I read a letter in last week’s Gazette pointing out the problem with the time it takes the Land Registry to deal with electronic discharges and it got me thinking of the other times in my job when technology can become more of a hindrance than a help.
As we all know all information about registered land is electronically stored at Land Registry. From the stance that NatWest and Royal Bank of Scotland have taken in requesting that no Title Information Documents (TIDs) are sent to them we can presume that the Land Registry automatically informs lenders when their charge has been registered. If this is the case I’ve come to wonder why other lenders haven’t taken a similar route. It is tedious having to send TIDs to the lenders; however, it is one of those tasks that has been incorporated into our routines.
Once I have sent off the TIDs I feel safe that I am able to close my file and start the archiving process. Unfortunately, I’ve found recently that I’m having to go file-hunting more and more frequently as lenders have inexplicably ‘lost’ the TID I sent them. This can be a waste of valuable time on a busy day as the letters from the lenders are always worded in a way to state that we are in jeopardy of being removed from the panel which means that it cannot be taken for granted that the letter was sent and will turn up.
This week one lender’s letter was so strongly worded that it prompted me to phone the letter writer. I explained that the TID was posted a month before their letter was dated and asked what had happened to this. It was explained to me that the TID could not be located on any of their systems and that this would have been checked before such a letter was sent out to me. From this it is obvious that the electronic scanning of mail is becoming more commonplace and this is an example of such a system having flaws. These systems are meant to pick up on the references on correspondence and place it into the correct place. The letter I received shows that these systems also have a copious number of black holes and vortexes.
Luckily, I received the letter warning that our panel membership may be revoked and was able to take the appropriate action to ensure that the lender received the required paperwork. I have to wonder what would have happened if my office had a black hole of its own which swallowed this letter and so we were not aware that our panel membership was being revoked. I can’t see lenders accepting an explanation from us that the letter must have become lost by being put in the wrong location and I would expect a fight to have the panel membership reinstated. If they won’t change their behaviour then I have to wonder whether several copies of a letter should be sent in the hope that one copy will end up in the right place.
Organisations relying on a technology-based postal system has caused other problems within my firm. We still use cheques to pay stamp duty and ensure that these are posted well within the 30-day period after completion. Despite this, HM Revenue & Customs seems incapable of stopping its automated letters stating that the duty hasn’t been paid and that penalties are now due. These letters have become commonplace and even though we know that the payment will have arrived in the time limit and due to a backlog would have been processed after the automated letter had been sent out I still find myself sitting down with files which should have been closed in order to check that HMRC has sent its reminders out in error.
Finally, going back to the issue of electronic discharges at Land Registry I often find that applications are being sent off for registration before the other side have sent confirmation of the release and asked for their undertaking to be discharged. Due to the speed of the lenders sending out their confirmation of redemption letter I find it far easier to make a quick telephone call to Land Registry and I find in most cases the charge is no longer in existence. This process speeds up our post-completion turnaround but once again means that files have to be hunted down when a belated letter arrives from the other side asking for me to discharge their undertaking.
I couldn’t imagine carrying out conveyancing work without technology; however, where post is concerned I feel that a bit more humanity needs to be put back into the system to ensure that the amount of missing items is decreased and the time it takes for information to filter through parties is sped up.
Eleanor Finnigan, Jackson Barrett & Gass, Wilmslow, Cheshire