Registers of Scotland issue guidance over 'Souvenir' plots of land

27 April 2012

The Registers of Scotland have recently published advice on those seeking to buy a little piece of Scotland and invest in a ‘Souvenir Plot’. The adverts are a familiar site across the internet and in the classified ads. A variety of web-based companies will sell you a small parcel of land – sometimes as small as one square foot – for prices starting  around £30, with the websites also stating this entitles the purchaser to style themselves ‘laird’.
There are several inaccuracies in their sales pitch. Ownership of land in Scotland is only given legal effect if that land is registered in the Land Register. The Land Registration (Scotland) Act 1979 defines such small areas of land as ‘souvenir plots’ and further defines this as ‘a piece of land which, being of inconsiderable size or no practical utility, is unlikely to be wanted in isolation except for the sake of mere ownership or for sentimental reasons or commemorative purposes’. Whilst the companies selling these plots may spin this statutory provision in such a way that the unwary buyer thinks that registration of souvenir plots is not required, the Keeper of the Registers of Scotland is clear – ownership of land only has legal effect on Registration. No registration means no real ownership, despite some websites stating that the right of ownership is transferred by the law of contract.
If the land that has been supposedly bought is not actually yours, what about that grand title? Again, the claims made by these companies are not entirely accurate. An individual is only known as a Laird if they own a considerable area of rural land, arguably at least hundreds of acres, and it is not an official title but merely a customary one given to that person. It is a label that is falling out of use anyway.
Whilst there will be buyers that will be fully aware that their purchase is merely a symbolic tourist souvenir  and may be happy to enter into the spirit of the idea  by parting will smaller amounts of money, there is a more sinister practice that some can fall victim to. ‘Land banking’ is where plots of land are sold to investors who are promised good returns when the land goes up in value, often by being granted planning permission. Often, the land is completely unsuitable for development, as it is agricultural or brownfield and unlikely to be granted planning permission. It is bought cheaply and sold on to unsuspecting members of the public for an over-inflated price. The practice has received media attention across the UK with the public being warned that those looking to profit often use cold-calling and aggressive sales tactics.
As with any potential purchase involving land, a Solicitor should always be consulted who can properly ensure that the buyer is aware of all the facts before going ahead. If you require advice about a property matter - however big or small - then please Contact Inksters. 

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