The Society of Licensed Conveyancers (SLC) has recently written to The Times expressing their concerns regarding the plans by Her Majesty’s Land Registry to centralise the Local Land Charges register.
Concerns have risen due to the fact that this data covers a very wide range of important information that lawyers use to advise their clients about a prospective property purchase. Whilst the centralisation concept appears sound in principle, it raises a number of issues which the Land Registry (LR) does not appear to have adequately considered in the consultation on this issue which has recently closed. These issues are summarised below:
- There could be considerable disruption to the property market during the centralisation process.
- The consultation suggests that the LR will only centralise data that is less than 15 years old.
- The routine quality assurance function that is applied in Local Authorities would be likely to be lost.
- The quality of the data in respect of local knowledge and experience would very likely be lost as would the quality of advice given to homebuyers.
Simon Law, chairman of the SLC expressed his concerns on only centralising data that is less than 15 years old. “This would mean that a vast amount of significant information would not routinely be available to lawyers. This includes whether a property is listed, is located in a conservation area or has an enforcement notice against it amongst many other things. Simply, if the Land Registry were to centralise data on this basis, lawyers would have to go to other sources to obtain the relevant information which could slow down the conveyancing process and add cost for consumers.”
The SLC are finding it difficult to understand why the Land Registry is so keen to take over the Local Land Charges register when the current operation of the register works perfectly well for home buyers. There is a competitive market between the public and private sectors in the provision of searches for conveyancing lawyers to progress property purchases for their clients and there is no demand from those lawyers for change.
There has been already been speculation in the media that this is just a stepping stone to selling off the Land Registry. Concerns have risen that this is just a way to fatten up the Land Registry to maximise the proceeds to the exchequer in the event of a sale. Such a move could be detrimental to home buyers, involve greatly increased costs and is not in the public interest.
All the major stakeholders in the conveyancing process have now expressed their misgivings about the Land Registry’s plans and the SLC has written to The Times to encourage the Land Registry to listen to those stakeholders.