Land Registry to trial blockchain-backed digital property transfer


Land Registry: government wants it to be world leading in handling data

HM Land Registry plans to live test a ‘Digital Street’ scheme which will enable the “almost instant” transfer of property ownership, backed by technology including blockchain – the secure distributed ledger underpinning the Bitcoin currency – it has emerged.

Information about the trial was revealed in a Cabinet Office advertisement for three non-executive board members of the registry.

Competition for the appointments, which pay £20,000 for up to 10 meetings a year, closes on 22 June. The registry said it was looking for people “with individual experience of finance, legal and transformation/digital issues”.

The vacancy description mentioned the government’s commitment to make the registry “the world’s leading land registry for speed, simplicity and an open approach to data”. It described this as “a hugely ambitious objective” which would “require the most “far-reaching transformation in [the registry’s] 150-year history”.

It continued: “In the near future, we expect Land Registry will begin a live test of a ‘Digital Street’ which would enable the ownership of property to be changed close to instantaneously. 

“The Digital Street would also allow Land Registry to hold more granular data than is possible at present. Blockchain is one of the underlying technologies that will be trialled.

“The Digital Street, if successful, would be a world first and has great transformational potential not just for Land Registry but the property market itself.”

When contacted by Legal Futures, a Land Registry spokeswoman said she could not comment due to the pre-election purdah affecting government employees.

Matthew Pennington of legal software developer Tonic Works said: “We welcome the news that Land Registry will be trialling blockchain tech as part of their Digital Street project.

“Using blockchain will help Land Registry achieve its goal of becoming the world’s leading land registry for speed, simplicity, and an open approach to data, as well as save taxpayers money by doing away with paper contracts and reducing instances of fraud.”

Coindesk, a news service focused on Bitcoin, reported this month that several countries were testing blockchain-based technology to catalogue changes in land ownership, including Sweden and Brazil.

It also wrote that in the US, the state of Illinois was working on a land registry project as part of a wide-ranging blockchain initiative.

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