There is no legal obligation to get information from the Land Registry before buying an immovable property or before taking a mortgage. However, the prudent buyer will want to find out if the seller is indeed the owner and what charges (easements, mortgages, seizures, …) are still attached to the immovable property. Likewise, the prudent mortgagee will want to find out what charges are already attached to the immovable property (e.g. if the property is already mortgaged, the second mortgagee will want to compare the outstanding debt with the price-value of the property).
There is no legal obligation means that a private person A can buy the property of another private person B, without getting information from the Land Registry … without knowing for sure that the seller is indeed the proprietor and unaware of the charges on the bought property. The buyer may be in for a (bad) surprise.
There is no legal obligation, but there may be a professional obligation. The real estate agent and the notary are under a professional duty to inform their clients concerning inter alia the ‘property status’ of the immovable property. Hence, the real estate agent and the notary will get that kind of information inter alia from the Land Registry.
Normally, the real estate agent (may be) and the notary (certainly) will examine the deed of the present owner: in this deed the history of the ownership is explained (e.g. the present owner bought the property from D, who inherited it from E, …).
They will ask a Land Registry certificate, i.e. a document that lists the entries (transfers and charges) in the land register. This certificate may not be enough: a number of incidents concerning the ownership is not entered in the land register (e.g. the succession) and the certificate will be completed with other information to fill the gaps (e.g. the information concerning the succession could be obtained in the tax office of Patrimonial Documentation).
Two final remarks:
- The notary has to (re)constitute the chain of proprietors in the notarial act: X is the present owner, because X bought it from Y. Y was the owner, because Y inherited the property from Z. Z … and so on until the acquisitive prescription period (30 years) is filled. To do so, the notary will use the certificate and complete it with the other information gathered.
- A prudent notary will ask two certificates: the first certificate is to be used in order to prepare the notarial act and the second certificate is asked shortly before the signing of the act. Why? It is possible that in the interval a new entry has been made in the land register (e.g. the property has been seized, …).