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Over half of HM Land Registry’s new entries could take longer than a year

  • 27/03/2023
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Over half of HM Land Registry’s new entries could take longer than a year
More than half of complex changes and new entries will take longer than a year, including registering a property for the first time, dividing existing titles or lodging a new lease.

In an update on processing times, HM Land Registry noted that 55.7 per cent of complex applications or new entries would take longer than a year.

Around 19.6 per cent take a year and 14.9 per cent take six months. Only 9.9 per cent are completed in one month.

The registry said that these applications included more “errors and omissions” with between 55 per cent and 65 per cent of applications needing clarification or further information.

It continued that it completed half of all first registration applications in just over 13 months and completed almost all in just over a 14 months.

The organisation added that a “minority” may take a “few weeks longer” depending on the application.

For dividing existing titles or registering new leases, when the preparatory work had been done, half of applications were done in 11 months. It added that almost all were completed in more than 20 months.

When no preparatory work had been done, half are completed in just over 14 months and nearly all are done in just under 23 months.

“The processing times differ depending on whether or not any preparatory work has been done with the developers to simplify the registration process prior to transactions taking place,” HM Land Registry said.

Around 93.4 per cent of information services, which are official searches, official copies, searches of the index map, take around a day.

It added that 5.3 per cent take two days, 0.9 per cent take three days and 0.4 per cent take four days or more.

Regarding changes to existing registered titles, 31.8 per cent take longer than a month. This includes registering property transfers, updating charges to a property or changing names on a property.

Around 30.6 per cent take around one month, 28.8 per cent take one day and 8.8 per cent occur in a week.

HM Land Registry said that just over a third of applications to update the register are automated and take minutes, such as applications to remove a mortgage.

Over half take four weeks to complete but it said some could take just over seven months.


Caseworker resource upped by over 1,000

HM Land Registry said that it increased its “overall caseworker resource” by around 1,000 over the last few years, including more than 500 in the last two years, to help process additional cases.

It continued that improvements could be made through recruitment and training as well as automation.

Nearly a third of applications to change the register are automated, HM Land Registry noted, and it aimed to increase this to 70 per cent in the next three years.

“We are also exploring short-term approaches. One includes our having created two dedicated teams focused on the oldest complex cases with a specific goal to reduce the processing times for these applications.

“We are looking at ways to work with customers to reduce the number of times we chase for clarification or additional information,” it added.


Delays ‘frustrating’ for conveyancers and customers

David Bridge, head of conveyancing at Kiteley’s Solicitors and a member of the Conveyancing Association’s executive board, said that the figures “remain frustrating for practitioners and their clients”.

He said that whilst the figures were improving they were “very much behind the previous service levels”.

“Clients do not understand the delays nor that their interests are still being protected and blame the lawyers for the delays, leading to complaints that have to be dealt with even though we are unable to resolve them,” Bridge added.

He continued that lenders had “not adjusted their expectations or their automatic chasing algorithms based on this reality”, which leads to additional work for conveyancers.


‘Inconsistent approaches’ from HM Land Registry factor in delays

Bridge said regarding errors, it was on the conveyancers to minimise them but said “inconsistent application of the rules and requirements” had a role to play. He noted that they had led to more requisitions and nuance was not reflected in figures.

Geoff Hall, head of residential conveyancing at Gordon Brown Law, agreed adding that inconsistent approaches to “identical situations” along with “extensive delays” was leading to increased turnaround times.

He said, in the past, conveyancers could agree to register a corrective deed with their own applications due to certainty of the HM Land Registry’s approach.

“However, recently we have seen an upturn in conveyancers asking for registration of a corrective deed prior to them agreeing to proceed. This is particularly relevant to former new build properties which, by definition, have far more complicated titles. Even if expedited this can cause a delay of weeks rather than days,” Hall added.

He noted that new build registrations could often take more than two years to registers, with the delays “causing concern and upset to clients who frankly cannot believe the HM Land Registry can take so long to register a transaction”.

“Often with new builds, there can be minor discrepancies with plans which require a new plan to be drawn up and this gives rise to an unavoidable requisition, which necessitates a signature from a client and often causes concern. As a result, this causes clients anxiety and anguish and even complaints given the request arrives so long after completion,” he added.


Delays impacting remortgage market

Victoria Mortimer, Client Services Director at Integrar, said that the delays had a negative impact on property owners wanting to carry out “future transactions”, especially remortgaging.

“A lot of homeowners, especially first-time buyers take out short-term mortgage products and therefore are looking to remortgage within two years of their purchase. The delayed registrations mean property owners cannot remortgage when they need to.

“They are having to use the expedition facility on offer by the HM Land Registry but there are still significant time delays to get the application registered,” she noted.

Mortimer said that property owners were finding that they could not remortgage when their current deal comes to an end and would end up paying very high standard variable rate payments waiting on the HM Land Registry.

“Some are even experiencing their mortgage offers expiring and, in a market where mortgage rates were increasing, they could only secure a new offer at a higher rate,” she noted.


HM Land Registry says it continues to ‘deliver essential services’

An HM Land Registry spokesperson said that despite the “unprecedented recent demand”, it had “continued to deliver the essential services required to support the property market”.

They said that most applications were updating existing entries to the register, with over a quarter completed in a day and two thirds within a month. New entries and more complex applications can take longer, they noted, but only accounted for around two per cent of applications.

The spokesperson said that specialist applications needed more detailed information and third-party services, and had more errors and omissions with 65 per cent needs clarification or more information.

They said: “If an application becomes urgent, it can be expedited on request for free. We expedite more than 1,000 cases daily, with more than 95 per cent processed within 10 days. Improving speed of service is the top priority for HM Land Registry and we are addressing this urgently through a combination of recruitment, training, tactical deployment and automation.”

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