142015Jul

Land Registry update – conveyancing just got easier!

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Conveyancing enjoys somewhat of a chequered reputation.

Conveyancing is the branch of law concerned with the preparation of legal documents and the like to do with the buying and selling of property. It is the act of transferring the ownerships of the property from one person to another, commonly using a deed, lease or mortgage.

It is a process that can be expensive, as well as time consuming. But, things have changed especially with the digital age and the emergence of companies such as Online Conveyancing Quote.

At one time, the act of higher a conveyancer meant hiring a solicitor, an additional expense. Likewise, the process could be long and drawn out and thus, buying or selling property took perseverance, money and an iron will, especially in complex purchases.

HM Land Registry

Created in 1862, Her Majesty’s Land Registry is the non-Government body that register who owns land and property in England and Wales. In Scotland, it is known as the Scotland Registers.

When the property marketing reached the peak of its boom in 2007, the Land Registry was processing £1million worth of property every minute in England and Wales.

80% of the land mass – over 23 million titles – in the UK is registered with this agency, with the remaining 20% being rural properties, belonging to mass bodies such as the Church of England. The Land Registration Act 2002 affords some protection to property and land owners against squatting but most people will come across the Land Registry as an agency when buying a property.

It is to this body that the fees for searches and registration are paid but, not all of them. And it is not an agency that has been left in the dark ages either; taking advantage of the digital age, many plans and searches of titles and so forth, can now be completed on line, for a fee.

With no other sources of funding, the Land Registry relies on the fees that buyers and sellers of properties pay.

Recent changes

There are many unknowns when it comes to buying property, both in terms of how much it could cost and how long it could take.

The housing market is a health indicator of a country’s economy; if houses are not being bought and sold, the economy is sluggish as it is the lucrative mortgage market that bolsters and boost the economy. But, this is not the only issue.

Affordability is one argument, with many first and second time buyers, struggling to make the first or second rung of the ladder. A big turn off for many people, is the perceived difficulty in the buying process. What should only take 6 to 8 weeks, can take months.

With so many unknowns and differentiations in practice from one area of the country to another, it has been recognised that it is a real possibility that some people significantly delay a purchase or sale to avoid the stress of the process.

The time has come to improve the process and although the Land Registry has grasped the digital revolution, it has only done so by a limited amount. Thus, the changes are many and varied, all designed to help smooth the process of buying a property, making it more efficient and hopefully, quicker.

The main changes are summarised as follows:

  • Ongoing digitalisation – overall, the digitalisation of the role and services offered by the Land Registry should improve access to data, standardise fees and speed up the process for both professionals and buyers
  • Expanding services – the Land Registry will also expand the number of services on offer, so that again, the buying process is streamlined and fit for the modern-age
  • Standardised charges – until recently, local land charges were maintained and delivered by the 348 individual English and Welsh counties. Fees ranged from £3 to £96, with the turnaround time for information being released anything from one day, to over 42 days. The Land Registry will now be responsible for these fees, as well as the production of the necessary information. This means everyone, no matter where they live, will pay the same, one fee rate.

Welcome changes, but not by everyone

On the whole, anything that speeds and helps the process of buying property is surely to be welcomed but, some of the changes are seen by some organisations as ‘not needed’. Removing the fee charging searches from local authorities is not welcome by some groups, or some local authorities; effectively, it removes and revenue stream from their coffers.

However, advocates of the changes have won the day; the argument that the processed needs not only streamlining but standardising has won the day.

‘Digital by Default’

But, it is not just the Land Registry that will see massive changes. The digital age is upon us and should be used more and more by all kinds of official and professional agencies, Government departments and non-Government agencies.

The ‘Digital by Default’ programme spearheaded by the UK Government, is all about placing official processes online, wherever possible and the Land Registry is just one of them.

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