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Lawbite: It turns out possession is nine tenths of the law

  • United Kingdom
  • Real estate

07-12-2018

Rashid v Nasrullah (acting as executor of the estate of the late Mohammed Rashid)

In an interesting turn of events, the Court of Appeal has held that even though the transfer of a registered title was procured by fraud and the subsequent owner, the perpetrator of the fraud’s son, was complicit, the ownership of the victim was defeated. The fraud was relatively low-tech, involving a forged transfer and a fictitious trust arrangement.  

The Court of Appeal’s reasoning centred on the fact that the fraudster’s son was in occupation of the property and such occupation was adverse to the aggrieved party’s ownership. The necessary period of 12 years’ occupation was accrued before the coming into force of the Land Registration Act 2002 so, following that period, the fraudster’s son was entitled to the property.

Whilst the Court did consider the effects of the Limitation Act 1980 in relation to the fraud, the original owner’s awareness of the injustice in 1990 and a failure to take proper action within the statutory period defeated any argument on this basis. 

Key points

  • This case is another reminder of the risks of fraud being perpetrated in property transactions. Lawyers and clients should maintain vigilance and conduct full and proper investigations of ownership to limit the chances of falling victim to such practices.
  • Whilst the Land Registration Act 2002 did place more obstacles in the way of a party seeking to take ownership of land by adverse possession, it is important to take legal advice and, if appropriate, act quickly when land is being unlawfully occupied.

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