The threat of another coronavirus outbreak will make people less tolerant of a paper-heavy conveyancing process, HM Land Registry has said, outlining its own digital progress.

In Land Registry’s latest annual report, chair Michael Mire predicts a greater desire to make property transactions more digital over the coming year, saying conveyancing still has too many paper-based processes compared with other sectors of the economy. ‘This has been tolerated by consumers up until now but the potential threat of a future outbreak will change those expectations,’ he said.

Andrew Trigg, acting director of digital, data and technology, said ‘frictionless’ digital conveyancing would require structured data. In a step towards this, the registry will introduce a digital registration service this summer, which will validate data before it is submitted, reducing the need for paper.

The 'view my applications' service, which allows applicants to view their previous requests and manage applications, alongside an estimated date and any related correspondence, will become more widely available.

Land Registry will seek to digitise submitting and processing the most common transaction types, initially focusing on applications to remove a mortgage, transfer ownership and add a new charge.

Artificial intelligence-based processing was introduced last year to send customer reminder letters but is now being used to speed up casework.

Trigg said: ‘Our robots now examine more than 25,000 applications per week to check whether any other corresponding applications for the same land or property already exist in the system. This saves valuable time for our registration experts. We are testing how artificial intelligence can further reduce time-consuming manual tasks, with some promising early results.’

During 2019/20, HM Land Registry responded to more than 35 million requests for service, including 5.9 million changes to the register, 20.7 million guaranteed queries and 7.8 million information service requests.

HM Land Registry met only six of its 15 key performance indicators, the report states. However, chief executive Simon Hayes said ‘this figure tells a somewhat superficial story, and I do not believe it is reflective of the true health of the organisation. In several instances we just fell short of meeting our overall targets, for example missing our quality and speed of service targets by less than one percentage point.’