In February 2015 the legislation that will allow the Land Registry to provide a digital Local Land Charges Service received Royal Assent. The Land Registry’s aim is to consolidate all separate Local Authority LLC registers to create a single, digital LLC service, making over 20 million records available online. It is also in support of the Government’s priority to ease property transactions and commitment to open data. Migration of the information from Local Authorities to the Land Registry is due to begin in late 2017 with the costs being covered by Land Registry themselves from reserves. This will be paid back through fees earned from the operation of the new service.
Local Land Charges data is currently held with the Local Authorities, the cost and turnaround time for this information is decided by each council so obtaining this for conveyancing varies across the country. A key benefit of Land Registry holding the LLC data set will be that all Land Charges will now be available in a turnaround time of 2 days set by the Land Registry. Under current estimates an initial fee of £25 will also be set for each search; this is lower than the average cost of obtaining LLC data at the moment, and once the cost of the programme has been covered the price for each search will drop to just £4.60.
While these benefits may help to lower costs and shorten the length of time property transactions can take, critics have argued that there is already a well-functioning Land Charges market with over 80% of Local Authorities in England and Wales already holding their data in a digital format and that there will still be reliance on the Local Authority for the Con29R section of searches leaving conveyancers still at the mercy of the councils. There have even been suggestions that since privatisation plans were revived by the government in the Autumn Statement, this is all part of a plan to fatten up the Land Registry for potential buyers, obtaining these services now ready to sell off in the future. It is thought that privatisation of the Land Registry will make accessing their data, which is vital in conveyancing, more difficult. The privatisation is subject to a value for money assessment conducted by the government, but if they are to get their way we could be seeing Land Registry operations moving to the private sector as soon as 2017.
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