Land Registry is committed to talking to everyone with an interest in our Local Land Charges proposals as the enabling legislation continues its passage through Parliament.

Most recently our Head of Corporate Legal Services Mike Westcott-Rudd spoke at the annual conference of the Council of Property Search Organisations (CoPSO).

CoPSO is a trade association for the property search industry. Its members provide a broad range of property search reports, undertaking more than two million searches each year.

Mike gave the conference delegates an overview of our proposals to become the sole registering authority for Local Land Charges in England and Wales and answered questions from the floor.

Among the audience was Matt Joy, Sales & Marketing Director for Conveyancing Data Services.

Matt Joy of Conveyancing Data Services

Matt (left) has surprised some of his peers in the property search industry by expressing support for Land Registry’s proposals – but it’s on the proviso they don’t pass what he sees as a damaging ‘tipping point’.

“Currently we have 348 different councils who are all very different in the way we are able to access their datasets,” said Matt, whose company is among the top five national property search compilers in England and Wales.

“If Land Registry digitises those datasets it would mean our search agents who are currently driving up and down the country burning fuel, using mobile phones and getting parking tickets would be able to work from home.

“Turnaround times would be cut down drastically, the cost of searches would be cut down drastically and the environment would benefit at the same time.”

Matt is working with Land Registry and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills. A vital part of that work begins with the impact assessment on the private search market.

He believes that solicitors, conveyancers and home buyers and sellers would be the ultimate beneficiaries of our proposals.

“The local search is often the last thing a solicitor gets when it should be the first,” said Matt. “That’s because of the cost involved in producing it. They will hold off doing a local authority search in case the deal falls through.”

Tipping point

The tipping point which Matt fears is if and when Land Registry starts to sell searches itself and offer a wider range of searches.

“Saying Land Registry will be a ‘one-stop shop’ for searches creates the impression that ultimately it will sell everything that a solicitor could want,” he said. “The vast majority of solicitors already have a relationship with Land Registry so they would buy it all from Land Registry.

“That is when it becomes damaging to my business and our industry and that’s why we decided we would work with Land Registry.

“If Land Registry stops before that tipping point it would be beneficial to our business, our customers and ultimately home buyers and sellers across England and Wales. The project would get our support rather than our resistance. More and more of my colleagues can see the benefits of it.

“I have been reassured a number of times that this project won’t cross that tipping point. We have got involved to keep ourselves informed and also to get my and my industry’s point of view across.”

Land Registry’s position is that we will provide access to the Local Land Charges data to personal search companies and ensure that obligations under the Environmental Information Regulations 2004 are met.

We will ensure that we comply with the Competition Act 1988 that prevents organisations from distorting, restricting or preventing competition.

Gavin Curry
By Gavin Curry,
Digital Communications and Editorial Officer at HM Land Registry