Plans for Land Registry to take over the running of local searches and to seek ‘wider powers’ to enter new markets are based on flawed research and could lead to a worse service for conveyancers, the Law Society has said.
The Society was responding to a consultation ending yesterday on a plan for the registry to take over from local authorities the administration of local land charges (LLCs). The consultation overlaps with another, still open, consultation on a plan to turn the bulk of the registry in to a ‘service delivery company’ with possible private shareholdings.
Both consultations have prompted critical responses from the legal and property sector. On the local land-charges issue, the Society says the registry 'has not demonstrated that there is a problem that needs to be resolved’.
At present, local authorities provide both LLC and CON 29 information. Land Registry’s current proposals only relate to the provision of LLC information. Arguably, splitting the service into two parts could create a lesser service.
Another problem is that the registry proposes to provide LLC search results going back only 15 years. 'The omission of potentially relevant information that is more than 15 years old is a key concern and needs reconsideration.’
It notes that LLCs are binding obligations on property or land and that the purpose of carrying out a LLC search is to ensure that buyers are aware of any obligations or restrictions on their use of the property, but that many LLCs, for example listing buildings, date back more than 15 years.
'It is unclear where buyers would go to find out information about LLC going back further than 15 years if neither Land Registry nor the local authority were to maintain this information.'
The response also casts doubt on Land Registry’s claim that research shows that home-buyers are unhappy with the present system.
While delays are the biggest source of irritation, the study cited by Land Registry as evidence relates to the entire conveyancing process: 'Of course, LLC forms part of the overall conveyancing process, but delays in obtaining LLC search results were not specifically mentioned at all as a concern or cause of delay to home-buyers in that piece of research.’
While solicitors would welcome a more consistent digitised service, 'we would like to see further investigation of how this could be achieved in the current market’. The response says that the registry’s plan for creating a new central system 'could create an increased burden on the market in terms of cost and administration’.
On the registry's plans to seek wider powers, the Society says it 'cannot make substantive comments at this time'.
The response says that the consultation contains no detailed information as to why it is necessary for Land Registry to have wider powers and what new services Land Registry envisages providing.
Any such plans are highly dependent on the outcome of the consultation on the registry's future.
'Given that there is a certain symbiosis between the two consultations, it is very difficult to provide a definitive answer to one without knowing the outcome of the other,' the response says. It would have been helpful if the consultation timings could have been staggered,' the response concludes.