HM Land Registry (HMLR) is keen to assure estate agents coping with eager clients that many of its key functions, such as searches of the land register for ownership information, are either instantaneous or completed within two or three days.
No property sale should be at risk. From the moment the application is lodged on the system and recorded at HMLR, the legal position in terms of property ownership is preserved.
From this point, no subsequent delays will jeopardise a sale and, in fact, most applications to update the register are concluded within a month.
To help ensure peace of mind for all, the organisation is offering hints and tips for negotiators liaising with buyers, sellers and conveyancers to progress sales:
- If necessary, request an expedite
First and foremost is the ability to ‘fast-track’ an urgent application. Where an application is necessary for a transaction to complete, conveyancers (or anyone connected to the sale) can ask HMLR to expedite it and, if agreed and there are no complications, it will be processed within 10 working days.
Simon Hayes, Chief Executive and Chief Land Registrar, says: “HM Land Registry is committed to ensure no house sale is put at risk. Our fast-track service means anyone who has a concern about delays can contact their solicitor or contact us directly so we can investigate and resolve any problems quickly for them.”
There is no charge for the service and requesting an expedite is clear and simple, as improved guidance shows. Anyone involved in selling or buying property, including members of the public or their estate agents, can ask HMLR to fast-track an outstanding application. Once a sale is confirmed and if there’s a need, simply head to the page Request an expedite and fill out the Contact form.
- Get up-to-the-minute information about progress
When clients want to know what is happening with their sale or purchase, portal users can get an instant progress update and an estimated completion date by logging in and taking advantage of the new View My Applications tool. Alternatively, the Application Enquiry facility allows interested parties to see the status of outstanding applications on any property. Both services are free of charge.
- Help us to help you
HM Land Registry is also speeding up the introduction of digital solutions to help address the problem of requisitions – requests for missing information or to correct errors in applications.
The organisation receives around 18,000 applications daily to update the register and, of these, one in five requires a requisition, causing extensive delays to service times.
The new, portal-based Digital Registration Service (DRS) is a huge step forward – in fact, it’s already won a Real IT Award for delivering excellent customer experience. DRS checks information as it is entered, including names, which are often misspelled, and fees, which are frequently miscalculated. The service also offers prompts and guidance, all before the application is submitted. Although the service is at an early stage, feedback from conveyancers using the service has been positive and is actively influencing our development of the service to make it even quicker and easier to use.
- Sign up to high-tech solutions
Digital tools also help everyone to continue working while respecting the changing public health guidance. It’s not just about working from home. Some innovative digital tools can ensure documents can be signed or witnessed safely, often making the process more secure and convenient everyone. But they have to meet the needs of the property market.
In this regard, HMLR has started to accept both Mercury-style and ‘witnessed electronic signatures’- fast-tracked following feedback from conveyancers and other partners across the industry, as well as offering a ‘safe harbour’ for those using its Digital Identity Standard to verify their clients’ identity digitally.
These steps, which offer immediate help to conveyancers and their clients while so many are working remotely, are a keystone of the truly digital, secure and more efficient conveyancing process that HMLR is striving for, with more sophisticated ‘qualified electronic signatures’ the next step in that vision.
5. All in it together
Emphasising the place of customers at the heart of its operations, HMLR says it is working hard to implement safe, secure systems that will make the entire process of buying and selling land and property considerably smoother.
Mike Harlow, General Counsel, Deputy Chief Executive and Deputy Chief Land Registrar, says: “Conveyancing is not digital until land registration is digital and it links in seamlessly with the systems that conveyancers and others use. That’s why much of our transformation is about creating digital applications and processing them digitally, without losing a bar of the essential trust in the process.”
The next few months will no doubt be challenging for everyone in the industry. By working together as agents, conveyancers and registrars, we will navigate these challenges and continue to transform and digitise the property market of England and Wales.
In the meantime, remember you can ask for an expedite or progress update should the need arise.