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HMRC internal manual

Capital Gains Manual

Land: disposal of interest in land must be in writing

From 27 September 1989, the Law of Property (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1989 introduced the rule that a contract for the disposal of an interest in land can only be made in writing. This provision only applies to land in England and Wales, although a similar rule applies in Scotland where it has long been the case that a contract for the sale of land must be in writing. The effect of this rule is that land in England and Wales cannot be disposed of by way of an oral contract from 27 September 1989 onwards, unless the oral contract was entered into before 27 September 1989.

The two exceptions to the rule in England and Wales are,

  • where the interest created by the disposal is a lease at full market rent with a term of less than 3 years;
  • where the contract is made in the course of a public auction.

The only exception to the rule in Scotland is where the contract is for the grant of a lease for a term not exceeding one year.

However, where legal ownership is retained but beneficial ownership is transferred, see CG70291.