I want to sell my house but can’t locate the deeds

Your property questions answered

 

I bought a house in Dublin in 1996 with no mortgage on it. The firm of solicitors that I used at the time held onto the deeds. Now that I am thinking of selling it I have made contact with this firm who have changed their name since. I have talked four times to a receptionist and the person who looks after the deeds always seems to be out or not available. Twice I left a message on her voicemail but received no call back. What can I do to get my deeds or who is responsible if they are lost.

Congratulations on having bought a property without a loan. Many people would be envious of your problem but I am sure it is causing you concern. The lack of communication is worrying.

Deed storage is a significant cost for solicitors and for banks. Storage entails having appropriate facilities: normally very bulky, heavy and expensive fire-resistant and secure safes/cabinets. Solicitors generally only need title as part of the transaction itself.

Title for a purchase file is normally held a little longer than that for a sale as in the former, the purchase deed has to be stamped and registered; whereas in the latter the title is sent to the purchaser solicitor once the sale completes. If a client has received lending from a bank for a purchase, then in addition to the deed being registered, a mortgage is too, and then the title is sent to the bank until the loan is paid off.

Many banks traditionally held items in safekeeping for customers, often at little or no cost. In recent years banks have written to customers asking them to remove safe deposit items as the service was being discontinued. In fact, if you have such a facility and seek to take something up, even if only to inspect it, you will find that the bank will decline to take it back.

In recent times, some private operators have set up offering safe deposit facilities. For clients lucky enough to hold their own title, I advise them to avail of one of the private operators or keep the title in a secure location at home, safe from the risk of theft or damage by fire or otherwise by investing in some form of fire-resistant safe.

I would advise you to write to the principal of the firm involved, giving as many details as you can of the matter (property address, the name of the solicitor who acted for you at the time, etc) and request that they carry out a search for the title and reply to you within a reasonable length of time, say two or three weeks. If, by that time, you have not received a reply then you should consider writing to the Law Society to seek its assistance in the matter.

If the title is lost/destroyed, the solicitors may be able to reconstruct it. Lost or destroyed title would be most likely covered by the firm’s insurance.

Paul Stack is a solicitor at P & G Stack Solicitors