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Land agency returning MLA's cottage papers

Registration body reveals transfer application 'incomplete'

By David Gordon

A government agency has become involved in the controversy over the registered ownership of a Stormont Minister's second home.

Land Registers of Northern Ireland (LRNI) said it received an application last week to transfer the registration of a north Antrim property from the name of a developer's wife to MLA Ian Paisley Jnr.

The agency also stated that the application was "incomplete" and was being sent back to Mr Paisley's solicitor.

It also underlined the importance of registration, stressing that legal ownership cannot be transferred without it.

The property has been Mr Paisley Jnr's north Antrim constituency address for some three years.

He has faced questions about it being officially registered in the name of Carol Sweeney, wife of would-be Giant's Causeway visitor centre developer Seymour Sweeney.

The politician has blamed the situation on "an administrative hiccup in Land Registry" and stressed that he bought the house at full market value from Mr Sweeney in 2004.

In a statement yesterday, LRNI said an application for registration of the property - at 1 Ballyallaght Farm Cottages, near Bushmills - was hand delivered to it on October 23, 2007.

"This particular application has now been scrutinised and same is incomplete and will be returned to the lodging solicitor," it said.

The Government body also stated that the application "cannot be processed due to the fact that all the necessary documents are not attached to the application".

LRNI is an agency of the Department of Finance, which is headed by DUP Minister Peter Robinson.

It also stated: " Legal ownership rests with the person who is registered as owner on the Land Register.

"This is the only person who is able to legally deal with the lands - to sell, alter the property, mortgage or charge the property, carry out any works on same."

And it added: " Where purchase monies and keys have been exchanged the purchaser will have an equitable interest in the property, but legal ownership will not pass until registration has been effected.

"It is crucial that registration is effected to ensure that any new owner retains priority in relation to land transfers, to ensure that the Register is accurate and up to date and that the Government Guarantee of Title relating to the land rests with the new owner."

In an interview for a BBC Spotlight documentary broadcast on October 23, Mr Paisley Jnr said: "I am aware that there is some sort of administrative hiccup in Land Registry.

" It is legally in my name. I can assure you it is mine. Possession is nine tenths of the law."

Mr Paisley Jnr told Radio Ulster's Nolan Show the following day: "I did come on to your programme this morning and I heard a number of your callers ringing in and saying no surprise at Land Registry on this one.

"All that I can say to you is I have done everything above board and legally with my solicitor, and that those papers I understand are lodged."

Mr Paisley Jnr's wife, Fiona, also appeared on the Nolan Show last Thursday morning and showed the presenter documents on the mortgage from their bank.

Mr Sweeney has reiterated that the house was sold at full market value to Mr Paisley in October 2004.

Belfast Telegraph


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