Clients are often surprised to learn that their Land Registry application, for their recent purchase or new lease, is not due to complete at the Land Registry for some time – in fact, it is often the case that the estimated completion date is many months in the future. This is despite applications being made promptly by their conveyancers.
Now, there has always been a delay between (1) the day of ‘completion’ of a property transaction when the purchase monies are transferred and the buyer receives the keys, and (2) when the legal title to a property actually transfers over to the buyer, and this is called the ‘registration gap’. The registration gap has been exacerbated though by the pandemic and the number of applications that the Land Registry receive.
The Land Registry has recently given a 2023 service update on their processing times and have advised that they receive approximately 2.3 million applications and requests per month, which are made up of ‘information service requests’, ‘register updates’ and ‘register creates’.
Of the 2.3 million applications and requests received per month, approximately 1.8 million of these are information service requests, which include searches of whole or part, official copies and searches of the index map. 92.4% of these applications are responded to within 1 day, as this part of the Land Registry service is mostly automated.
Approximately 430,000 of the 2.3 million applications and requests received are register updates, which are changes to existing registered titles that usually take place once a property has been sold or changed hands. Register updates include registering property transfers, updating mortgages, or changing names on a property. Around 66.4% of these applications are completed in 1 month but just over 30% of applications are taking almost 8 months to complete. There is a big difference between an application taking 1 month to complete, or almost 8 months. This could be down to the different Land Registry offices that are dealing with the applications and how busy they are, but it highlights the importance of getting your applications right the first time – to avoid the need for and delays of Land Registry requisitions.
Then, approximately 43,000 of those 2.3 million applications are register creates which are more complex applications such as multi-title applications submitted by developers, major infrastructure projects, registering a property for the first time, dividing existing titles or lodging a new lease. Given the nature of these applications, they understandably take longer to deal with – but over 50% of these applications are taking longer 12 months to complete at the Land Registry, which is a long time if you are a developer or project manager waiting on the outcome of an application to commence work.
The Land Registry are implementing measures to deal with processing times such as recruiting and training staff, converting the service to be automated where possible, and other approaches such as creating teams focused on the oldest complex cases to reduce the processing times for these applications. Unfortunately though, the registration gap can cause problems, for instance, it can affect one’s ability to enforce terms under a lease. If delays to the Land Registry completing your application is or will cause you genuine hardship or problems, or put a property sale or transaction at risk, you can request that the Land Registry expedite that application for free – the Land Registry processes the vast majority of expedited applications within 10 working days.
It is clear that real efforts are being made to improve the processing times of applications at the Land Registry, but conveyancers will have to continue to be patient and manage their client’s expectations in this respect for at least the foreseeable future.
If you have any questions about how the registration gap might affect you, you can contact us at [email protected].
Consistent with our policy when giving comment and advice on a non-specific basis, we cannot assume legal responsibility for the accuracy of any particular statement. In the case of specific problems we recommend that professional advice be sought.