You are a proud owner of a beautiful house or cosy flat. You’ve paid your mortgage off and now you’re entitled to have your house deeds handed over by your mortgage provider.

But where should you store them, so they are safe and sound?

A legit question that many folks ask themselves. Not to mention that you could be a multiple property owner, who rents out several apartments and a family house. Well, then, you’ll definitely benefit from reading further to learn how to store your house deeds safely and securely, as you’ve got more than one place to worry about, of course. 

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So, if you:

  • wonder how and where to store your original title deeds;
  • are a landlord of many properties and want to know the different house deed storage options;
  • are about to pay your mortgage off and want to store the title deeds safely, once you get them;

Then, read on, as we’ll delve into these matters in more detail.

What are house deeds and what do they look like?

Property deeds, also called title deeds (house deeds) are official documents, which state the ownership of a property, be it a piece of land or a building. In addition, sale, lease or mortgage contracts, as well as wills, can be also included in all the legal documentation as part of the title deeds.

In terms of what deeds look like, they have undergone, historically, many transformations. The written declaration of property ownership in an official legal document goes back for centuries in the UK and over the years, the paperwork has changed, in terms of size and appearance. For instance, a couple of hundred years ago, title deeds were as big as 1-sq. m. pieces of paper. Today, you’ll actually find that since 2013, the deeds have been kept in a digital form only, as long as the property has been registered with the Land Registry, where you can get only a copy from should you not have the original paperwork.  

Still, many property owners have their original paper documents for various reasons, such as they’ve long paid their mortgage well before the year of 2013 or they’ve received them directly from the previous owner of the house, upon signing up the property deal, etc.

And these folks often lose sleep over the dilemma of where to keep their house deeds – at home or somewhere else that’s more secure.

So, where to keep house deeds?

Where to keep house deeds safe, as mentioned earlier, is on most homeowners’ mind. This applies to those, who have the original paperwork or a hard copy, issued by the HM Land Registry, as owners are prompted to register their property in the Electronic Land Register. The situation with the latter scenario applies to folks, who simply don’t want to pay again for acquiring the copies if they got lost.

So, if you’ve ever wondered about who holds the deeds to your house, the above governmental institution is the legally responsible body that keeps all the records of property registration and ownership in the UK, though, now in an electronic form.

Right then, before we explore the best options for keeping house deeds secure, let’s find out whether you need to get hold of a copy of the deeds or the original ownership document in the first place (if say, you’ve lost them or you’ve never seen them before).

Do you need the original copies of your property deeds?

Well, “Do I need title deeds?” has a straightforward answer, provided by the HM Land Registry. If the property and its ownership have been registered with them, then, in a way, no one can dispute the fact that you own your house. Or in other words, you can always prove this fact by obtaining a copy of the deed if necessary or confirm your ownership by checking out the registration records online. But of course, as the deeds can contain various important pieces of information, it doesn’t hurt to have the hard copy of the documentation at hand.

To explore the matter further, what about when you’re about to sell your house? Do you need the house deeds then? Again, you’re not legally required to provide the buyer with the deeds, as long as the property has been registered with the Land Registry. And in any case, this is generally the job of the solicitor or conveyancer, who is representing you during the sale process. They’ll proceed with obtaining any such legal documents from the relevant authorities.

If the property hasn’t been registered for any reasons, then, presenting your proof of ownership will be a matter of importance.

Last but not least, we should emphasise again here that mortgage payers will not have their deeds until the last instalment has been paid in full, meaning, you may have never seen what your house deeds look like if the bank still owns your house legally. 

What is the best place to keep your house deeds?

Considering that we’ve just mentioned that you can somewhat relax if your property is on record with the Land Registry, where you can always access your digital deeds, then why worry about keeping the original paperwork safe, when you can get a copy from the relevant governmental entity when needed?

Here’s why. 

You see, original documentation more often than not contains extra important information, related to either or both the property itself and any consecutive changes of ownership that might have taken place over the years. Things like information on boundaries, boundary ownership (helpful in neighbours’ disputes), right of access, building regulation consents, special building certificates, contracts of sale, leases, wills, mortgages, planning matters and so on can all be, in effect, inseparable part of your title deeds. And in a situation where you want to sell your house, the buyer has every right to see those. 

And let’s not forget that virtual safekeeping in this modern age is not necessarily sufficient and 100% secure, as hackers’ attacks and other cloud-related mishaps, taking place in the future, cannot be ruled out completely as a possible risk.

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Also, did you know that if you lose these important originals and your house has never been registered with the HM Land Registry, then you will have great difficulties to sell your property at a good price? House buying companies will be your only option, which as a rule will buy your home at a significantly lower price.

So, let’s see where best to keep your house deeds safe and sound:

  • Solicitors and mortgage providers – You can have your deeds safeguarded by a solicitor at a cost. This is usually the first choice for business property owners, landlords with multiple properties and the like. It’s not up to you, however, to decide whether your mortgage provider should keep the original deeds of the property that you’re still paying off. Some lenders do store their clients’ deeds, but more often than not, it will be the solicitor, who’s dealt with you at the time of purchase.
  • Bank vaults – Banking institutions provide house deed storage options, as well. You can keep all your important legal property-related documents in a vault or a safe deposit box. You may not believe this, however, but there have been recorded rare cases in the UK of customers being told by a said bank that their title deeds got somehow lost, while in the bank.
  • In a fireproof safe at home – Well, instead of relying on someone else to keep your deeds safe (after all, human error can never be ruled out as a risk, like the above-mentioned example), you can make provisions at home to secure all your important documents and other valuables by placing them in a quality fireproof safe. It may actually prove to be a more cost-effective option in the long run, as the first two deed storage services, naturally, come at an ongoing cost.
Related: Home improvements that add value to rental property

What types of safes are good to store property deeds?

It goes without saying that standard storage units in your home, like the filing cabinet in your study or a drawer in your bedroom, are out of the question here as safekeeping solutions because they are not secure enough against burglary, fire or flooding.

So, your options for safe storage of house deeds at home come down to one thing – a fireproof and waterproof safe box, regardless of its shape, size, price, whether it is stationary or portable, or what the supplier has decided to call it. 

You may come across storage boxes that are called document chests, deed boxes or document boxes, which are all essentially fire-resistant up to 60 minutes, depending on their type and price. They will all have a secure locking mechanism via a code combination.

Furthermore, to store your house deeds safely, you can get a small house safe that can accommodate other of your valuables and not just your property paperwork and other important documents.

All of them will provide you with that extra peace of mind. The only mishap that can happen, really, is to forget your safe lock combination, which is not the end of the world, as a professional locksmith can assist you with the safe opening job anytime.

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Extra tips to secure home storage of title deeds against theft

Well, improving the overall security of your home is worth doing not just to keep your deeds safe. Surely, you’ve got all sorts of valuable items like IT equipment and whatnot. You can hire an expert to install a burglar alarm and this way, protect more effectively your property, especially if you keep your deeds in a portable safe box and have other valuables that can be easily picked and taken away in a bag. 

Another smart thing to do is to register your title deeds and any other valuables with immobolise.com, a reputable service provider that helps people and businesses recover their stolen items, in collaboration with the Police. 

Last but not least, you can easily and affordably install wireless CCTV cameras on your property and safeguard it this way. This is one of the smartest decisions you can make to enhance the safety of your possessions.

Takeaways

  • Most title deeds might be digitally stored in a governmental property registration body, but it is strongly recommended to keep the original hard copies also safe.
  • Some properties are not registered with the Land Register, which means that one may suffer significant losses if they lose their original property-related paperwork and the house deeds. 
  • Keeping your title deeds at home in a fireproof safe is often a secure and cost-effective option if you don’t want to use someone else’s storage services at a cost.
  • It’s worth boosting the overall security of your home by installing a smart surveillance device or a burglar alarm for extra protection.

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Did you find this post on how to store your house deeds safe helpful? Where do you keep yours? Do share with us in the comment section below!

Image source: Shutterstock / Matt Benoit

  • Last update: November 16, 2020

Posted in Home Improvement, Home Security and Safety Tips

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