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F E Smith
F E Smith, Advocate
Category: Law
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Experience:  I have been practising for 30 years.
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We have derelict land adjoining our property containing the

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We have derelict land adjoining our property containing the burnt out shell of an asbestos roofed Dutch barn which still supports our half of the barn which is still operational and contains some valuable equipment. When we moved here 25 years ago we approached the owner to buy it but he wasn't interested as he was keeping it in the hope of getting planning permission even though it was outside the village boundary. We subsequently discovered that he had emigrated and didn't leave a forwarding address. I have approached the Land Registry but the land is unregistered. I did get an address for his mother but she hasn't answered my letters asking for his contact details. Is there any other way I can find out how to contact him? It is becoming urgent as the village boundary is now defunct and planning permission is going in for other areas of land. We would like to purchase the land to protect our assets but if that's not possible we'd like to know where we stand with the two parts of the barn. Do we have any legal rights as the concrete stanchions left in the derelict half help support our half?
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Law
Expert:  F E Smith replied 1 year ago.
How long ago did he emigrate?Do you have his previous address?
Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Unfortunately we only ever had a phone number given to us by his former wife's brother's former in-laws (!) who have since died. I believe they were also the ones who told us he'd emigrated but that was before our children were born 17 years ago. Ie gossip and hearsay and not much use!
Expert:  F E Smith replied 1 year ago.
It is very difficult in many cases to find the owner of nonregistered property. Often, it is impossible. You can use tracing agents who will normally charge a fee of £200 or thereabouts for an international search private investigators who may charge somewhat more. Their enquiries would be based upon previous addresses and telephone numbers and following the chain of events. Although many will do a no find no fee for domestic searches, they will not do that for international searches. They will not normally be searching for the landowner, they would be searching for the person by name.If that draws a blank and the mother does not forward correspondence there is absolutely no way of finding out how to buy the property.Of course, if the land is not registered if you occupied it and treated it as your own for 12 years without objection or consent that you can apply to the land Registry to have it registered under the doctrine of adverse possession. If you do simply occupy the land, and the land owner finds out, you could well find that he surfaces. If he does, then you can deal with it. If he doesn’t, but after the 12 years, you can make the application to have it registered as yours.What you might want to do therefore if you don’t want to have to wait for 12 years is to tell the mother in writing that you intend to occupy the land and treat it as your own and to put fences up etc and then, with the requisite period has passed you will apply to have it registered as yours. I would not mention 12 years to her, let her think it is imminent. Tell her that if she has any objection to that, could he be so kind as to get the owner of the land to contact you. That may prompt a reaction.Can I clarify anything for you?Please do not forget to rate the service positive. It is an important part of the process by which experts get credit.Best wishesFES
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Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Thank you very much for your reply, it is very helpful and we will certainly try the letter to the mother and fencing the land. The only ongoing concern I have is regarding the support of our barn roof by the remaining derelict structure and whether we have any rights should the owner come to light and demolish the structure for building. Otherwise thank you for clarifying the ownership issue and I would happily recommend the service.

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