The government have announced that they are (again) consulting on the sale of the Land Registry with a view to it being in private ownership as early as next year.
The system of widespread land registration was introduced nearly one hundred years ago, and there are now over 23 million separately registered parcels of land. By viewing the title of a piece of land, we are able not only to see who it’s registered proprietor is, but we are also able to see whether there are any mortgages recorded against the land and to determine whether there are any covenants or adverse rights affecting the title. The system is guaranteed, so if the Land Registry makes a mistake then a person who has relied on the incorrect data may be entitled to compensation from the indemnity fund.
The Land Registry generated a surplus of over £80 million last year even though it has recently cut its application fees in half for the vast majority of transactions. This level of potential profit is bound to be attractive to investors, but will this be at the expense of its end users?
For most of our clients, their dealings with the Land Registry are nearly invisible since we deal with everything in the background. However, the importance (and the quality) of the service that they offer should not be underestimated.
It would seem unthinkable for a private company with an absolute monopoly to consider any further fee reductions. With a “business” that is entirely dependent for revenue on the number of applications that it processes, any fall in transaction levels will only lead to fee increases and, we imagine, staff cuts.
What concerns us most is the almost inevitable loss of the state-backed indemnity or guarantee. Whilst the average annual payout of around £5m quite comfortably sits within the current levels of surplus, we are sure that it is only a matter of time before the additional premium is charged on Land Registration fees in order to carry continue the Land Registry’s guarantee of title.