As mentioned in our recent blogs, about what we’re doing to reduce our processing times and our plans for the future, we are exploring every avenue to improve our services to customers. This includes automating our services for updating registered titles, which makes up the majority of the work handled by our caseworkers.
To automate our services, we need to adjust how we receive and process applications. At the moment, our caseworkers check every application for errors or omissions before starting work on them. They often need to send out requests for information (requisitions). It’s essential to the integrity of the land register that these details are correct on the application. We need to remove this time-consuming step if we want faster, automated services.
We believe that most of the checks our caseworkers currently perform manually could be replaced, either because our digital applications services check the register before the application is submitted or because our application processing tools can check it once it’s been received. However, we also need assurance from customers – notably from those regulated lawyers or 'Regulated Legal Professionals' (RLPs) – on some other aspects. You may have heard this process referred to as 'Lawyer Assured Information' (LAI). For more on how this could help with our automation ambitions, please see our previous blog on ‘efficient land registration’.
What we’ve done so far
We can only do this in partnership with industry – we need to know how different conveyancers work and how we could effectively change the way we all work. So, we’ve started with four high-volume firms: Enact, Eversheds Sutherland, Optima and O’Neill Patient. We have been working with these four firms because their high volumes provided enough example cases for us to quickly understand how things could work. We’ve been focussing on applications to register new charges, because they’re relatively simple to register, and they make up a sizable proportion of our work.
Through this initial pilot stage, we’ve learned a lot – both in terms of what works and what doesn’t – and we’ve seen some real benefits. As Claire Feehily-Loy from O’Neill Patient, a Movera company, has told us:
Our involvement with LAI was driven by the prospect of enhanced automation and quicker turn-around times for registration applications. The benefits we've experienced at O'Neill Patient, and our platform business Movera, have exceeded expectations.
Karen Hooper noted that Enact saw the same potential.
We were really keen to be involved with the LAI project given that increased automation and quicker registrations will ultimately be of significant benefit not only for our business, but also for our clients and customers.
A reduction in errors
If we’re going to automate more applications, we need to be confident that firms are not submitting applications with errors or omissions in them. We’re really looking at the avoidable, administrative errors, rather than things like third party consents which we all know take time to gather. And we’re really focussing on the more ‘serious’ of these, such as the signing of a deed or inclusion of the correct deed.
Claire Feehily-Loy again.
We receive thorough feedback and data on requisitions, enabling us to make significant improvements to our internal processes. Not only that, but we have been able to work closely with HMLR to shape the future of the process.
By working closely with all four firms we’ve seen a notable reduction in their requisition rates. And we’ve learned about some issues in our own policy that we could amend, including some technical aspects of how customers submit applications that inevitably lead to requisitions, and how these could be avoided.
Karen Hooper from Enact felt the same.
During the pilot, the ongoing feedback and iterative development discussions have proved to be invaluable in refining our internal processes, leading to faster registrations and even lower requisitions than usual.
Safeguarding the integrity of the register
When initially discussing this work, we were aware of concerns that it would allow firms to edit the land register unchecked. This will absolutely not happen; it is still HM Land Registry’s responsibility to decide what can and can’t be registered. We will not allow applications which do not pass fundamental ‘business rules’ – things which our caseworkers currently check for – to be added to the register.
The pilot – or ‘private beta’ - has allowed us to examine and test how we can best do this, through pre-registration checks and/or post-registration assurance processes. The details of how we do this are still being developed, but this principle remains central to our work.
By working with these high-volume firms, we have been able to explore some of the barriers they face, both legal and operational. Through regular discussions, we’ve learned in-depth detail of how they handle cases, and how we can work together to provide accurate applications while addressing anything that regularly leads to requisitions. We will now include a broader range of firms of different sizes, handling different amounts of cases, to ensure our approach works for everyone.
One notable change made after feedback is that our approach would leave it up to the individual RLP to choose how they obtain the confidence to assure their firm’s applications. This may, for example, be by checking each individual application. Or alternatively they may only need to check a sample of their firm’s applications, as they have enough confidence in the processes and assurance checks in place. Any steps taken by the RLP must give them a reasonable belief that each application being submitted to HM Land Registry is true and accurate.
And we’ve been able to address concerns, such as around the perceived shifting of liability. It is not our intention to change the relationship between HM Land Registry and our customers. This will not put any increased risk on personal financial liability on those assuring us of the applications’ quality, nor do we see any change in PI insurance.
We’ve also explored what training customers will need. While we’ve had the luxury of working directly with the four firms involved in the private beta, we have learned a lot about what guidance and support will need to be available when we open the work out to more firms.
How to make this work technically
On a more fundamental level, we’ve also learned how to make this work practically. How different customers submit applications to HM Land Registry, how they could technically provide assurance of each applications’ quality, and how this assurance is ‘stored’ within HM Land Registry. These more functional aspects are fundamental to this working in future, so we will continue to work with these firms and test our approach with a broader range of customers.
Claire Feehily-Loy noted that:
We acknowledge the challenges of aligning the role of Regulated Legal Professionals (RLPs) with our Movera powered automation and controlled processes, and we are actively collaborating with HMLR to find an optimal solution.
Karen Hooper agreed that this concept was also “not without its challenges” for Enact but went on to say:
We have been able to work collaboratively with HMLR on this point and have every confidence a mutually agreeable solution will be forthcoming based on our experience to date.
We are now reflecting on the feedback from the firms involved in this private beta and are bringing in a few more firms with different application types and volumes to advise on how this would work for them.
Find out more
We do believe that automation is the future of land registration, bringing both faster and more sustainable services. This has been proven with our information services, which were largely immune to the recent fluctuation in the property market activity.
While we don’t imagine this will be available to all firms in the short term, we will continue to share information about our work as we gain more detail.
Please sign up for our early engagement group if you would like to receive direct emails around this work or become involved in upcoming research.
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 Us web form where you will receive a response as soon as possible.