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Work with us to make conveyancing simpler, faster and cheaper

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Today, we publish our customer charter. It sets out our commitment to you as our customer, and what we need from you, to help us deliver our mission: “Your land and property rights: guaranteed and protected”.

We are delivering this mission in the context of our ambition to become the world’s leading land registry for speed, simplicity and an open approach for data. Achieving this will mean conveyancing in England and Wales can be simpler, faster and cheaper for everyone: for our business customers, who may be lending money for mortgages or managing the transfer of a property; for the people who are buying or selling a property; and for us, so we can fulfil our public duty as efficiently and effectively as possible.

See our customer charter.

In our charter, we set out what you can expect from us, which is based around what you’ve told us you need from us (through our customer satisfaction survey). Over the next year, we’ll meet these expectations by:

  • being easier to do business with. You’ll be able to contact us on one number, through one email address and get faster support than ever before. It will be easier to find the information you need without contacting us but when you do need to contact us you’ll know what to expect because we’ll publish our call handling times on GOV.UK
  • refreshing the look, feel and functionality of the portal, so the way you access our online services is more intuitive. We’ll get better at getting things right first time by automating our simpler transactions, removing the small chance of human error and we’ll explore how we can help you get it right first time by validating information as you enter it. We are also using digital technology to develop new services, such as the digital mortgage service to improve the consistency, speed and simplicity of conveyancing
  • finding solutions to potential challenges. For example, we will help customers who are managing large, complex retail or infrastructure developments by launching new services to support this. We will also continue to work with customers to remove delays from the conveyancing process which can cost you and us money – such as those caused by the application enquiries (requisitions) we need to send customers for additional information or clarification. We have a new key performance indicator to reduce these and you can help by following our advice on how to avoid application enquiries that we first published in 2016, and signing up to our new webinars to get advice directly from one of our experts.

These changes will mean we can serve you quickly, accurately and consistently. But the charter isn’t just about what we will do for you, it’s about how we do it. So, while we are making dealing with us quick and simple by becoming even more customer-focused and efficient, we will uphold our values at all times – by giving assurance, having integrity, driving innovation and being professional and we expect the same in return.

In return, we need you to play your part. This includes providing all the information we need to be able to make changes to the register and ensuring you have verified the information you need from other people or organisations involved in your registration application. We also need your feedback, which is essential for us to continuously improve your experience of working with us.

We’ll be writing more blogs like this over the coming weeks to keep you up to date with what we are doing for you. We’ll also recap on some of the changes we’ve already made in response to customers’ needs and take a more detailed look at the changes that I outline above. In the meantime, tell us what you think of our charter and let us know what you’d like to hear more about in the comments below.

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  1. Comment by Elizabeth Rodgers posted on

    Sorry but this gets my goat big time. I started in this profession over 40 years ago and pro rata what we charge now is LESS than was charged 40 years ago. Despite all the electronic wizadry and information immediately to hand we now have far MORE red tape to deal with, especially before we can even start to work on the contract pack.
    I regard the fact that the Registers are now public as the BIGGEST mistake ever made and part of the fraud problem that has caused so much of our red tape and administration.
    To say it should be faster - who says - not the clients I speak to in general. My clients' transactions generally only take 6 - 10 weeks (dependent on the chain and the individual circumstances etc). NONE of my clients say they want it any quicker! They could not pack their home up in time!
    Simpler - how can the Land Registry propose that conveyancers simplify - are you proposing a Conveyancing Factory mentality where all the excellent conveyancers who would prefer to perfect an erroneous title rather than just rely on indemnity insurance to plaster over the hole?
    Really!!!! This just makes me angry as to where my profession is heading. I actually foresee a point down the line where the Land Registry are simply going to handle all the paperwork and issue a blanket indemnity insurance for any issues - a one policy covers all! Fixed price and no solicitor or conveyancer to tell you what legal issues your home really has! I know which method I prefer.

    • Replies to Elizabeth Rodgers>

      Comment by Andrew Robertson posted on

      Hi, Elizabeth

      The change to a public register in 1990 involved legislative changes which were the subject of public consultation and debate in Parliament. As you are probably aware, most other countries in Europe and around the world have adopted the same approach. A public register supports transparency and simplifies the conveyancing process. We believe that the advantages of an open register outweigh any possible disadvantages.

      We believe that the rise in fraud in recent times can be attributed to a number of other factors, not least that fraud has regrettably become an increasingly common feature of all aspects of modern life, in many cases involving criminal activity, organised and co-coordinated on an international scale. We are very conscious of the impact that instances of fraud can have on the individuals concerned, but think it is worth keeping in mind that the risk of registration fraud is still very small. This is evidenced by a comparison of the number of fraud claims with the number of applications registered.

      We have a shared responsibility with property professionals, lending organisations and property owners themselves to ensure that the integrity of the land registration system is maintained. In our view, the requirements on conveyancers in respect of confirmation of identity on applications made to us to do not impose any new liabilities or responsibilities that did not exist before.

      Being faster doesn’t have to come at the cost of quality. Between 1 April 2017 and 31 March 2018, we gave customers a faster speed of service for their registration applications than in the previous financial year, while the proportion of substantive registrations that passed defined quality checks increased to 98.41%, up from 98.3% in the previous financial year.

      We also believe we can make the registration aspects of conveyancing simpler by having clearer guidance and forms, using clearer language, being more consistent in how we handle your calls, and deal with your applications.

  2. Comment by James Allison posted on

    Good article, well researched and written.

  3. Comment by Marion Palmann posted on

    Thank you for sharing your new customer charter. Can you please explain how you define a "customer" for this purpose? You mention delivery of a consistent service - lack of consistency in the way applications are dealt with is one of the most frustrating and challenging things we have to deal with in our relations with the Registry. What is being done to achieve consistency?

    • Replies to Marion Palmann>

      Comment by Andrew Robertson posted on

      A customer is anyone who uses our services. This could be a land or property owner using our information services to find out whether a property is registered; through to a conveyancer who uses our register creation services during a complex, commercial transaction. Our customers also include financial institutions such as banks and building societies who we interact with on a regular basis to support secured lending against property, and organisations and people who use our data to provide new services and information to others, such as conveyancers.

      Some of the ways we plan to improve consistency include modernising and reshaping our organisation to help our people deliver customer-focused services through our organisational design; continuing to focus on reducing the number of application enquiries (requisitions) we need to make; improving our online services and exploring how online forms and data validation systems can help make application processing more efficient and effective; and continuing to transform our services with digital technology.

  4. Comment by Fraser posted on

    Hmm, I hope we professionals can be genuinely consulted and can constructively help as my experience is not consistent with the Land Registry being helpful to find solutions, especially with requisitions, where it seems to be a challenge to find something to raise in order to buy time (perhaps)?
    I recently conducted an external survey and the surveyor had to stifle his laughter at the LR issues i gave as examples. Credit to him, he was very professional.

    • Replies to Fraser>

      Comment by Andrew Robertson posted on

      Integrity is at the heart of how we do things, so we are involving customers and stakeholders in our developments, from the new digital services we are creating, such as the digital mortgage service, to testing changes to our policies and procedures. For example, we tested the change to our rejection criteria for over a year before formally putting it in place on Monday.

      If you want to get involved, please contact us (, expressing your interest to be part of our research panel.

  5. Comment by CHETIN malyali posted on

    Why faster and quicker , system works alright as it is , given the multitude of money laundering requirements and the emphasis on going quicker why should we as solicitors carry the extra cost of making a mistake because you at the land registry want everything quicker , your not paying for our insurance so I will go as quick as I can at a fair price , this is not a rush to the bottom on fees . Could I suggest that you stop trying to speed things up as that really is not the cause of any delays , buying a house or a flat is not like buying a tin of bins . I seem to recall going to the land registry innovative idea about the matrix system of speeding things up , I asked the question that it would not work and was told that was not the land registry view . After millions poured into it was abandoned. Just for once cannot the land registry just leave the desire to rush things quicker and cheaper alone [its probably cheaper as we do all the work for your organisation by filing everything on line you just appear to take the fees in ] there are very few staff as you have cut back so much . I am not sure why it is necessary to have a land registry blog either , I presume so that you can join the social media circus .Please stop changing things that work perfectly well .

    • Replies to CHETIN malyali>

      Comment by Andrew Robertson posted on

      First, let me assure you that guaranteeing and protecting property rights is our mission – and that the quality, and integrity of registrations is the very core of our purpose. We take this very seriously, as demonstrated through our target-exceeding performance against our application quality KPI this year.

      Like with many industries, the digital revolution is bringing a change to the property market. More property transactions will become automated and digital as a result which will make the processes faster, while making them more accurate and cheaper. Take automation, it removes the element of human error and reduces costs for everyone.

      This is changing our customer base. While many of our customers are still more traditional, experienced qualified solicitors who process an application from start to finish, this is changing more and more. Some companies now employ people without formal qualifications who compile and lodge registration applications with us. Also, some of our customers are not conveyancers themselves but intermediaries that offer services to the conveyancing market.

      We are committed to working with our customers to meet their needs by providing the registration support and tools they need (and will need) to keep pace with the economic factors and technological developments that are driving change.

      One of the lessons we’ve learnt from the past is how vital it is to develop and deliver changes with the market. To do that we need to involve our customers and open dialogue with them – such as through our blog.

  6. Comment by Roy posted on

    I am disappointed, sounds weak. We have landlords purchasing properties by auction and not bothering to register them with you. No one from your organisation seems to have any powers to go after these guys.
    Acting outside of the law I think they will ignore your charter.

    • Replies to Roy>

      Comment by ianflowers posted on

      Roy - We do understand your frustration, but as a registration authority with an essentially administrative role, it would not be appropriate for us to act in an investigative or regulatory capacity.

      Certain transactions with registered land (such as sales, mortgages and some leases) have to be completed by registration in order to take effect at law, but there is no compulsion to register them and the legal title does not revert back if they are not registered. However, the effective sanctions for the buyer are that (a) the transaction does not take effect at law and (b) they may be adversely affected by other transactions that are registered when theirs is not.

  7. Comment by humberside willwriters & legal advisors posted on

    We like it brilliant

    • Replies to humberside willwriters & legal advisors>

      Comment by Roy posted on

      Not that brilliant, I wrote to the registered owner and he sold it years ago and keeps getting post.

      • Replies to Roy>

        Comment by ianflowers posted on

        Roy - as an administrative registration authority we do rely on the applications made to us to keep the register up to date.

  8. Comment by Philip Uttley posted on


    Whilst I applaud the sentiments in your customer charter, things on the ground tell a slightly different story

    We appear to have ‘lost’ our account team in Birkenhead

    We are no longer able to submit PN1 requests to you by fax – post is now the only option

    I’d be interested in your comments



    • Replies to Philip Uttley>

      Comment by Andrew Robertson posted on

      Phil - your post has been passed to me to reply.

      We have been modernising and reshaping the organisation and our customer support model over the past few years. You may recall our news story on GOV.UK in October 2016 - (, where we told customers about changes to our customer support model?

      We've continued to develop the way we handle and process registration applications since then. We now route most applications to a caseworker with the appropriate expertise and capacity and we've centralised our customers' calls to support this.

      It's making a difference. Our latest annual report and accounts shows that between 1 April 2017 and 31 March 2018, we gave customers a faster speed of service for their registration applications than in the previous financial year, which customers told us they needed, and we did this while improving the quality of our registration compared to the previous financial year.

      We appreciate that having a HM Land Registry team allocated to handle your applications was something that many customers valued. Moving away from this isn’t something we’ve done lightly but we are confident that building our support around you and your needs will ultimately lead to a better overall service for you in the longer term. Our customer charter sets out our commitment to you, to make the improvements to give you a better experience of working with us

      Fax was withdrawn as a channel for lodging applications under land registration legislation in 2015. PN1 applications are included in this as they are not a service under the Land Charges Act and Rules. These applications should be submitted by post and we recognise this will be disappointing for some customers. We have taken recent steps to ensure that we apply this requirement consistently.

      In the future, other channels may be available, but we cannot give a commitment to this at the current time.

  9. Comment by Philip Uttley posted on

    Thanks for getting back to me, Andrew. Much appreciated

    I have to say that, currently, we are experiencing some delay in getting through on the phone but, at least when we do, we receive the same helpful friendly service that we had become used to from our Birkenhead team

    Shame about the PN1 service. Actually fax was a bit of a pain but preferable to post. Let's hope you find it possible to move to an email service in the near future

    • Replies to Philip Uttley>

      Comment by Andrew Robertson posted on

      Thank you for your comment about the service from staff when you phone us.

      We recognise that some customers do currently experience wait times at busier periods of the day. We do keep our call handling performance under continual review and look to make improvements, for example, by way of improved technology and also increasing the number of available skilled Customer Support Officers and Executives.

  10. Comment by RG posted on

    This is great step. However, how it will help to end user?
    I recently bought a piece of land in auction and represented/conveyancing my self in the buying process. When I received Title plan it was smaller than size advised and does not tell about the dimensions and size. A map with red mark lines that's it. Upon following multiple times with auctioneer they have given a screenshot of updated plan but not sending me signed copy of the plan. My understanding is for land registry I have to received updated paper copy of Title plan from seller?
    How I can get inputs from Land registry in this case? How whole process is simpler for self conveyancing? Why not legal documents using straightforward and Morden English terminologies?
    Appreciate your response and any help.

    • Replies to RG>

      Comment by ianflowers posted on

      Hi - Thank you for your kind comment.

      The vast majority of land and property transactions are handled by legal professionals. Being more efficient and customer focused on those transactions does ultimately benefit the clients of those professionals as the end user, for example, cost savings for professionals can ultimately be passed on to the public in the form of lower charges.

      It is open to anyone to represent themselves and do their own conveyancing. But as mentioned in our blog ( ) on the subject there is a lot more to the conveyancing process than just the administrative and procedural process of completing our forms to register the transaction.

      We are reviewing the language we use in our guidance and publications, with the intention of us making us simpler to do business with. That said, property law can be complex involving legal formalities that need to be followed. It is therefore inevitable that there will be a certain amount of unfamiliar legal and technical terminology used in some of our guidance and also in the wider conveyancing process.

      Turning to our title plans, I should explain that most properties are registered with ‘general boundaries’ only. This means that the boundary line shown on our title plans is no more than a general indication or approximation of the location of the boundary, rather than the precise boundary line. We draw title plans to scale and they can be printed off 1/1 if required. However, they rarely give any measurements and are only a representation of what is on the ground. It therefore not appropriate to rely on the title plan as giving anything other than a general indication of the extent of ownership.

      Property buyers will generally rely on an inspection of the property and a survey report, and also on any other evidence which may show the position relating to boundaries more precisely.

      As to what documents you should receive from the seller, that is really a matter for the parties involved. Copies of titles plans can also be obtained directly from us for a fee - .

      I hope this of some help to you.

  11. Comment by Emily posted on

    Would it be possible to reinstate the numbering system when held in a call queue. That would speed up the process rather than being on hold for 40+ minutes!

    It would also be beneficial to have a separate option in the information services that allows you to request extensions or expeditions rather than having to go round the houses meaning more people resorting to the phone.

    • Replies to Emily>

      Comment by ianflowers posted on

      Emily - Sorry to hear of the difficulties you have experienced. Callers may currently experience wait times at the busier times of the day for which we apologise. But callers should not be experiencing 40+ minute waits, so please do contact us to look into any delay of this nature - we will need the caller's details and the date/time of the call. We are looking to improve our call handling performance by way of improved technology and also an increase in skilled Customer Support Officers and Executives over the next few months.

      The 'position in the queue' message was withdrawn as customers reported that it could often be misleading. The process and resource dedicated for answering calls has not changed so it should not have impacted on waiting times. That said, we keep the messages given to callers under continual review and the customer feedback we receive feeds into this.

      The best way to request an extension on a pending application is to use the 'reply to requisition' facility in portal. Similarly, progress checks and requests for expedition can be made via our application enquiry facility -

  12. Comment by marlene Alford posted on

    I work in a housing association and we are selling new houses and the time it takes to register has caused us to leave houses empty, as some solicitors will not complete until they have the full title. Some will and know that us as a housing association we will endeavour to make sure this happens. We also try to expedite, they will not exchange .

    I wish that this could be a lot quicker make our lives easier.


    • Replies to marlene Alford>

      Comment by ianflowers posted on

      Marlene - Thank you for the feedback. In our experience difficulties arise particularly on new developments when there is a pending application with us to register the housing association as owner in advance of sales off to individual house owners. We are taking longer to complete more complex applications such as this which involve the creation of a new register, more work and procedural stages and the consideration of senior staff. There may also be preceding applications on titles relating to a developing estate which may delay matters and this often beyond our control, particularly if queries arise on those applications.

      We are taking several steps to address the backlog of work and have been progressively focusing on and reducing the total of ‘older’ cases for some time now. A lot of progress has been made, but we recognise that there is more to do.

  13. Comment by Marlene slford posted on

    Yes I understand but the title is registered by builders in the first instance but if you can quicken it would be good . With housing being on the top of the agenda , I feel we should not leave homes empty. Let’s all work together

  14. Comment by Nigel Inwood posted on

    I’m concerned that the title to my 999-year leasehold house is still registered under the freehold title. I believe leasehold is classified as ‘non-feudal’ in all authoritative texts: so why list groups of long-lease properties under the comparatively worthless freehold title? Surely the practice has facilitated the widespread leasehold abuses, by developers, that have been reported in recent years?

    I realise that, theoretically, the leasehold buildings stand on the freeholder’s land, but I own my house, with 950 years to run, and leasehold is equally an ‘estate in land’. I see no excuse (in law, or even in the history of law) to treat it as being inferior to a freehold title, or subservient. Importantly, I think I am entitled NOT to have unsuitable third-party interlopers holding sway over my property and contracts.

    My own experience was that the Land Registry assisted in a non-consensual transfer of the freehold, in spite of my objections, to a totally unsuitable private individual, one hitherto unknown to us, clearly not able to maintain his own run-down faraway address, let alone ours. Sure enough, the transfer was followed up, when I enquired, by the grantor writing falsely (a) that I was not party to my own lease and (b) that its obligations ceased when it sold the land, neither of course being true.

    The land transfer was registered, in spite of my prompt objections. I had to work extremely hard for two years, to achieve a court order to transfer the freehold back to the original lessor, so that it could carry out repairs and other contracted commitments, bought and paid for. The Land Registry had rejected my pleas that the sale was void or voidable - but of course it was! After the court order, the registry was corrected in a few days.

    (The law case goes unreported, because the defence gave in completely on the first day at the county court, and my fellow leaseholders wanted no publicity).

    Why put people to such extreme trouble? Of course people should be free to buy and sell land, but that can never be a legitimate excuse to assist in the fraudulent evasion of contracts. The Land Registry is doing so in my view.

    A further point is that freehold covenants are shown and downloadable from the Registry. In the light of widespread reported abuses, I think all leasehold covenants should be registered in similar fashion, openly for all to check without having to dig out title deeds from their solicitor or their bank. Most of us never read such things, until there is a problem; typically many years after such title deeds are created. By this means, various professions involved are widely accused of obfuscating what is actually being sold in the first place, let alone the post-sale obligations. It is time all of these abuses were stopped, and I think the role of the Land Registry is pivotal.

    • Replies to Nigel Inwood>

      Comment by ianflowers posted on

      It is probably helpful, by way of background, to firstly give a brief outline of HM Land Registry's role and responsibilities. Our basic function is to keep a register of ownership and other interests in property, and to facilitate those interests being granted and transferred. HM Land Registry's remit and duties are set out in the Land Registration Act 2002 and the Land Registration Rules 2003 (as amended). It is that Act and those Rules that govern the way in which we perform our role.

      On first registration of an estate in land, the registrar is required to enter a notice in the register in respect of any interests which affect the estate under rule 35 of the Land Registration Rules 2003. As a matter of property law, a leasehold estate granted by a freeholder is an interest that affects the freehold estate. That is the case whatever the term of the lease. So it is a legal requirement that a 999-year leasehold estate should be the subject of a notice in the register for the appropriate freehold estate.

      We will not enter into discussions of individual cases in a public forum. However, in general terms, it is not usually the case that the transfer of a freehold reversion requires the consent of a leaseholder. The procedure for objections and disputes and how we deal with these are also set out under our governing legislation

      Section 33(c) of the Land Registration Act 2002 provides that no notice may be entered in the register in respect of “a restrictive covenant made between a lessor and lessee, so far as relating to the demised premises”. That is why covenants in leases do not appear in the register. However, it is always possible, if necessary, to obtain a copy of the lease, where the covenants are set out, by applying to us.

  15. Comment by Nigel Inwood posted on

    There could be a very long reply to this, after several years of study and research, but I will try to be brief:-

    Our leases do not lend themselves to self-management, nor to management by some unknown irresponsible third-party freeholder. The possibilities have been explored at length. There is no need for fresh arrangements, because the lease structure provides for sound management by the grantor, which is a long-established corporation: one that can be sued for disrepair or breach of contract if need be (as I had to do).

    The leases are quite specific about the identity of the lessor. It is clear from the wording that the lessor side is not designed to be transferred, so long as the original lessor exists. Nonetheless, in the recession, our trusty but cash-strapped corporation made some incorrect decisions, evidently based on flawed legal advice: it decided to quietly offload the freehold to an unsuitable third party; then to deny any remaining contractual relationship, deceiving lessees for financial gain.

    During the resulting three-year process, it became clear that flawed legal opinions held sway at that time among legal and other professionals (some of them on our own side). The mistakes were quite simple and fundamental, evidencing widespread landlord bias rather than thought or legal knowledge: assumption and commercial policy rather than ethics or common sense.

    My reason for writing to the Land Registry therefore is to plead, publicly, for restoration of good sense and compliance with general law: long-established worldwide laws relating to assignment of contract and to aggravated fraud.

    By many accounts, leasehold frauds are widespread. A common feature is the insincere conveyance of the freehold reversion, with Land Registry assistance regardless of objections. Such assignments are designed (as evidenced by subsequent misstatements) to confuse points of factual agreement and law, and to place multiple legal and procedural obstacles in the way of those seeking justice. In some cases the freehold changes hands more than once before lessees even get to hear of them. With so many parties involved, it can take years simply to re-establish that buildings should not be left to crumble, uninsured and structurally vulnerable.

    The Land Registry is being used to facilitate these non-consensual sales of what amounts to community property. Never mind statutes: you only have to read a typical ultra-long lease, and study its plans, to see that the various rights to different parts of the property are inextricably linked. They are interdependent, acting in different ways that cannot be adequately represented merely as some feudal landlord-owned 'freehold, subject to land charges’ – the way the Land Registry currently presents it. As discussed, leasehold title in law is classed as non-feudal, so that this presentation is inherently misleading and unlawful.

    You say that those interested can obtain a copy lease from the Land Registry; but what if they are not interested, because they are not genuine responsible buyers? What if they are colluding with the grantor, to help evade obligations, as happened in our case?

    Current Registry practice does not fairly reflect the distinct divisions of the land and the different proprietary nature of each type. This is not merely a farmer’s field that is rented out: we are dealing with people’s homes, gardens, garages, driveways and communal spaces. There are obvious sections of the freehold estate that cannot sensibly be assigned without consent. They do not belong to the freeholder alone, and are not his to dispose of.

    The Registry does not name me as proprietor of my estate in land. When I pay to download a copy of my leasehold title, I merely get a copy of the freehold title; and when I need to contact other leaseholders in the event of a problem, they are not named either. This is totally inadequate. I do not even know if my title exists, in my name, at the Registry.

    Legislation dictates that estates in land are to be registered. Why not do it properly, with equal status for the leasehold estates that have dominated new home sales in recent years? Freehold estates, by comparison, are not listed under their parent parcel of land, even where their (registered negative) covenants are the same. I see no genuine excuse for treating leaseholds differently, and I see a great deal of harm resulting from this. Lawyers tell clients ‘we are only acting as conveyancers: if you need advice about the lease, there would be a considerable extra cost’. Is the Registrar happy to keep participating in such a haphazard shambles?

    On the subject of covenants: positive as well as negative leasehold covenants are crucially important interests in land, for lease owners, so I feel they should be openly registered and accessible, so that all concerned can see them.

    I believe that the Human Rights Act would cover the property rights involved, and that the Land Registry occupies a position of trust and duty of care towards those rights. I believe that the legal professions and the Land Registry in recent years have lost track of the fundamentals involved. This situation has worked to assist those who would break the inextricable links between consumer sales responsibility, contract, and (vitally-important) structurally safe homes – as well as a decent, safe environment for communities and their visitors.

    Leasehold is said to be hybrid. Abusive sales of the reversion work to break that essential combination. Please take heed. My proprietorship of my estates in land should be registered and protected in my name, in its own right, in compliance with the main thrust of s.1 of the LPA 1925 and the Land Registration Act 2002. So should every other long lease in England and Wales that has elements of capital value or community ownership.

    In my experience, most solicitors misunderstand some of the law relating to leases, and misunderstand that the contract and estate in land are inextricably linked. It is a specialised area of law that is unprofitable and unfashionable for lawyers, on the lessee side, so that it remains obscure and relatively untested in higher courts.

    It is true that the statute 4&5 Anne c.16 (1705) provides that a reversionary interest can be assigned without attornment by the tenant to the new lord; but for centuries before that, assignment of leases followed the general law for assignment of contract. Consent (or tripartite agreement) is required, otherwise the contract becomes unenforceable, and voidable by a court. How many people have read the original 1705 statute, with its quite specific preamble? And how many have bothered to check how the ritual of attornment came to be equated with contractual consent?

    The 1705 statute was designed to prevent fraud by tenants. In pre-registration days when possession was paramount, tenants were often in a stronger position than their landlord. If you read the preamble, it explains that tenants had been attorning to false landlords, thereby colluding to avoid taxes and rents. That old mischief really has nothing to do with the modern communal issues of urban housing. Yet the statute lives on as s.151 of the LPA 1925. It effectively leads conveyancers, to this day, to think that our normal law of contract is somehow suspended or inapplicable to lease contracts and conveyancing. It is not.

    Just because one CAN sell the subject-matter of ANY contract without the other party’s consent, it does not mean that it is sensible or lawful to do so (see the standard rules relating to assignment of contract). Where reciprocal contracts are involved, where large capital sums have changed hands in advance for services, and where those services cannot be carried out without ownership of the land, then selling the subject-matter of the contract cannot possibly release a grantor from its sales or service obligations (as provided at s.142.2 of the LPA 1925: ‘This section takes effect without prejudice to any liability affecting a covenantor or his estate’) – ANY liability. Yet many lawyers accept that it does.

    This might seem a minor detail, but understanding it is a key to what Land Law textbooks refer to as the leasehold paradox. In truth, it is not paradoxical. Practitioners and investors would have it so, for their own convenience and profit. I say this, because agreement is a matter of fact, not law: people have either actually had a meeting of minds on a deal, or they have not. No matter how many statutes are passed, nothing can change the fundamental nature of human agreement or the lack of it. A plethora of modern statutes belatedly seek to protect leaseholders from non-consensual sales, but resulting regulations are widely ignored and not enforced.

    Wilful misinterpretation of the 1705 statute is a mischievous means to unlawful ends, so long as the Land Registry remains passively complicit. We cannot blame the Law Society, because almost anyone can write a lease or act as a conveyancer. To my mind, the role of the Registry is therefore absolutely crucial.

    1) The Registry should give proprietors of long leasehold estates equal status to freeholds, and should keep copies of leasehold covenants available for download (because they are enforceable by design).
    2) The Registry should implement the following safeguards:
    a) Organise application forms so that transferors have to give reasons, when the freehold side of a lease contract is to be assigned;
    b) Make applicants provide details of contractual consultations or statutory (Housing Act etc) consents and notices issued to lessees about the intended assignment;
    c) In the absence of notifications to lessees, then the Registrar should
    i) Send copies of the application to all affected lessees (this is not the same as requiring attornment by a tenant. It is an essential common-law duty of disclosure by a body holding a position of trust); and
    ii) Delay registration for 90 days, to allow opportunities to object or to apply for an injunction;
    d) Strictly apply sanctions as already provided in the 2002 act (up to 2 years imprisonment) for those who give false information in their applications or surrounding correspondence.

    • Replies to Nigel Inwood>

      Comment by Andrew Robertson posted on

      Hi, Nigel

      You've raised quite a lot of wide-ranging issues in your post, not all of which are matters for HM Land Registry in our view. We will contact you direct to discuss these further in as much as we are able to.

  16. Comment by Nigel Inwood posted on

    Many thanks. I hope the Land Registry will join with me in a cooperative manner, to work out solutions to prevent such frauds. I urge you to keep the discussion in the public domain, for the good of all.

    Whatever the wider political issues, with leaseholds, you will understand my particular concern: that even the better kinds of ultra-long leases are being unlawfully abused – in a nutshell, through equating mere ‘ground rent’ interests with ALL of the land and ALL of the lessor side of each contract. Very obviously, the stratagem is innately dishonest.

  17. Comment by R Pritchard posted on

    Everyone needs to take responsibility