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https://hmlandregistry.blog.gov.uk/2020/11/09/improving-our-service-speeds/

Improving our service speeds

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Buying and selling property, Law and practice

Following on from the Prime Minister’s announcement on the public health measures implemented across England, I wanted to take this opportunity to share an operational update from HM Land Registry.

I want to reassure our customers the latest measures will not impact our service levels, as nearly all our staff are equipped to work remotely. We are now well placed to maintain these service levels in the light of these changes, and in the event of any further local or national lockdowns.

Before I get into any more detail on what we’re doing, I wanted to give a quick update on our current estimated completion times.

Simple updates to the register

  • This makes up most of our service requests and we’ve seen a big improvement since the peak in June when the majority of most simple applications were taking around 2 months – the time it takes to process these requests has more than halved.
  • Most of these requests are taking around 3 weeks. More than half are processed in just over a week but in some instances it can take up to a month.
  • However around a fifth of all applications require us to make requests for information (requisitions) – which then take considerably longer, with most only being completed after 6 weeks.

Complex changes and new entries

  • The other applications we receive are more complex and usually involve the creation of a new title.
  • Most of these applications are completed within 9 months but we know that some can take up to 11 months, with exceptional cases taking even longer.

These times are what can be expected for applications being processed now. I appreciate that some of the more complex applications lodged previously have already been with us for longer than these times.

We are able to expedite urgent applications – the majority of all expedited applications are processed within 10 working days. We know that the market is extremely busy at the moment. We are putting measures in place to ensure we can expedite all applications that need to be processed urgently for reasons relating to the Stamp Duty Land Tax holiday.

Working to improve our services

Our absolute top priority is to reduce any delays, both those caused by the pandemic and those existing beforehand. Our current processing times are not where we want them to be in the longer term, and we are absolutely determined to reduce them. We are constantly reviewing our position and adjusting our resources where necessary to ensure we simultaneously deliver our services and promote public health in the most effective way. We have also extended the opening hours of our Customer Support Centre until 5pm each day.

In addition, we are recruiting more than 500 new colleagues, many of whom are joining us soon, and all of whom will be in place early in the new year. Behind the scenes we have numerous programmes promoting the most efficient and effective ways to undertake our work; from ensuring applications are seen by caseworkers as quickly as possible, with less time allocated to administrative work and more time on actual casework, and adopting the innovative use of new technologies to improve our casework systems. I will bring you more detail on these projects in future updates.

The impact of requisitions

One aspect of our work that continues to have a real impact on the speed of our services is the number of applications we receive with errors or omissions, meaning we need to send out requests for information (requisitions).

Around 1 in every 5 applications contains an error or lacks crucial information. In September we completed more than 300,000 applications to change the register – of these, 64,000 had at least one requisition request. Many of these are avoidable errors – for example, we know that on average around 12.5%, or 1 out of every 8 requisitions, are due to name variations. This all costs time and money to process, and ultimately slows everything down for those transacting in property.

From mid-November we will be resuming the practice of cancelling applications with outstanding requisitions. At the start of the coronavirus pandemic we paused all cancellations to give our customers additional time to gather the information needed. However, as there are now an increasing number of applications which are building up and resulting in some delays, we need to resume cancellations. I would encourage customers to not wait for a reminder letter to respond to any outstanding requisitions.

If you think you may have outstanding requisitions, I would encourage using our recent enhancement to the HM Land Registry portal – View My Applications. All users of the portal can access this free-to-use service, via the left-hand navigation bar, to view their portal-lodged applications as well as all the relevant correspondence – including requisitions. You can reply to each requisition using the Reply to requisition service in the portal.

Watch our short video (49 seconds).

View My Applications has gained lots of positive customer feedback and we currently have around 7,000 users accessing the new service every day. We will soon introduce a new feature, Estimated Completion Date, which we plan to launch in early 2021. Estimated Completion Date will show a date for each portal-lodged application, updated monthly, all on one screen.

In addition, our new Digital Registration Service (available to all users later this year) will digitise and simplify how you submit your applications to us by checking the information as you add it in. This will help you avoid some of the more common errors and ultimately speed up turnaround times by reducing requisitions.

Watch our short video (1 minute 11 seconds).

Listening to our customers

We are always listening to what our customers are telling us about our services and doing everything we can to respond quickly. At the start of the pandemic we heard that customers wanted us to start accepting electronic signatures. So we brought forward our work on this area.

Alongside the ‘Mercury signing approach’, we have now started accepting witnessed electronic signatures. Our next step is to release our draft practice for the other form of electronic signature – qualified electronic signatures. We will also be releasing draft guidance on the use of digital identity checks, enabling simple online-only ID checking. I hope that you will let us know your thoughts on this draft so we can make sure the eventual practice meets your needs.

We are conducting research so we can learn more about the priorities of our customers’ client work and the transactions our customers rely on the most to complete. This research will inform our longer-term focus on how we deploy our resources to meet best those priorities. We want to make sure the way we work truly complements the way you work. As with our work on electronic signatures, we place the needs of our customers at the heart of our decision-making process. We’ve got an early idea of where everyone’s priorities lie but before we respond to these we will continue to talk to a representative spread of customers. We hope to update you more over the coming months.

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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17 comments

  1. Comment by Jeffrey Shaw, Nether Edge Law posted on

    Despite all that, and whilst everyone knows the Virus-related problems, it remains the case that delays on TP1/DFL applications ("Register Create") exceeded six months even before the national service breakdowns. Our record at present is two applications over 14mths. old plus three extant others dating from 2019. Might HMLR spend- say- three or four working days of officer time on clearing this type of backlog, diverting the officers from "Register Update" work? A small delay like that would have hardly any impact on applicants affected but would greatly assist TP1/DFL applicants.

    And as for Requisitions: it would assist if we did not receive ones demanding a plan in cases where we use the second option in panel 3 of TP1 and cross-refer to a plan already held by HMLR!

    Reply
    • Replies to Jeffrey Shaw, Nether Edge Law>

      Comment by AdamH posted on

      Jeffrey Shaw - Thank you for your comment, and we apologise for the significant delays on those applications which is much longer than we would expect for any application so we will investigate that for you.
      Some application types are taking us longer than others – some are taking much longer than we’d like. We have been asking customers which applications are the most important to them so that we could ensure we have the right number of staff on each application type.
      Based on what they are telling us we believe the balance is right, considering that simple register updates account for over 80% of the thousands of applications we receive each day. However, we are implementing a series of initiatives to reduce overall completion times and we are confident those will make a positive impact for our customers

      Reply
  2. Comment by Frederick Martin posted on

    In this article Chris Pope states under 'Complex changes and new entries'
    "The other applications we receive are more complex and usually involve the creation of a new title. Most of these applications are completed within 9 months but we know that some can take up to 11 months, with exceptional cases taking even longer."
    In the 25/09/20 (Covid-19) email sent from Simon Hayes your Chief Executive it states that "most other (ie non-simple) application types are taking up to 6 months to complete".
    The delay position has obviously worsened in the 45 days between the two articles then.
    In my case I voluntarily submitted a first registration TP1/DFL application. I am not a business user so your 'View My Applications' is of no value to me or any other private individual in finding out any progress on my application via the HMLR portal.

    Reply
    • Replies to Frederick Martin>

      Comment by AdamH posted on

      Frederick - thanks for your comment and apologies for the delay in publishing and replying
      Many non-simple applications are still taking up to 6 months as indicated in Simon Hayes’ e-mail. But in this blog we wished to reflect that other more complex ones are taking longer even than that, some of them considerably longer.
      I take your point about your not being able to access View My Application as a private individual. You can however ask us for an update on your application by contacting us online
      https://help.landregistry.gov.uk/app/contactus_general

      Reply
      • Replies to AdamH>

        Comment by Frederick Martin posted on

        Dear Adam, thank you for your response.
        Today I submitted my 'whereabouts are we?' enquiry on my application, using the link you provided.
        Within 10 minutes I received a proforma email response stating;-
        "If we haven’t already contacted you about your application, then work on your application has not yet been started so we cannot give you an accurate date when your application will be dealt with".
        This response makes no mention of your 6 months statement but does actually say that most complex changes AND new entries are completed within 9 months.
        Given that 3 months has passed and no work on my application has commenced, can you confirm that if I were to cancel my application now, HMLR will refund in full my £200 and return my original documentation deeds etc?
        regards Frederick

        Reply
        • Replies to Frederick Martin>

          Comment by AdamH posted on

          Frederick - if work has not begun and you withdraw your application then the fee will be ref7bded and available documentation returned

          Reply
          • Replies to AdamH>

            Comment by Frederick Martin posted on

            Thank you Adam for your fast response. I'll withdraw the application today and that will allow another to move up the ladder.
            many thanks
            Frederick Martin

  3. Comment by A L Evans posted on

    What are the current timescales for dealing with adverse possession applications relating to registered land, where a surveyor's site visit is required?

    Reply
    • Replies to A L Evans>

      Comment by AdamH posted on

      A L Evans - if a site visit is required then they generally happen within 2 weeks of Ordnance Survey receiving the request from us.
      So you are looking at a 7/8 week wait from receipt by us to a site visit being completed. You should also factor in wider checks required, if any, after the survey report has been considered. Wider checks can take a few weeks at least to complete

      Reply
  4. Comment by Amy posted on

    How long should it take to remove a vacated charge at present?

    Reply
    • Replies to Amy>

      Comment by AdamH posted on

      Amy - most legal charges (mortgages) are discharged electronically, so immediately. I assume from your reference to a ‘vacated charge’ that it’s not a mortgage with a well known lender so if it’s a paper application you are looking at an initial wait time of 4/5 weeks plus potentially 3 weeks for wider checks to complete

      Reply
  5. Comment by Catherine O’Keeffe posted on

    I’m waiting for a TP1 to be processed for a transaction that completed almost a year ago. I just get pro forma responses and I have no idea when it will be processed. It is really stressful and I can’t see any way to get a concrete answer.

    Reply
    • Replies to Catherine O’Keeffe>

      Comment by AdamH posted on

      Catherine - we do have a backlog of this type of work and some will be over a year old. If we still have it and it’s waiting to be processed then there is nothing to stress over as your purchase is protected. There’s nothin to add to the auto response provided in such cases
      I would recon end you speak to your conveyancer to confirm it has been submitted and if it’s still showing as waiting to be processed. If it is then please bear with us and once completed the conveyancer will be the first to know.

      Reply
      • Replies to AdamH>

        Comment by CATHERINE O'KEEFFE posted on

        Thanks Adam, Yes it definitely has been submitted but the conveyancer just gets the pro forma messages saying it is waiting and there is no indication of when it will be processed.
        I am sure you can imagine that it is stressful to have spent a lot of money on a property and yet not have the formal paperwork to confirm ownership.

        Reply
        • Replies to CATHERINE O'KEEFFE>

          Comment by AdamH posted on

          Catherine - many thanks and understood. Totally appreciate how stressful things can be but the key here is that you completed, got the keys and own the property. Whilst the registration and paperwork do matter the wait time, in your case, has been stretched but it is not something to get stressed about providing the application is with us and your purchase is protected, which it is.
          Easy for me to type of course but it really is a case of not worrying about it as you know you/your solicitor have done all that is legally required and it will be registered as soon as possible.

          Reply

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