HM Land Registry (HMLR) is to pilot a new lawyer certification scheme in the next year to “help provide trust” in the information it receives.
Its business plan for the next three years also promised to continue the push for an “end-to-end digital conveyancing process”, rolling out e-signatures and cryptographic ID checking to reduce reliance on paper.
HMLR intends to spend £71m on “enabling and driving change, pace and innovation in the property market” over the next year, of which £42m will go specifically on accelerating the development of the local land charges register.
Last year, it announced its ambition to create the central register, bringing together information from all 336 local authorities, by 2025, and in May the government unveiled a £26m fund to support councils in making the transfer.
Only 18 have done so since it launched in 2018, but the strategy said over 30 local authorities would migrate in 2021-22, and over 70 in each of the following two years.
Meanwhile, demand for end-to-end digital conveyancing had been “accelerated by Covid 19”, with HM Land Registry responding at pace, “rolling out e-signatures and cryptographic ID checking to reduce reliance on paper and face-to-face services”.
These innovations would soon be followed by “more secure and easier to use ‘qualified electronic signatures’”.
HMLR said it wanted 40% of all registration applications to be received via the Digital Registration Service by the end of March 2022, making it “increasingly straightforward for customers to submit applications”, reducing errors and processing times.
“In the coming period, as well as progressing our plans for Digital Registration Service, Digital Register and application processing, we will be piloting lawyer certification, which will help provide trust in the information we receive.
“Using the learning gained during this pilot, we will plot a future roadmap for automating all but the most complex of our casework, delivering significant improvements in application processing times over the years to come.”
HMLR said it would “support the market in its development of online platforms by offering increasingly sophisticated digital integration with land registration services” and “work collaboratively on the concept of digital deeds as the kernel of online conveyances”.
The strategy recognised that customers wanted more consistency and speed in handling applications.
In February 2021, applications were dealt with on average within 25 working days, but there was “a wide distribution around this median”, with 30% of applications processed on day one and around 6% – the most complex cases – held within HM Land Registry for over 200 days.
“By the end of 2021-22, our ambition is to maintain the waiting time for our most complex cases, and over subsequent years we will continue to drive down processing times until all applications are back with our customers in around a month.”
The Land Registry said application processing would be digitised “for our simplest cases first”, which meant register updates, comprising 70% of manual applications.
“Focusing on these will generate the greatest operational efficiencies in the short term, enabling our caseworkers to concentrate on reducing processing times for more complex cases (particularly non-developer and first registration applications).”
The Land Registry said £10m would be spent on recruiting and training an additional 320 caseworkers and an extra 50 staff at the customer support centre.