We know that publishing our Request for information (requisition) data is a sensitive matter. Some of our customers expressed concerns about how the data would be interpreted. But we believe its release will have a positive effect on the conveyancing market, by encouraging application quality improvements.
With cooperation we can make the conveyancing process, simpler, faster and cheaper, reflecting a ‘world-leading land registry’. We raise more than 3,000 requests for information daily. In 2017/18 the costs were between £2 and £3 million in staff time and resource. Add the resource customers invest in rework, and the final cost is much higher for us all.
Our belief that many requests for information can be avoided with due care has been confirmed. The recent Solicitors Regulation Authority thematic review reports that ‘91% of firms interviewed acknowledged they had received requisitions from HM Land Registry that could have been avoided’. By making our data more transparent, customers have an opportunity to assess the data and compare themselves against their peers.
Since publication the dataset has received mixed reviews. Some comments criticise our requisition consistency and service standard completion times - I’ll talk more about this later, but others have been more supportive. So how did we do last year?
Processing your applications
In the last 12 months, we processed nearly 27 million applications. Despite higher intakes, 21 million search and official copy applications (99%) were completed within 2 working days. We also completed more than 4 million applications to update the register within our service standard time of 5 working days.
Applications to create new registers (first registrations, transfers of part and new leases) take longer to complete and have a service standard time of 25 working days. We know you need us to complete these applications quicker, so we’re working hard to reduce completion times, with some success.
First registrations and applications arising from developer plot sales and leases are now being processed within our service standard time of 25 days. We focused on these applications because we had the capacity and capability to make improvements. But this was at the expense of other types of register create applications, which are taking longer than we’d all like to complete.
The previous economic downturn and subsequent under-investment in our organisation means that we simply don’t have the capacity that we need. Progressive recruitment and training programmes are beginning to address this shortfall. Five hundred and forty new people joined our caseworker cohort last year, while existing colleagues underwent development. This investment means we’ll have more qualified caseworkers to handle complex work. It also increases our capacity overall, helping to make us the right size and shape to deliver our targeted services and manage cyclical changes in the conveyancing market. We expect some processing delays for these applications to continue in 2019/20.
Some customers have criticised the consistency of our requests for information. As a result, we conducted training with all caseworkers. This has greatly reduced our use of non-standard requests for information, which has improved the quality of the data we share with customers and the consistency of the customer experience generally.
Making it easier to work with us
We want to make the process of registering applications simpler and quicker. Changes to the way we prioritise and allocate work means we’re getting transactions to the right people when it arrives. We’ll soon have a consistent approach to the prioritisation of non-developer new leases and transfers of part.
We are working hard to improve how we handle customer queries. Through our Customer Support Centre (CSC) and centralised customer-handling teams, we handle more than 6,000 calls every day. But we know further improvements to call waiting times and abandonment rates are necessary. Additional resource and planned changes to our call routing options will improve your experience in the coming months.
Our account managers continue to work with some of our bigger customers who submit large volumes of applications, or complex applications. By working collaboratively, we better understand their needs, can support their business requirements and help with quality initiatives. Customers are also made aware of our business requirements and the tools and support available to them.
We are delivering free webinars to help our business customers identify and avoid common issues that lead to requests for information. The latest topic is Variation in names. Checklists and other support materials are available. More than 10,000 customers have joined or watched our recorded webinars since the service launched last October. This shows just how useful our customers have found these sessions.
Working with you to reduce requests for information (requisitions)
We all have a responsibility for the quality of the conveyancing and registration processes, which underpins the integrity of the register we all rely on. We accept that some requests for information are more difficult to avoid, such as those caused by evidence not being provided by third parties. And we also accept that on occasions we make mistakes.
As an industry, we all need to assure the integrity of the application quality sign-off process. So, in February 2019, based on customers feedback and our own data assessment we began two trials. These deferred raising requests for information, when third-party supporting information isn’t initially available, in certain circumstances.
We also widened our rejection criteria last October, for errors we consider avoidable on first registration applications. A further six rejection criteria are being trialled. Customers who want help identifying what information should be enclosed with applications can use the first registration checklist.
Developing new services
Last month, I wrote a blog about the new services we’re developing. These services make it easier for developers to acquire new sites, and for customers to manage large complex retail or infrastructure developments.
More initiatives will be released in 2019/20, such as the launch of a series of new portal developments that make the submission of accurate AP1 forms easier. We’ll also be making other improvements to portal, as well as to our Find a property/Find Property Information services.
Finally, we are looking into options for automated responses that will speed up routine repetitive tasks. We have achieved many good things over the year, but still have more work to do. Delivering services that reflect a ‘world leading land registry’ is important to us. Going forward we will continue work with customers and stakeholders to examine how we can further improve our customers’ experience.