Transaction delays show a need for SDLT holiday extension

Conveyancing digitisation no longer “science fiction”

A few years ago, the words “digital” and “digitisation” were bandied around the property sector a lot and, for a while at least, I know many conveyancers simply saw this as some kind of science fiction talk. A look way into the future rather than propositions with any immediacy.

It all sounded somewhat glamorous and “nice to have” but the reality of day-to-day case activity was one which was still very much paper-based with a trail to follow, manual reviews of ID, wet signatures to be secured, and everything else involved in the back and forth of paper transfer between stakeholders to enable the Land Certificate and rest of the deeds packet to be posted, on completion, to the buyer’s conveyancer.

And yet, while some of the above may still be very familiar, the industry has been slowly and steadily moving itself forward into a digital future, particularly in terms of the digitisation of property data – something the CA is passionate about, is part of our workstream and something we believe can have a hugely positive impact on the whole conveyancing process.

Just recently you may have read about HM Land Registry’s launch of its Digital Registration Service on its portal which, I think it’s fair to say, is going to go a very long way towards a paperless process.

Up until now HMLR have received approximately 100,000 applications via the service and as HMLR itself pointed out in a recent blog, it has resulted in “requisitions on basic errors…down 25%, and applications are processed and completed in half the time of an unloaded application“.

We said we wanted a move to digital to speed up our process and there we have immediate evidence of what can be achieved. This matters because putting our faith in this new system means that errors in the application can be picked up immediately, thus as is already happening, requisitions are reduced.

Plus, it will enable firms’ CMS systems to pick up issues which do need reporting because the final output from the service is machine-readable. Again, it will highlight with immediate effect those ‘classics’ when it comes to potential negligence claims, for example, second-charges etc.

All positive and something we at the CA have been campaigning for and working with stakeholders on how best to deliver this. However, with the launch of the system, firms are going to need to work out how they integrate with it, because by this time next year the digital application process will be the only game in town.

Now that might seem somewhat daunting but it shouldn’t, and we know that many conveyancing firms are already signed up and submitting their digital AP1 applications, but for those that are not, there needs to be a consideration of how you are going to create those digital apps and send in via the service.

HMLR is now encouraging firms to carry out the work necessary to do this, which might well mean having to speak to your technology provider in order to make sure you can do this digitally and effectively.

The benefits of this should be obvious to all, but we recognise that it may require a shift in attitude, perception and process. Having said that, as HMLR point out “the evidence suggests digital applications are game changing” and there are “mutual benefits – fewer errors, automation and faster processing time(s)“.

If that doesn’t fit into what I think we all want – a faster buying and selling process – then I’m not sure what does, and already the proof of the pudding is in the eating. Those firms that are using the service are already seeing these benefits, and there is also the point to be made that more digital services are likely to be built on the foundation the service offers. In other words, this is not the end of the journey, but merely the beginning.

You can’t really bury your head in the sand on this change and therefore the time to ensure you can submit applications digitally is right now.


Beth Rudolf is Director of Delivery at the Conveyancing Association (CA)


One Response

  1. Practitioners have been regrettably behind clients in seeking the change.

    In 1970 England’s first major consumer survey of conveyancing showed a considerable wish to “bring in the computers”

    Half a century later an early step must be to require any reserved matters legislation to give proof to clients that the grant of restrictive trade practices indicates an understanding of the use of technology to benefit home movers

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