1. How many stages are there in the conveyancing process?
- Informal agreement to sell/purchase
- Mortgage offer (if needed)
- Investigation of title
- Exchange of contracts
- Pre-completion preparations
- Post completion and registration
2. How many other agencies/departments/registers etc. must be dealt with or checked prior to signing a legal transfer or mortgage?
- The local authority for local land charges and enquiries (although HM Land Registry may take over this function in due course)
- A land charges bankruptcy search against the borrower if a mortgage is being used to fund the purchase
- Also, depending on the nature of the property and/or the buyer/seller –
- A mining search if the property is in an area that is or has been subject to mining
- A commons registration search if the land is in a rural area
- A company search if the buyer/seller is a company
3. Who is responsible for dealing with other departments/agencies?
The conveyancer for the buyer/borrower, or the buyer if there is no conveyancer.
4. At what stage of the overall conveyancing process is your organisation involved
As soon as investigation of title begins, the conveyancers will order official copies of the register and title plan, and any documents referred to in the register which the registrar holds. They will not normally contact the land registry again until shortly before completion, when the buyer’s conveyancer will do an official search with priority against the title.
This search will tell the conveyancer whether any entries have been made in the register since the date of the official copies that the conveyancer holds (the conveyancer will have given the date in the request for a search). The search will also give the buyer and lender a priority period of 30 business days to make their application.
As long as the application is made within the priority period, it will have priority to any other application received during the priority period (unless that application is protected by an official search with priority made before the search in question and which is still effective).
The next time the Land Registry is involved will normally be after completion, when the application to register the transaction is received.
5. Is any or all of the conveyancing process dealt with electronically?
The conveyancers will often communicate electronically, but paper deeds and documents are used for the contract, transfer, mortgage and any other deeds and documents that must be registered.
6. Is any or all of the registration process dealt with electronically?
HM Land Registry now offers an electronic document registration service, which allows business customers with an e-account to make most applications electronically, attaching scanned copies of the deeds and documents. The conveyancer must certify that the documents are true copies of the original documents, or tell us if they are unable to certify the documents.
This service is regularly improved and expanded, so that soon almost all applications (apart from first registration and applications by private citizens) could be made online by business customers.
It is already possible to use some of the data provided by some applicants to automatically complete parts of the register (the proprietor’s name and address). By November Optical Character Recognition will be introduced to electronically read the text from PDF and other attachments lodged for registration. The data can be used to create register entries. A caseworker will still be responsible for checking the data.
7. When a deed/document or land registration form is lodged for registration, what is the general procedure involved in registering the effect of the deed?
The application will be received either in paper or electronically (using scanned copies of the documents, which the conveyancer certifies to be true copies). If it is received electronically, the application will automatically be entered in the day list. The time and date on which the application is entered in the day list gives the application priority. If the application is received in paper, it is entered in the day list by the caseworker who receives and deals with it. Most conveyancer customers are allocated to a team of caseworkers, so that all their applications go to that team.
The caseworker will deal with most applications immediately as a one stop dealing. Most are straightforward discharge-transfer-charge cases, where the citizen is selling the property to someone else who is buying with the help of a mortgage. Others will be discharge-charge, where the citizen is just re-mortgaging with a new lender. Most such applications can be dealt with by the caseworker in minutes.
First the caseworker will check the application to see that they have everything they need, then enter the application in the day list. They will check the documents to ensure they are correctly completed and executed. They will check that they have evidence of compliance with Stamp Duty Land Tax legislation (a certificate from Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs). They will check that satisfactory evidence of identity of the parties to the transaction have been confirmed by a conveyancer, or provided with the application. If everything is in order, the caseworker will change the entries on the register to reflect the transaction, then mark the case off.
The applicant will be sent a confirmation that the application has been completed, together with a copy of the updated register (excluding the plan if the plan has not changed).
If there is a problem with the application, the caseworker will normally contact the applicant, either by telephone or email, to try to resolve the problem. The case will then be placed in stand-over for a specified period of time, to give the applicant the opportunity to resolve the problem (for example, a document may be missing, or incorrectly executed, or the names may not match exactly). After the specified period (usually 15 working days) the case worker will retrieve the case if nothing has been received in the meantime from the applicant. A reminder will be sent, giving a date on which the application will be cancelled unless we hear from the applicant (usually a week later).
Normally the problem will be resolved and the application completed. Occasionally, the application will be cancelled if the applicant does not resolve the problem.
The applicant may re-apply later, once the problem is resolved, but they will have lost the priority of the application if another application is received in the meantime and their priority search period has expired.
Some conveyancers use the Register Extract Service, to automatically populate parts of the conveyancing documents, and this helps to reduce errors. Land Registry is introducing Optical Character Recognition to electronically read the text from PDF and other attachments lodged for registration. The data can be used to create register entries. The caseworker will still be responsible for checking the data.
8. How many stages are there in the registration of title process?
If the land is already registered, the majority of applications will be dealt with as a one stop dealing. That means they will be put on the day list and dealt with immediately. Most applications can be processed in a matter of minutes.
I. Transfer of whole – the application is distributed to a caseworker. The caseworker does an initial vet to ensure that all the necessary documents are included. The caseworker then enters the details of the application in the day list. They check that the documents include all the correct information (for instance that the names of the seller and the registered proprietor match, that the names of the buyer and borrower match, that documents have been dated and properly signed, that the conveyancer has confirmed that they are satisfied with the identity of the seller and buyer or enclosed identity evidence).
The caseworker then makes the appropriate entries in the register – changing the proprietor, the lender, and adding any new personal covenants between the seller and the buyer. Most mortgages by the main lenders are in a standard form which has been approved in advance by the Land Registry. These mortgages will have a code, which the caseworker will feed in and the computer will automatically generate the appropriate entries in the register. When satisfied that entries have been correctly made, the caseworker will mark the application off – that is to say, close it. The caseworker will also cancel any priority search that was lodged earlier to protect the priority of the application for the transfer and charge.
The computer system then generates a letter to the applicant, confirming completion of the registration, and enclosing a copy of the amended register. This is sent electronically if the application was received electronically, or in paper if the application was made in paper. The documents included with the application are then sent for scanning, and are stored electronically. The original documents will then be destroyed unless the applicant asks for their return by supplying a certified copy with the application. If the application was delivered electronically, the documents are already scanned, and so are stored electronically.
II. The procedure for a new mortgage will be the same as above, except more simple. Only the mortgage (charge) entries will be changed.
III. A transfer following death is an assent, if made to the beneficiary of the will, or a transfer if the property is sold by the personal representative of the deceased. In either case we ask to see the probate or letters of administration issued by the Probate Court to the personal representative, so that we know that they are entitled to assent or transfer the property. Otherwise, the procedure is the same as above.
VI. To register a right of way independently of a transfer of part, or the grant of a lease, or a first registration, we would need to see a deed of grant. The deed will be between the grantor (the owner of the servient land) and the grantee (the owner of the dominant land). The application must be made against both title numbers.
A note of the benefit of the right of way will be put in the Property register of the dominant land, and a note of the burden of the right of way will be put in the Charges register of the servient land. A reference to the right of way may also be added to the title plans of the two properties if appropriate, such as marking them in blue or brown. The right will be usually be described using an extract from the deed, and giving details of the date and parties to the deed. Alternatively if the rights are complex, the note in the register will refer to the rights contained in the deed and say Copy filed. Anyone can then obtain a copy of the deed for full details. As with a transfer, when the registration is completed the applicant will be sent a copy of the updated register.
V. A transfer of part of property will follow a similar procedure, but of course there will be extra stages. A new title plan of the part of the land being transferred must be made, and the land removed from the title plan of the old title. This is usually done by edging the land removed in green, with a note saying it has been removed from the title. The transfer will be carefully examined as regards, extent, rights granted and reserved, and covenants that must be entered in the register. Also the caseworker must decide which entries from the old title must be brought forward into the new title, and what entries must be made on the old title in respect of easements and covenants arising from the transfer of part.
Once all entries are made and the registration is completed, the applicant will be sent a copy of the new title and plan. Any documents that are being retained are sent for scanning.
9. What kind of entries are in your system?
10. WHAT IS THE AVERAGE TIME TAKEN TO REGISTER A (1) TRANSFER OF ALL PROPERTY (2) TRANSFER PART PROPERTY (3) MORTGAGE/CHARGE?
67.47% of straightforward transfers of whole and mortgages/charges applications are completed on the day of receipt and many are completed within 15 minutes from when the caseworker starts work on them. However, if you include the registrations where there are delays because a requisition has to be raised, or a referral made to a caseworker with a higher authority, the average time taken per application is 4.68 days out of 1,752,664 applications (in the year to date from 1 April 2013 to 25 September 2013).
12.54% of transfers of part were completed on the day of receipt in the same period, but again, taking into account those applications with problems, the average time taken per application was 24.28 days out of 61,045 applications, received from1 April 2013 to 25 September 2013.
The Land Registry target is to complete all applications within 12 days of receipt. In the same period, 88% of transfers of whole have been completed within 12 days of receipt, and 36.5% of transfers of part.
Figures for just registering a mortgage/charge or re-mortgage are not currently to hand. Most mortgages are registered with a transfer and will be included in the figures for the registration of a transfer of whole or a transfer of part. There is a substantial re-mortgage or second mortgage market. The time taken to register those will be shorter than the time taken to register a transfer of whole.
11. At what level in the organisation is the final decision to register a title made?
Decisions relating to registration are classified according to their levels of complexity and risk. Some more complex work requires knowledge of general property law and other areas of law and practice. Each type of work and decision is given a classification, and only caseworkers with the appropriate technical authority can undertake that work or make the relevant decision. Caseworkers have technical authorities appropriate to their skills and experience. All work is processed at the lowest possible level to completion or as far as possible until referral becomes necessary. Caseworkers are only responsible for approving work which they are trained and competent to do. They must always refer to someone with a higher technical authority if the work is beyond their technical authority, of if they are in doubt. There is advice and support from persons with higher technical authorities (including lawyers who have the highest technical authority) readily available. References are made orally or by email.
12. To what extent are registration decisions in your country taken by a person with a professional qualification? What is that professional qualification?
HM Land Registry employs approximately 4,500 staff, of whom approximately 100 are lawyers. The lawyers are spread throughout the Land Registry’s 14 local offices and head office. Apart from the lawyers, a professional qualification is not needed to work at the Land Registry, as internal training is given and maintained.
Internal Land Registry training, by means of coaching, mentoring, seminars, on-line training modules or a formal training course as appropriate, is provided before a full authority is given, subject to demonstration of competence. This internal training includes the lawyers. As training on individual parts of the authority is completed the trainee can deal with the topic(s) covered to date. Once the full authority is obtained the holder is authorised to deal with all topics which practice material identifies for disposal at that level with coaching, advice and support where required. Caseworkers are normally required to obtain an authority within one year of their entry to the grade.
The award of the authority forms the basis for future development.There is no professional land registry qualification, but those with the highest technical authority are lawyers. Most Land Registry lawyers started as solicitors in private practice before joining the Land Registry as Assistant Land Registrars or Land Registrars.
For about 10 years the Land Registry helped to provide the Qualification in Land Registration Law and Practice as a set of distance-learning courses. There was a one year Certificate course and a two year Diploma course. They were run by Land Registry in partnership with the College of Law, the leading provider of legal education in the UK. However, the courses have now been closed, since Land Registry is unlikely to recruit new staff in the next few years.
13. If registration decisions are not taken by a person with a professional qualification, how are they taken?
See answer 11.
14. Is the decision to register a legal, judicial or administrative function (or mixed)?
The procedure on first registration is administrative, and will only become judicial if any objection is raised which cannot be resolved between the disputing parties. Once land is registered, the procedure for registering subsequent dealings with the land is normally straightforward and administrative.
The registrar and other member of the Land Registry are civil servants, bound by the civil service provisions of the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act 2010, which places Civil Service values on a statutory footing and includes the publication of a Civil Service Code.
To avoid any charge of bias, any disputes arising from registration must be referred to an independent Adjudicator if they cannot be resolved by agreement between the parties. (Clearly disputes can arise as a result of a mistake, or a perceived mistake, made by a member of the Land Registry during registration.) The Adjudicator is an independent judicial office created by the Land Registration Act 2002, and he and his staff are part of Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service.