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TODAY'S OTHER NEWS

Digital Search Delays: Land Registry plans in disarray

HM Land Registry appears to be making painfully slow progress on digitising land charge search data - contrary to its earlier promises.

Estate Agent Today reported a Registry pledge back in 2018 that 26 councils would be on board within 12 months with their charges data migrating to a centralised database. 

Then in July last year, when there were just six councils on board, the Registry issued a statement admitting: “We’ve learnt that preparing and transforming the data is trickier than we thought, and it takes a lot of effort from a lot of people to get it right. So for the rest of the year [2019] we’ve decided that we are going to reduce the planned number of migrations to the new register.” 

Reduced indeed: Peterborough council will on January 30 be only the eighth local authority to move to the digital service and then Watford council will be the ninth, expected to go live during February.

The other authorities already on board are the City of London, Blackpool, the Isles of Scilly, Lambeth, Liverpool, Norwich and Warwick.

But HM Land Registry has as yet no other dates for further councils beyond next month.

This leaves the grand total of councils participating at just nine, some six years after HM Land Registry was first suggested to take over search data, and three and a half years after a consultation process which culminated in the digitisation programme being given the go ahead.

Councils that were named as being involved in the first phase of the programme, back in 2018, but which have yet to come on board, include East Lindsey, St Helens and Sefton. 

The Registry has now told the Law Gazette magazine that it is currently assessing and analysing data from over 100 authorities with a view to establishing timelines for further migrations; it is also working with 20 councils to prepare them for migrating later this year.

Rapid, seamless and digitally-generated search information is seen as a vital part of the government’s ambition to make the house moving process simpler and more transparent - one part of the wider programme which includes reservation agreements, information packs for prospective buyers and more transparent conveyancing.

The Registry has now told the Law Gazette magazine that it is currently assessing and analysing data from over 100 authorities with a view to establishing timelines for further migrations; it is also working with 20 councils to prepare them for migrating later this year.

Rapid, seamless and digitally-generated search information is seen as a vital part of the government’s ambition to make the house moving process simpler and more transparent - one part of the wider programme which includes reservation agreements, information packs for prospective buyers and more transparent conveyancing.

  • Andrew Stanton Proptech Real Estate Strategist - Journalist and Influencer

    Strangely I find myself changing hats from being an estate agent, bemoaning the slowness and inadequacies of HM Land Registry, to being a real estate and proptech analyst and consultant. And in so doing actually being an advocate of their present position and more specifically the focus they have put into their research and development project Digital Street. This collaborative initiative which has been running some years, and which anyone from the real estate sector in the UK can join in with, (I applied) is making progress.

    Maybe it is time if estate agents want change to be faster - they take time out and support the Land Registry cause, as at present the Law Society, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, HM Revenue and Customs, large legal firms, as well as professionals across the industry are working towards the same goal, speeding up and digitally transforming the sector.

    The big problem is speeding up land searches is a tiny part of what is occurring at the Land Registry which began in the early 1860's. The changes taking place are massive, complex, but will result in an information dividend that is hard to imagine, as Gareth Robinson, Head of Data Management for the project stated in November 2019,

    'The next evolution of the Land Register needs to:

    • be composed of structured, computer-readable data, held in a single logical data store – structured data is easier for machines to access and read; more structure means we can automate things more easily and design new services
    • be able to identify party, place and interests uniquely, so we can improve the integrity of our registers and enable simple searches
    • be able to manage relationships both within and between titles, to make it easier to see, for example, which register entry relates to which deed
    • include digital title plans; this will enable customers to access information using a map and find information without having to read through lengthy register entries
    • make sure all titles offer up to date, current information.'

    I have a feeling this will not be achieved overnight, but, the good news is that there are commercial reasons driving the engine of change, a large byproduct of which will be a good fix for speeding up the 'broken' conveyancing system in place in the UK at present.

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