Land Registry comes under fire from national press

HM Land Registry (HMLR) has been pulled up by the national press for the impact of its processing delays on homeowners.

Sunday paper The Observer, sister of The Guardian, published a story on application delays, suggesting that bottlenecks at HMLR are causing buyers to miss the best mortgage deals and affecting owners’ ability to sell.

Author Charlie Moloney pointed out that it is now taking as long as two years for some applications to the register to be completed. HMLR told The Observer that it handles 98% of service requests either immediately or in a matter of weeks.

While this may be the case, their data also shows that updates to the register take longer than a month in almost a third (28%) of the 340,000 cases per month.

What’s more, new entries to the register and complex applications – of which there are 38,000 per month – are taking longer than a year in some 62% of cases – nearly two in three applications.

It is no surprise, therefore, that Land Registry delays were cited as one of the five foremost issues facing residential conveyancers in 2023 in a recent Today’s Conveyancer survey. This didn’t stop HMLR pointing the finger back at conveyancers earlier this year, suggesting “avoidable errors” in applications are a key driver behind requisitions and delays.

Others suggest bottlenecks and an overstretched operation are to blame. While HMLR has recruited over a thousand new caseworkers since 2020, issues and delays evidently remain. This perhaps contributed to the scarcity of sympathy for HMLR’s strike action earlier this year.

At the crux of this is the fact that delays at the Land Registry not only make life difficult for property professionals, but have a tangible impact on homeowners and their finances. The Observer gave one example of a client whose purchase of a Help to Buy property hadn’t been registered when he tried to switch mortgage for a better rate:

“It took months to sort out, so they ended up going on a standard variable rate, which was ridiculously high.”

“In some cases, parties are having to spend time and money dealing with issues on properties they sold many months before,” the Property Litigation Association is quoted as saying:

“In others, properties are being sold with hundreds of outstanding Land Registry applications against them which then have to be investigated.”

Caroline Nokes MP also said that it is “really obvious that there is a massive problem” with HMLR:

“I can see just from my own constituency correspondence that people are facing very lengthy delays when trying to get information from them.”

One conveyancer recently wrote of their experience on LinkedIn:

“Why did I think it was a good idea to go through my pending Land Registry applications the day before the Bank Holiday weekend? I have only checked 28 so far and none have been processed yet: I still wonder where they disappear to. I appreciate new builds are an issue, but what about the straightforward purchase I lodged in December? Depressed now…”

5 Responses

  1. I have no doubt some mistakes were made by Conveyancers but that doesn’t explain the delays. Applications sit in the system doing nothing for months/years.
    If HMLR thinks legal tech, AI and blockchain is going to sort this issue then they’d better wake up to reality.

  2. I have now waited over a year for a simple transfer of equity.
    First go they put the wrong address so had to go back still waiting for a simple job
    The CEO gets £150,000 appro per year he takes the big bucks he should take the blame.
    If he can’t do the job sack him let’s have less of this senior civil servants not held accountable

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