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https://hmlandregistry.blog.gov.uk/2020/06/18/rising-to-the-challenge/

Rising to the challenge

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Buying and selling property, Law and practice
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It is very clear we are living through extremely unusual times. Like many of you, we have had to make changes to the way we work to ensure we can keep on working and doing what's best for our customers and for the public health effort. We will continue to adapt as the situation and guidance evolves.

Our priorities

Since the lockdown was first announced in late March our challenge has been to maintain our most essential services, to protect our staff by following the public health guidelines, and to support the national effort to stop the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19).

We have prioritised those services which have an immediate impact on the ability to buy and sell property; notably the official searches and copies applications needed before a sale can take place.

We are processing urgent updates to the register through our expedite process. Some of our customers have found themselves in very difficult circumstances and there have been some remarkable examples of our people working together to ensure each situation is managed to a successful conclusion.

We have also listened to the questions and comments coming in to us from our customers and introduced a number of policy changes including a temporary relaxation of our identity verification requirements and acceptance of ‘Mercury approach’ scanned signatures. Our Chief Executive, Simon Hayes, has been regularly emailing customers on these changes and the status of our services. These messages have been updated on our GOV.UK pages, through social media, shared with our stakeholders and on the HM Land Registry portal messaging.

However, like most businesses around the country – indeed around the world – we have had to quickly adapt to working under lockdown. In the beginning this meant we had fewer staff able to support our services, but we have been bringing more and more of our staff online and improving the speed of our services as quickly as possible.

Building our capacity

For many years we have been investing in automating some of our services, making it possible for our customers’ applications to be lodged electronically though our Business e-services. As a result of this long-term investment, when the lockdown hit our customers could still secure priority for their clients, with many search results being issued without delay, by using the HM Land Registry portal. However, many applications still need to be processed by our expert people.

As such our first priority was enabling our staff to work remotely. Even with recent changes to the government guidance we know there could be a second period of lockdown, bringing with it the additional impacts such as people being unavailable due to health issues or caring responsibilities. We believe this approach will support our efforts now will allow us to continue with greater flexibility in the long run.

We had to get our people online at a time when the entire country was looking to work remotely. Like you, our caseworkers are working in very different and sometimes difficult circumstances. Just under 6,000 staff work for HM Land Registry, and the vast majority are caseworkers who usually work from 14 offices across England and Wales.

Due to the sensitive nature of land registration we have never needed to perform land registration work remotely before, so only 1,000 members of staff have had equipment to work remotely.

Ensuring our staff had access was one part of the challenge. We knew we needed to develop new processes to securely support remote casework and we needed to do it quickly.  However, above all else, it is essential the integrity of the register is not affected. This work cannot be rushed. We will be increasing our remaining service capacity over the coming months. Customers may have noticed requisitions and replies starting to come back.

Prior to 23 March, we completed 95% of the 18,000 daily applications to update the register within five days. We are now processing more updates than we receive each day, but it will take some time to clear the backlog which built up in March, April and early May when we were unable to process significant numbers. We have been processing fewer register create applications (first registrations, transfers of part and first leases) during this period but we will be rebalancing our efforts and resources on to these cases.

We are also aware that the volume of applications received has fallen and that many of our customers are expecting a bounce back over the summer months.

We were already reflecting on our priorities before the coronavirus struck, and we are taking the opportunity to take a step back and look at the level of service we provide across our different products. We will be reaching out to ask about all of our customers’ priorities and how they feel we should prioritise our work. We will then be reviewing how we manage all our services in line with what they tell us to make sure we are accurately meeting their needs and providing the best support possible to the market.

This may result in changes to some services. All decisions on this will be based on clear evidence that this is what our customers need. We will be sharing more about this in the coming months.

In the meantime, if there is a need to expedite an application, due to hardship or a linked transaction and so on, I urge customers to use Application Enquiry to ask us to expedite, and we will prioritise these cases where possible. This allows us to clearly identify the most urgent cases and quickly meet our customers’ needs.

This has been a very challenging time for us and our customers. I know our services have not always been up to our usual standards; however I believe we are now in a much stronger position and we are getting stronger every day. In a second blog, to be published in the next few days, I will be exploring how this work has positioned us to be even stronger going forward.

We welcome your comments about this blog in the comments below. Please note that we are unable to discuss individual cases through the comments section and would request that all such queries be directed to our contact web form where you will receive a response as soon as possible.

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41 comments

  1. Comment by Alun Llewellyn posted on

    Appreciate your problems and the difficulties working around Coronavirus but I purchased my house last September and still you have been unable to enter the details in the Register. It is a new home but surely after nearly 9 months it should have been possible to update the Register; what if I wanted to put the house on the market now?

    Reply
    • Replies to Alun Llewellyn>

      Comment by AdamH posted on

      Alun - unfortunately we have had a backlog if this type of work for some time now. The purchase is protected as we have the application but if you should decide to sell and you find a buyer then we ha a process where applications can be expedited if an urgency arises.
      https://www.gov.uk/guidance/coronavirus-covid-19-impact-on-hm-land-registrys-services#expedite-an-application
      It is far from ideal but it is workable and hopefully provides some reassurance that such things are still possible even after as long a wait as you have experienced. If there is no urgency then please bear with us and we will process the application as soon as we can

      Reply
  2. Comment by Alun Llewellyn posted on

    Thank you Adam for your very prompt response.

    Reply
  3. Comment by Sarah Wall posted on

    How long can someone expect to wait to have an application expedited please? Especially where there is a sale at risk.

    Reply
    • Replies to Sarah Wall>

      Comment by AdamH posted on

      Sarah - requests to expedite, if made through the correc5 channel, are normally processed within a couple of working days. https://www.gov.uk/guidance/coronavirus-covid-19-impact-on-hm-land-registrys-services#expedite-an-application
      Expedition reduces the wait time before it’s then considered. We quote 10 working days but currently most are looked at within a couple of working days. First registrations may wait a bit longer.
      Everything then hinges on it being in order of course and if it’s not then timescales will be stretched

      Reply
      • Replies to AdamH>

        Comment by Sarah Wall posted on

        Thank you so much for your quick reply. Once it's been approved to be expedited how long can we then expect until we receive approval please? You mention that 'First registrations may wait a bit longer'. In our case the owners lost the original deeds but the house was never registered. In that case can we expect a delay?

        Reply
        • Replies to Sarah Wall>

          Comment by AdamH posted on

          Sarah - as per my reply. Considered within 10 working days. If the deeds have been lost then it’s then all about what evidence has been provided

          Reply
  4. Comment by Sarah Wall posted on

    Thank you again for your swift reply Adam

    Reply
  5. Comment by Emma posted on

    Hi I submitted an application to remove a restriction last month but still not heard anything. My re mortgage & additional borrowing is reliant on this & I have builders booked. Do you know how long these applications are taking? Thank you. Emma

    Reply
  6. Comment by Kate posted on

    What has happened to the forum? I tried to get on it today and all my links were broken. Googled it and saw this.

    HM Land Registry - Get Satisfactionm.getsatisfaction.com › companies › landregistry
    HM Land Registry 100155 Dear All <br /><br />From Tuesday 30 June 2020 this forum will be unavailable. We apologise for any inconvenience this may cause.
    When will it be reinstated? I found it invaluable. I missed the notification as I'd turned off the feeds to my email account.
    Grateful for an update.

    Reply
    • Replies to Kate>

      Comment by AdamH posted on

      Kate - that particular forum has been ended by its provider. We are working on a replacement but it may not go live for a few weeks yet.
      When it does the details will appear on our Contact page as before https://www.gov.uk/guidance/contact-hm-land-registry

      Reply
      • Replies to AdamH>

        Comment by Kate Smith posted on

        Thanks Adam, for your prompt response. I'll look out for the replacement and hope it appears sooner rather than later. It was a really useful tool and it's unfortunate it's disappeared just as I need it.
        Thank you
        Kate

        Reply
  7. Comment by Susan Walker posted on

    Good morning,
    We are purchasing a house with two owners on Land Registry title. One is buying the other out before Exchange with us and their Conveyancer will be submitting the paperwork to you next week. How long will this take to change the Title so that we can get on with the Exchange?

    Many thanks
    Susan

    Reply
  8. Comment by Melanie Oakes posted on

    Hi,
    I am having my name taken off the deeds of a jointly owned property. Could you tell me how long it takes to perform this? The documents were submitted 2 weeks ago electronically.
    Many thanks

    Reply
    • Replies to Melanie Oakes>

      Comment by AdamH posted on

      • Replies to AdamH>

        Comment by Melanie Oakes posted on

        Hi Adam,
        Many thanks for your really quick response. I appreciate why you have used the word "several", but as a house purchase is relying on release of equity, can I ask if a period of 3 to 4 weeks counts as "several", given that the LR have already had the paperwork for 2 weeks?

        Reply
        • Replies to Melanie Oakes>

          Comment by AdamH posted on

          Melanie - I use several as timescales will vary at this disrupted time. It is very unlikely to be 3/4 weeks and I would always refer you to the linked guidance which explains that if there’s a proven urgency then your conveyancer should be asking to expedite it.

          Reply
  9. Comment by Peter S posted on

    Could I please have an update in regard to 32 Newmarket ROAD, TS10 2HZ.
    we are in the process of purchasing the property and have been since the beginning of February, and our mortgage offer expires at the beginning of September so we are starting to get worried.
    Thank you.

    Reply
    • Replies to Peter S>

      Comment by AdamH posted on

      Peter - we have an application affecting land at the rear of #32 which was lodged on 13th July. If that’s the one then you’ll need to speak to the conveyancer and get them to request expedition if their application as per the linked guidance https://www.gov.uk/guidance/coronavirus-covid-19-impact-on-hm-land-registrys-services#expedite-an-application

      Reply
      • Replies to AdamH>

        Comment by Peter s posted on

        I really appreciate your quick reply.
        I was informed by the seller that the form to expedite this matter has been submitted by their conveyancer. Can you confirm if this is correct and if this has been received?
        Thank you

        Reply
        • Replies to Peter s>

          Comment by AdamH posted on

          Peter s - i checked and it’s not been expedited. There is no ‘form’ to submit but a very specific secure and supported channel to use as explained in the linked guidance.
          I’ll flag the urgency but I’d suggest you link the conveyancer to the same guidance as if they’ve requested expedition through an unsupported channel then that is probably why it’s not expedited

          Reply
          • Replies to AdamH>

            Comment by Peter S posted on

            Hello again Adam, would you please be able to check 32 Newmarket road, TS10 2HZ again to make sure that the expedition has been sorted as the dollars have now been told by their solicitors that this is sorted. Thank you

          • Replies to Peter S>

            Comment by AdamH posted on

            Peter S - it has now been expedited (27th July). You’ll need to rely on the conveyancer to check and confirm progress from here. They can use their secure portal to do that
            I’ll remove your comment and my reply shortly in lin3 with the blog guidance which states
            We welcome your comments about this blog in the comments below. Please note that we are unable to discuss individual cases through the comments section and would request that all such queries be directed to our contact web form where you will receive a response as soon as possible.

  10. Comment by Stephen posted on

    Hi, my solicitor filed our lease extension forms on 29th November and these still haven't been processed. We are now selling our property and the buyer requires this filing to be completed. This has left our sale in a precarious position. What can we do?

    Reply
  11. Comment by Stephen posted on

    Thanks! If my previous conveyancer is away, can I do this myself or does that cause an issue as they lodged the application? My sale is being handled by a separate conveyancer

    Reply
    • Replies to Stephen>

      Comment by AdamH posted on

      Stephen - follow the guidance and submit documentary evidence to confirm the sale/purchase e.g copy of the memorandum of sale.

      Reply
  12. Comment by Sam posted on

    Hi Adam

    Hope all is well

    I have transferred a title of deeds across by way of gift to 2 family members

    All the forms and payment were sent via post by myself as per process 3 weeks ago

    Do I have to wait for a response before trying to expedite, as the forms asks for a reference number which I don't currently have!?

    Sam

    Reply
    • Replies to Sam>

      Comment by AdamH posted on

      Sam - simply add a sequence of digits to the reference field. You’ll get an auto response which you should then reply to and attach a copy of the documentary evidence confirming the urgency

      Reply
  13. Comment by Steve H posted on

    Hi, I have just tried to gain access to your online support forum at https://support.landregistry.gov.uk/landregistry/categories but it's not loading up? Do you know if it's down at the moment?

    Reply
    • Replies to Steve H>

      Comment by AdamH posted on

      SteveH - the forum is no longer available after the provider withdrew support for it. We are currently working on a replacement and hopefully that will be available later this month/early September. Details will appear on our contact page when that happens https://www.gov.uk/guidance/contact-hm-land-registry

      Reply
      • Replies to AdamH>

        Comment by Steve H posted on

        Hi Adam,

        Thanks for your response. Sad to hear that the support was withdrawn.

        Can you advise on where I could get advice about filling in an AP1 form? I have read and watched the online help for filling out the form but have a question that isn't covered with the online guides. I was going to pose a question on the forum, which had worked well for me previously.

        Steve

        Reply
        • Replies to Steve H>

          Comment by AdamH posted on

          Steve H - what’s the Q and I’ll try to help here?

          Reply
          • Replies to AdamH>

            Comment by Steve H posted on

            Thanks Adam,

            I am trying to fill out the forms to complete a property share transfer. The property is owned by myself, my two sisters and my father. It is spilt down as follows: my father owns a one-half share, my two sisters and myself own a one-sixth share each. I recently sold my one-sixth share to my mother and need to update the title register. I understand that we need to fill out the forms AP1, TR1 & ID1's for each party. I have completed the TR1 form but I'm having a bit of trouble on section 4 (Application, priority and fees) of the AP1 form, in particularly what to write under the Applications in priority order. I have put in the currently put in the box "Transfer of whole for value" but I'm unsure if this is correct. Are you able to advise?

            Many Thanks
            Steve

          • Replies to Steve H>

            Comment by AdamH posted on

            SteveH - just refer to it as a Transfer. If the Transfer is for monies put that amount in. If it’s not then put the full market value and 3xplained the share aspect in a covering letter
            You can only Transfer the whole of the legal ownership so all of you will be transferring to your Father, your sisters and your Mother

  14. Comment by Steve H posted on

    Thank you for your reply Adam. That is very helpful 🙂

    It is for monies, so I have put that amount in. Do I need to put anything else in section four like alteration of the register?

    Also another question that may be more difficult to answer. If we submitted all the forms along with a cheque for the correct fees what would happen if we had made a mistake? Would we have to pay the fees and resubmit everything? (Not that I'm planning to get it wrong, just trying to understand the process).

    Reply
    • Replies to Steve H>

      Comment by AdamH posted on

      Steve - noth8ng more in panel 4. If you got something wrong we’d write to you to put it right. There’s no extra fee

      Reply
      • Replies to AdamH>

        Comment by Steve H posted on

        That's brillaint!

        Thank you very much for your help Adam 🙂

        Many Thanks
        Steve

        Reply

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