Land Registry measures during the pandemic
The Land Registry has a crucial part to play in transactional work, dealing with the registration of the ownership of land and property in both England and Wales. The Land Registry is currently experiencing a high volume of applications based on an existing backlog which has been heightened by the pandemic, working remotely and the SDLT holiday. This has created a significant level of demand.
To give you an idea of current timeframes, it's worth noting that Register queries, such as obtaining official copies and official search applications are operating as usual. Index map searches can take up to 3 days. But more complex applications for registration, such as applications for a transfer of part, are currently taking in excess of 9 nine months to complete.
The Land Registry is doing what it can to help, and you may be interested to know:
- The Land Registry has implemented tools and procedures to assist with managing expectations and enabling transactions to progress, such as replacing the requirement for wet ink signatures which would have otherwise created logistical issues on transactional matters over the course of the pandemic.
- The "Estimated Completion Date" tool has been launched to assist in providing an estimated completion timeframe. This is updated monthly to help manage expectations.
- Applications can be made to expedite both residential and commercial applications where the delay is causing hardship, or there is another transaction that cannot proceed because of the delayed application. Full details will need to be lodged with the Land Registry with supporting evidence. If the request to expedite is successful, the Land Registry will review the application within 10 working days. It is important to note that any deadlines reliant on the application being processed should be raised in advance to enable an application to expedite to be processed within sufficient time.
- The Digital Registration Service has been launched to simplify the submission of applications by checking the information as it is uploaded to deal with avoiding common errors and ultimately speed up turnaround times by reducing requisitions pending registration and delays. This facility will also be extended to multi-title applications this summer.
- The Land Registry will, until further notice, accept Mercury and electronic signatures provided the criteria set out in the Land Registry Practice Guide 8 has strictly been followed. This process is continuing to evolve and the Land Registry is looking at developing the use of qualified signatures as a more secure and convenient option for conveyancing long term. This process would not require a witness as there is an embedded identity check and the output is encrypted securely to a regulated standard to protect against fraud.
Looking ahead, the Land Registry is looking to publish a new government web page in the coming weeks with the purpose of centralising information and updates surrounding current backlogs and current service standards with a move towards using AI in the sector.