may be placed on the Title to restrict the way in which the land is used or to limit the way in which the land is transferred to another party. There are many types of Restrictions and Notices.
  • Rights of Way: The right to use land owned by another party in order to access a property or to enable covenants to be adhered to or rights to be exercised. 
    1. Rights: Rights are granted through the title deeds for the benefit of the land/Property or the owner of a Property. Land/Properties can also be subject to Rights (Rights reserved) for the benefit of another Property or Property owner. Rights can include but are not limited to, rights of way, rights to services, rights of support and protection.
  • Riparian Rights: Where land abuts a natural water course such as a river or stream, additional rights may be granted to the owner of the land.
    1. Sales Particulars: A document prepared by the Estate Agent expressly stating the details of the land or property.
    2. SAP: The Standard Assessment Procedure (SAP) is the methodology used by the Government to assess and compare the energy and environmental performance of dwellings. To provide accurate and reliable assessments of dwelling energy performances that are needed to underpin energy and environmental policy initiatives.
    3. Section 104 Agreement: The legal Agreement made between the sewerage undertaker and the developer for the adoption of the sewers serving the development.
    4. Section 106 Agreement: This is a planning document which contains obligations which the developer must adhere to.
    5. Section 38 Agreement: The legal Agreement made between the highways authority and the developer to adopt a highway. Once a private road is adopted by the local authority it becomes maintainable by public expense.
    6. Seller: The individual legally entitled to sell the property. 
    7. Septic Tank: A means of drainage which allows the sewage to be collected where it decomposes through bacterial activity before draining by means of a soakaway. In cases where there is a Septic Tank at the Property further additional standard enquires must be raised.
    8. Service Installations: this includes sewers, drains, channels, pipes, watercourses, gutters, mains wires, cables, conduits and apparatus used for the supply of utilities to the estate.
    9. Sewage Treatment Plant: The process of removing contaminants from wastewater from the property using physical, chemical and biological processes. The outcome is to produce water which is safe to be released into the environment.
    10. Share Certificate: This is the legal document issued by a company to evidence the owners share in that company.
    11. Solar Panels: Panels installed to absorb energy from the sun to generate into energy which can be transferred back into the grid or used for domestic use. 
    12. Standard Conditions for Sale: The contract incorporates the Standard Conditions of Sale (fifth edition) for use in residential property transactions in England and Wales
    13. Statutory Declaration: A formal statement signed by an individual in the presence of a Solicitor that, to the best of their knowledge, is true and correct. In conveyancing, Statutory Declarations can be used to confirm rights of way etc.
  • Subsidence: The sinking or settling of the ground surface on which the property lies. 
    1. Survey: A comprehensive report regarding the current condition of the Property. Which will identify any defects.
    2. Surveyor: An individual who is specially trained and qualified to examine buildings and identify any issues with their structure.
    3. Tenant: An individual who occupies land or Property rented from a Landlord.
    4. Tenure: Tenure is the way in which a landowner ‘holds’ the land. In England and Wales, the most common tenures are Freehold and Leasehold.
  • The Sellers Property Information Form (SPIF): This form contains the replies to standard form enquiries as part of the Law Society’s National Conveyancing Protocol and are completed by the Sellers and provided via the Seller’s Conveyancers. The replies provided in the SPIF come directly from the Sellers themselves, who signs the SPIF to verify the authenticity of the replies.
  1. Title Absolute: This is the best title awarded at the Land Registry and confirms that the land is clear and not disputed.
  2. Title Deed: A document relating to the ownership of a Property providing evidence as to the Title.
  3. Title: In Land Law, the Title is the collective bundle of documents containing the Rights and Covenants applicable to the Property. Most Titles in England and Wales are now registered with the Land Registry.
  4. Tree Preservation Order (TPO): This is an Order made by a local planning authority to protect a specific tree, group of trees or woodlands. This Order prohibits the cutting down lopping or topping of the trees referred to therein.
  5. Unregistered Land: This means that the land has not been registered with the Land Registry. The property will need to be registered on completion.
  6. Utilities:  This refers to the services supplied/made or consumed within the estate including but not restricted to drainage of water, sewerage, transmission of electricity, gas and telecommunications.
  7. Vacant Possession: Is the Sellers legal obligation to make the Property available on completion in a state in which the Buyer can physically and legally occupy it.
  8. Valuation: A way in which the value of a Property is determined through expert opinion and the use of data.
  9. VAT: value added tax chargeable under the Value Added Tax Act 1994 and any other similar replacement tax and any similar additional tax.
  10. Water Meter: Where a Property has a Water Meter fitted it is unlikely that this can be reserved to an unmeasured supply.
  11. Wayleave Agreement: A legally binding agreement made between a land or property owner and utility providers. The document will contain rights in favour of the utility company and often covenants for the property owner. 

If you’re looking to buy or let a property and are looking for an experienced conveyancing solicitor who will carry out effective property searches, among other services, get in touch with us today on 01243 823090 (Bognor Regis) / 01903 947947 (Steyning) to see how we can help.