HM Land Registry (HMLR) has set 2025 as deadline to implement a fully digital local land charges (LLC) service for England and Wales.
To bring its services into the 21st Century, HMLR is working with local authorities in England and Wales to fully digitise the records of local land charges. This means information such as planning conditions, highway agreements, tree conservation orders and more will be available in digital form.
Since the work started in 2018, over 100,000 property transactions have used the digital service, according to Search Acumen, a property data, insight and technology provider.
How Does The Process Currently Work?
At the moment, there is an electronic process. The solicitor completes the AP1 from, which then needs to be scanned in and submitted to HMLR.
This manual process can be time-consuming and is prone to errors. If the form contains errors, it delays the whole process, which can be quite frustrating for conveyancers, buyers and sellers. And given the technology that we have, it seems about time that these processes are digitised.
It’s inconceivable and intolerable that, in this day and age, buyers should have to pay legal professional to wade through time-consuming manual processes to discover planning conditions, highways agreements, and environmental health notices.Andrew Lloyd, Managing Director at Search Acumen
Why The Switch To Digital Services?
The HMLR has said that it wants to introduce a digital service to make its processes quicker and easier for customers. It also hopes to speed up the conveyancing process by giving solicitors access to its portal 24/7.
At HM Land Registry we are investing in more digital, intuitive services that make the land and property transaction process quicker and simpler. We want to provide and validate data across our portal and Business Gateway channels earlier in the conveyancing process. This will help our customers to complete and submit applications right the first time.Eddie Davies, Deputy Director – Digital Services at HMLR
Given that the conveyancing process can be quite long, especially at the moment, as it takes on average 150 days to complete a purchase, the move by the HMLR to digitise its services will be welcomed by the property industry.
How Will It Work Once Everything Is Digitised?
HMLR has created a portal through which conveyancers can submit their information directly. The technology will check for possible errors, helping to prevent incorrect information being submitted, which will prevent unnecessary delays.
The government body is also working with local councils to digitise local land charges records. Once this work is complete, conveyancers will be able to access this information through the portal instantly.
Although the work has begun in 2018, to date only 107,000 property transactions have used digitised LLCs, with 40 councils having made the switch to the digitised format so far.
The North is the clear frontrunner, with 43% of transactions now being digitises, followed by the Midlands and Wales with 37% and the South with 20%.
The biggest number of transactions through the new digital system has been made by the North West, which has so far completed over 42,600 transactions, so almost half of the entire transactions to date.
The West Midlands follow with over 17,300 transactions and the East of England with over 16,300. Greater London has so far only made over 11,100 transactions via the new digital system and the South East just over 10,300.
With the deadline to face out the electronic submission process of the AP1 form approaching, HMLR has accelerated its efforts to bring more councils on board.
Since April 2022, 28 more councils have switched from the old to the new system. From November 2022, all AP1 applications have to go through the digital portal, with electronic submissions no longer being accepted.
According to the HMLR, 40% of applications are already digitised. HMLR aims to have all records available through the digital system by 2025.
What Does This Mean For Buyers And Sellers?
Speeding up the conveyancing process can only mean a good thing for buyers and sellers. And buyers will benefit by having certain information, such as planning conditions, highways agreements, listed buildings, conservation areas, etc., on hand earlier in the process.
If restrictions that might impact the buying or selling process are known early on, they can be dealt with while there is still plenty of time. This will reduce some of the stress associated with buying a property.
It is good to see that the HMLR is switching to digital services, brining the LLC processes into the 21st century.