Guidance: Refer bona vacantia land or buildings (BVC2)

Bona Vacantia

April 12
10:41 2023


The Bona Vacantia division (BVD) of the Government Legal Department deals with land and buildings that belonged to a dissolved company and now belong to the Crown.

Normally bona vacantia land will either be disclaimed or sold for full market value.

BVDs power of disclaimer is important and exercised frequently in relation to bona vacantia land because it protects the Crown, and therefore the taxpayer, from liability. For further details on disclaimers please read BVC1.

BVD may disclaim land immediately on it being brought to their attention or at any point during a case, including without further reference to you or any other third party even if you have spent time or money on a case.

When BVD disclaim freehold land, the title to the land is extinguished.

After disclaimer any enquiries about the land should be referred to the Crown Estate through their solicitors, Burges Salmon LLP.

Burges Salmon LLP
One Glass Wharf

If BVD sell bona vacantia land it is always for the open market value subject to a minimum price set out below. There is no guarantee that they will sell to you, or at all, and where possible, land will be sold at public auction.

You should note that BVD will not:

  • transfer land for no fee or sell land for less than 1,000 plus their costs
  • undertake maintenance work on the property
  • grant rights of way over bona vacantia land
  • clear rubbish or deal with problems on the land
  • manage or insure the property
  • get involved in pre-existing disputes with neighbouring land owners

This list is not exhaustive but as a general rule BVD will do nothing except try to sell land or disclaim it.

BVD will not generally sell or transfer:

  • commercial leases these will be disclaimed
  • land used in common such as roadways, verges or amenity land - this will be disclaimed
  • land which is dangerous or onerous this will be disclaimed
  • land subject to multiple charges or competing claims this will be disclaimed

BVC2 Online Referral Form Land and buildings

Please ensure that you read these guidelines fully before completing the mandatory referral form below, which should be sent to us at together with PDF attachments as stipulated in the attached form.

BVC2 Online Referral Form - Land and Buildings v01

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How you make a request to buy land from BVD

Complete the following:

  1. check that BVD is the correct office by reading BVC1 on jurisdiction
  2. complete the online referral form and send together with the stipulated attachments to

Please include at Section 17 of the referral form:

  • details of any buildings on the land
  • explain why you are interested in purchasing the property
  • explain whether you want to use the land to gain access to any other land that you own or plan to acquire. Please get an OCE and a title plan from the Land Registry for the other land you own or plan to acquire
  • details of anyone in occupation of the property, or who is using or maintaining it, and when this began
  • details of any planning consents or applications in relation to the land
  • if the property is subject to a mortgage or charge, details of any enquiries you have made to the lender. Please get a copy of the mortgage or charge from the Land Registry

BVD will not normally be able to progress your case without the requested information.

Unregistered land

It can be more difficult to show ownership of unregistered land. You can find out whether land is registered or unregistered at the Land Registry by doing an index map search

If you are looking to buy unregistered land you should also send

  • a copy of your index map search
  • a copy of the conveyance (transfer document) of the land to the dissolved company. If this is not available you should explain why including what steps you have taken to find the document and send BVD other documentary evidence that indicates the land was owned by the dissolved company

If there is no evidence of the lands ownership BVD will not be able to deal with it. Land does not become bona vacantia just because the owner is unknown.

It is not BVDs role to help you investigate the title to land and you should take your own independent legal advice if you are not sure what to do.

Valuation and further details

Before BVD deal with land they will check that the evidence you have provided demonstrates that the dissolved company owned it.

If they are not satisfied with the evidence provided they may ask you to make further enquiries.

If they agree that the land is bona vacantia BVD will decide how to dispose of it. BVD will consider disclaiming the land and may disclaim without reference or prior notice to you. This is to ensure that they proceed in a cost effective manner that represents good value for the taxpayer and protects the taxpayer from possible liability.

If the company was dissolved recently BVD will usually contact the former directors to ask whether they want to restore the company to the register.

If they indicate that they intend to restore the company it is unlikely that BVD will be prepared to deal with the land.

If BVD decide to consider a sale they will usually instruct the District Valuer to advise them about the value of the land and the best means of disposal.

You will need to pay the District Valuers fees in advance. This will be a minimum upfront payment of either 1600 for land situated outside of London (outside of M25) or 1775 for land situated in London (inside M25) but in some instances may be more.

There is no guarantee that the land will be offered for sale to you if you provide funds for a valuation.

BVD may make enquiries of adjoining owners or other parties who may have an interest in the land. Alternatively, BVD may ask you to make those enquiries or get the consent of neighboring land owners.

You will need to act quickly in obtaining consents or other information that BVD request because, particularly where it appears the land is of limited value, you will increase the risk of the land being disclaimed if you do not act quickly.

If you buy bona vacantia land you will also have to pay BVDs legal costs of 500 plus VAT, and any disbursements that they have incurred, including the District Valuers fees.

If the total cost

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