Homeowners left out of pocket after long delays at UK Land Registry

Administrative hold-ups in registering properties with the Land Registry across the country are causing frustration among homeowners and buyers with some being left out of pocket as a consequence.

The latest data from the Land Registry reveals that it is taking almost two years for some applications to make changes to the register to be completed.

The land registration system was designed to make property transfers more efficient. More than 26m titles, showing evidence of ownership for more than 88% of the land mass of England and Wales, are registered.

But severe delays are proving problematic, especially for those seeking to get property deals over the line, or secure a new mortgage deal as interest rates continue to rise.

Emma Jones, managing director of mortgage brokers When The Bank Says No, told the press that said one of her clients who purchased their property through the Right to Buy scheme in December 2021 is still not registered as owner.

Jones said another client had tried to get his wife’s name added to the mortgage deeds at the start of this year, but six months later realised that the request had not been completed.

“We had been arranging a mortgage for him to secure a new rate, but this would not complete while there was a pending application to the Land Registry,” Jones told the Observer.

The delay meant the client had to make a costly payment at a variable rate at the start of July, after the Bank of England had raised interest rates to 5%, until he was able to secure a reissued offer.

Gary Boakes, a mortgage planning consultant and owner of Verve Financial, said one of his clients had discovered their purchase of a Help to Buy property had not been registered when they tried to move from a mortgage with a sub-prime lender to Natwest to get a better rate in August last year.

“It took months to sort out, so they ended up going on a standard variable rate, which was ridiculously high,” Boakes said.

He said the client was unable to get the better mortgage offer for a further 10 months because of the delay.

The most recent HMLR data shows some applications to register land or property for the first time are taking more than 15 months.

Some applications to divide existing titles or register a new lease take more than 22 months to be completed. Leases remaining unregistered may mean that a homeowner is unable to sell their property.

The Property Litigation Association told the Observer: “In some cases, parties are having to spend time and money dealing with issues on properties they sold many months before. In others, properties are being sold with hundreds of outstanding Land Registry applications against them which then have to be investigated.” The issue of delays, it said, was “fundamentally an operational one” and the Land Registry was “overstretched”.

Caroline Nokes, Conservative MP for Romsey and Southampton North in Hampshire, has previously criticised the Land Registry in parliament, when she accused it of failing to tackle identity fraud.

She told the Observer: “It is really obvious there is a massive problem with the Land Registry. I can see just from my own constituency correspondence that people are facing very lengthy delays when trying to get information from them.”

HMLR said it handled more than 98% of service requests either immediately or in a matter of weeks. A spokesperson said complex applications, which account for just 2% of HMLR’s total intake, took longer for a several reasons.

The spokesperson added that they had recruited more than 1,500 caseworkers since 2020 and had created specialist teams that were targeting the oldest cases.

Land registration in Scotland is also troubled by delays, with cases from 2017 that have not yet been completed, according to data from the Registers of Scotland.

Andy Wightman, a former Member of the Scottish parliament and a land law analyst commented: “The generous interpretation of the delays is that it is in part down to Covid, though that does not explain stuff before 2020. Much of it is just down to the complexities and the lack of manpower to deal with the applications.”

Registers of Scotland said: “Our strategy to deal with casework was impacted by the Covid pandemic, but we are now making good progress and anticipate clearing our longstanding open casework in the period of our current corporate plan.”



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One Comment

  1. Robert_May

    Those of a certain age will remember a song by The New Christy Minstrels-

    In 2009 HMRC were dealing with Section 19’s from 2003, when I spoke with them in 2012 offering to help “they hadn’t caught up”

    The candid conversations  one can have with senior people in and contactors  to the civil service provide a real insight into the challenges they face.

    The one things that’s a constant they refuse to be helped




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