HM Land Registry reveals digital plans to help UK housing market

HM Land Registry has launched the next stage of its digital transformation strategy, covering the next three years. The plan says that the government agency will introduce automation and digital services and build increased resilience to fraud and cyber threats, and address the demands of the modern homebuying market,

The Land Registry safeguards the property market in England and Wales, which is worth over £8trn, and holds a database of more than 26 million sites.

Digital transformation and automation are the focus for HM Land Registry over the next three years. (Photo by AndreyPopov/iStock)

Published yesterday, its latest plan, Strategy 2022+, ‘Enabling a world-leading property market’, also commits the Land Registry to lead the market in “harnessing the power of digital tools and automation” to speed up the homebuying process. It says this is in response to the urgency to build the organization’s resilience to “volatility in the property market”, which it says is the leading cause of application backlogs.

Strategy 2022+ will ensure that this process, as well as other land registration services, will be automated to improve service speeds for customers, giving the 160-year-old government agency the capabilities to deal with high-demand periods.

HM Land Registry says that it will make a significant investment to automate most changes to the land register by 2025, with automated applications completed within one day, most of them in seconds. This will result in end-to-end automation of up to 70% of all updates. It also says it will maintain accurate and fraud-free records.

Land Registry digital transformation will free up caseworkers

According to the plan, the move to greater levels of end-to-end automation on simple application types will allow Land Registry staff to spend their time on more complex land applications.

It says that one in five applications to the government agency, more than 3,500 every day, require caseworkers to follow up with applicants to resolve an issue in the application. This increases to two-thirds for more complex applications and can cause extensive delays and affect the average speed of service times.

Chief executive and chief land registrar of HM Land Registry, Simon Hayes, says that this change in its offering to customers is at the heart of the office’s digital transformation. “With property transactions taking record time to complete, it is imperative that we work as partners to innovate and remove friction so that the process is as quick and painless as possible,” he said.

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Better access to vital information will save home buyers money

As part of the digital transformation, HM Land Registry wants to work with the property sector to enable properties to be bought and sold digitally, saving customers money when purchasing their homes.

It says a lack of “upfront information” about properties leads to 8% of transactions falling through, costing buyers up to £2,700. The government agency wants to digitize the information required by the public and conveyancers, allowing access to HM Land Registry’s information on ownership, location, mortgages, local land charges and more in real time, benefiting both residential and commercial purchases.

The agency will also encourage the market to adopt new technologies such as digital ID and e-signatures, by introducing new standards and working with property partners to create an ‘open, integrated ecosystem of digital services’ to support property transactions. It is also said to be launching the OneLogin functionalityy in September 2022.

President of the Law Society of England and Wales, Stephanie Boyce, said that the society welcomes the new business strategy and focus on digital. “Technological change in the conveyancing market, which was accelerated because of the Covid-19 pandemic, continues at pace,” she said.

“We look forward to continuing to work with Land Registry and the industry more widely to further digitize the conveyancing process, to promote better and earlier decision-making and make residential property transactions smoother for buyers and sellers.”

Open property data has economic benefits

Strategy 2022+ also sets out HM Land Registry’s commitment to opening up property data so that it is more transparent and supports a “strong, sustainable economy”, as well as the UK’s Net Zero targets.

Business minister Lord Callanan said that the digitization proposals in this strategy will help the government department deliver more “efficient and user-friendly services” as well as drive productivity and growth for the sector.

“These proposals, along with other action the Land Registry is taking, such as the completion of a Local Land Charges register, will provide a boost to households and businesses engaging with the property market throughout the UK, supporting our ambitious Leveling Up agenda,” Lord Callanan said.

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