display | more...

In property law in the UK, the doctrine of notice is a concept by which a potential purchaser of real property can take free of any equitable interests in that property; said equitable interests moving from the land to the money or other consideration that was paid for it.

The doctrine itself stems from the idea of equity's darling - a "bona fide purchaser for value without notice". If someone who falls into this category of person purchases your land, then they gain the legal title (ownership at law) of the land and all those people whose interests in the land is merely equitable (i.e. lodgers, lenders who have an equitable mortgage secured on the land, holders of easements, etc.) lose all those interests in the land. This means that the proverbial granny in the attic is out on her ear, and the person next door who has to walk over your front garden to get to their house no longer can do that. Understandably, taking free of such interests is quite a drastic step, so the bar of proof that a potential purchaser is equity's darling is rather high.

Firstly, the purchaser must not have notice of any of the equitable interests in the land. Being able to satisfy this hurdle is a lot harder than it looks; you cannot just deliberately fail to inspect the property before buying it. If you do that, a court will find that you had "constructive notice" of those interests - that is, you will be deemed to have notice of all interests, charges, easements, and whatnot that you would have known about had you made a reasonably thorough inspection of the premises. The rationale for this is, of course, is that if you couldn't be bothered to find out about things like that, then it's your own lookout. If, however, you made a reasonably thorough inspection of the property and the previous owner contrived to hide evidence of, say, a lodger from you, and thus you never found out about said lodger, then you will be considered not to have notice.

Secondly, you must be a purchaser "for value." What this means is that the consideration one provides to purchase the land must be "valuable" - that is, in economic terms (i.e. money) and not merely nominal consideration. There are no hard and fast rules for determining what constitutes valuable and nominal consideration; generally speaking, though, simply handing over a few pounds to secure a valid contract of sale will not constitute valuable consideration. Generally speaking, though, this element of the doctrine is very often judges as part of the test for good faith, which is more a matter of impression than hard and fast rules. That being said, though, in these instances, any offer made to the seller which is realistic (i.e. around the property's market value) is generally held to be valuable consideration.

This doctrine may not last much longer in English law; with the Land Charges Act 1972 and the Land Registration Act 2002 implementing a more coherent system of land registration which records all the various charges and interests and other rights held in and over each piece of land, and the moves towards electronic conveyancing of property, this doctrine, which only applies to unregistered land, could well be on the way out. That being said, though, for registered land there is a statutory provision in Schedule 3 of the above Act which sets out a limited version of the doctrine of notice referring to the interests of "persons in actual occupation" of the property.

Log in or register to write something here or to contact authors.