Local authorities are significant landowners. About 770,000 titles (3 per cent of the current total) are registered to local authorities. It is not surprising then that local authorities are often involved in conveyancing transactions.
Most local authorities execute deeds using a seal, although parish and community councils are expressly exempted from any requirement to keep one.
There are no hard and fast rules about execution, but Land Registry will accept a deed executed by a local authority in one of the following ways (which also entitle someone dealing with a local authority to presume that the deed is validly executed – see sections 74 and 74A, Law of Property Act 1925).
- It is executed as a deed and sealed with the authority’s seal in the presence of two individuals who each sign the deed and (a) who are each stated to be members of the board of directors, council or other governing body of the corporation or (b) one of whom is expressed to be such a member and the other is expressed to be the clerk, secretary or other permanent officer of the corporation or their deputy.
- Or, it is signed on behalf of the local authority by a responsible official whose signature is witnessed and the deed refers to a specific resolution (quoting its date) of the local authority authorising that official to execute the deed.
Many local authorities delegate authority to execute deeds and documents to various senior officers and have made arrangements with Land Registry to avoid evidence having to be produced in support of a deed lodged for registration.
A disposing authority should confirm to conveyancers if they have executed a deed in accordance with such an arrangement. The execution clause should make it clear who is signing the deed.
When drafting deeds many authorities write ‘authorised signatory’ as they don’t know who might be available to sign it. Land Registry will query deeds executed in this way unless there is evidence to confirm the people named in an arrangement have signed the deed, for example, if they have printed their name under their signature or if the signature is legible.