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Automation in land registration

Over the last 18 months we have introduced electronic signatures in land registration and published our Standard promoting the use of digital ID checks. All of these are moving us a little closer to the ultimate goal – an improved, faster, data-led conveyancing process.

Automation of some aspects of land registration is part of this vision. The automated tasks will be completed immediately and allow our expert caseworkers to focus on the more technical aspects of processing applications. The customer will receive services that are increasingly near instant or real-time.

There are several land registries around the world, such as New Zealand and Australia, with similar land law who have partly or wholly automated applications to register a change of ownership. This has resulted in a majority of applications being returned within seconds.

It is obviously essential that any automated process can be trusted without question. This means that the systems we are building to achieve this (a digital application process, machine readable register and casework processing engine) need to have the highest integrity in the way they make land registration decisions. Moreover, we must keep in mind an obvious principle of computing – the output can only be as trusted as the inputs.

There needs to be a handover of that trust in the inputs at the point at which the conveyancer submits the information about what has happened in the transaction. Without that trust, we cannot sensibly automate changes to the register and all gain the conveyancing efficiency advantages that will flow from that.

The importance of the professional conveyancer

Conveyancers know what has happened in a transaction. To automate our side of the transaction, HM Land Registry needs to be passed that information in a reliable way. As experience elsewhere shows, the most secure means of achieving that is for a regulated lawyer (legal executive, conveyancer or solicitor) to give a personal confirmation of the truth of the facts as they or their colleagues know them. This sort of assurance is familiar already, as lawyer certificates are already given in many cases.

We referred to this work as a “lawyer certification pilot” in our recent Business Plan – it is an evolution of the information and lawyer assurance we receive today. Getting this right and making this easy is a critical component in a future digital service and conveyancing process.

We are currently thinking through the details of how this will work, and of course we cannot do that without testing it thoroughly first. We intend to run a small-scale pilot with a few firms in the coming months. We are directly reaching out to a number of companies. However, if you would like to take part please fill in our sign-up form.

We will share progress on the pilot as we go along.

Increasing speed of service

As you will probably be aware, we are focusing a great deal of effort at the moment on increasing our caseworker capacity to improve the speed of our non-urgent casework.

We have been hiring and training hundreds more casework staff to give us more immediate resource. But we are also looking ahead. We need to invest effort now to deliver a more efficient service in the future. The pilot and our wider work around automation does not detract from our short-term efforts to improve our service today, which remains our absolute priority. It seeks to amplify our efforts in the future.

Making the most of digital technology in the way we provide our land registration services is a key way in which we can contribute to and enable a simpler and faster conveyancing process. Developing ways of working with electronic signatures and remote digital ID checking are all part of the same transformation journey. We cannot hope to do this successfully without the collaboration and support of all our partners and customers.

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  1. Comment by Jeffrey Shaw posted on

    Why not:
    a. first clear the backlog of Register Create Applications; and hen
    b. consider automation?

    Plus- will automation protect innocent parties (purchasers, mortgagees, solicitors, etc.) from the consequences of errors- whether knowing or unknowing- on the part of your 'trusted' certifiers? The State Guarantee currently in place is itself not always 100% protective, in my experience!

  2. Comment by Alvin Chantler posted on

    There is a danger that historic information and detail could be lost as what one person sees as relevant another may not and the detail will be lost for ever.

  3. Comment by victor bruno posted on

    solicitors are people to when conveyancing, it's to easy to pass the buck to the purchaser to verify if the site plan is accurate. often leading to problems down the road. the purchaser often accepts the plan is correct as the driver is to complete the sale. can there not be a way that verifies the boundary at an earlier stage, perhaps the estate agent as part of their duties to flag possible errors?

  4. Comment by John Harvey posted on

    Thanks Mike

    Great to see LR going proactive . Keep up the good work.

    Totally disagree with Jeffrey Shaw's comment

    Create titles are the creation of property antivaxxvers

    Owners of unregistered titles have had since 1862 to register voluntarily

    Leaseholds have always been pre-registrable using dummy companies

    No-one should be permitted to pollute chains by marketing before registration

    Back in the 1980s I was involved with the grant of leases on a major shopping centre where a dispute had prevented grants of leases for over two decades.

    I gained considerable kudos by pointing out that, as all units had an agreement noted on the freehold, the number of this could be used on the leases and the cost and resources of drawing conveyancing plans saved

    I tried to capitalise on my success by suggesting that there should be a single occupational lease for the centre with each unit subject to a lease of part and a prohibition on subinfeudation

    Everyone recoiled in horror but no-one came up with a reason why it should not work

    Will LR be asking buyers and sellers whether they would support universal pre- marketing registration? This is a chance not to miss

    Regards John

  5. Comment by Roy Perrott posted on

    While automated ways of processing applications are to be encouraged, the Land Registry needs to first concentrate on getting the basics right; speed up the processing of applications, many of which take months (or longer); and reduce the number of unnecessary and inconsistent requisitions.

  6. Comment by John Harvey posted on

    Any feedback on my promotion of universal preregistration to separate title creates from actual sales


    John Harvey

  7. Comment by John posted on

    I’m not sure it would work