Land Registry to Remain in the Public Sector

Houses

At the Autumn Statement 2016, the Government announced that the Land Registry will remain in the public sector and will focus on becoming a more digital data-driven registration business.

“Following consultation the government has decided that HM Land Registry should focus on becoming a more digital data-driven registration business, and to do this will remain in the public sector. Modernisation will maximise the value of HM Land Registry to the economy, and should be completed without a need for significant Exchequer investment.”

NAEA Propertymark and many other organisations and individuals expressed concerns about the risks and consequences of privatisation. 

What Happened?

In the 16 March 2016, Budget document the Government said, “The process to transfer the Green Investment Bank to private ownership has begun and the government will shortly consult on the option to move the operations of the Land Registry to the private sector.”   

Consultation Launched

On 24 March 2016, the Government launched a public consultation on moving Land Registry operations to the private sector. The consultation document set out the Government’s view that privatisation would deliver a revenue for the Government and could support the Land Registry to be run more efficiently and effectively.

The Government’s preferred Land Registry operating model was privatisation with a contract between government and a private sector operator. The public consultation closed on 26 May 2016.

We provided a strongly worded response to the consultation. We argued that the Land Registry plays an important role in the UK’s property market and we do not want to see unnecessary changes jeopardise the service to home buyers and secure lending, which the current procedures allow.

Read our response

Parliament Concerned

On 3 June 2016, a letter written by David Lammy MP and co-signed by 65 Members of Parliament from across the political spectrum was sent to the Business Secretary Sajid Javid expressing their opposition to the Government’s plans to privatise the Land Registry.

In addition to this, an Early Day Motion was tabled by MPs opposing the privatisation of the Land Registry. On 30 June MPs took part in a debate in the House of Commons. In the debate co-founder of Hunters Estate Agents and now Conservative MP Kevin Hollinrake made an extremely important point and said:

“The Government have introduced new initiatives on beneficial ownership, including consideration of a public register to make sure that foreign companies disclose the true ownership of UK property. That is revolutionary in that it is trying to tackle money laundering, corruption, crime and tax evasion. Those are all reasons why it is better for the Land Registry to be in the public sector than the private sector.”

Calling on the Housing Minister to Think Again

In July 2016, Gavin Barwell was announced as the new Minister of State for Housing and Planning and NAEA Propertymark released a joint statement to the press with ARLA Propertymark calling on the Government to think again:

Mark and David


David Cox, Chief Executive ARLA Propertymark
Mark Hayward, Chief Executive NAEA Propertymark

“The Government’s decision to sell the Land Registry risks reversing its good work on transparency and we call on the new minister to work with the new Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Department to think again on this proposal.”

What is the Land Registry?

Her Majesty's Land Registry was created in 1862 and covers England and Wales. The Land Register is owned by the Crown and sets out the ownership of land and property in England and Wales.

The Land Registry safeguards land and property ownership worth more than £4 trillion, including more than £1 trillion of mortgages. The Land Register contains more than 24 million titles, which show evidence of ownership, covering more than 84% of the land mass.

Why is the Land Registry Important?

The Register is the single authoritative record of ownership and the basis of the state guarantee of ownership and interests in land. It is a statutory requirement that when there is a change in ownership of land or other property rights, the Land Register must be updated, so that it remains accurate.

Anyone buying or selling land or property, or taking out a mortgage, must apply to the Land Registry to register:

  • Unregistered land or property
  • any new owner of registered land or property
  • an interest affecting registered land or property, such as a mortgage, a lease or a right of way

Within England and Wales the Land Registry is also responsible for:

  • Providing a reliable record of information about ownership of and interests affecting land and property
  • Providing owners with a land title, guaranteed by the government
  • Provide a title plan that indicates general boundaries 

The data is publicly available through the Land Registry website. Through analysing the latest transaction data estate agents have access to accurate information about their local area, from average property prices to market size, which help them to deliver a better service to their clients. By being able to access this information from a reliable source estate agents can provide honest and unbiased insight, helping customers to make the right decision about their property.

Digitalisation

In February 2017, the Government’s Housing White Paper committed HM Land Registry to become the world’s leading land registry for speed, simplicity and an open approach to data with an aim to achieve comprehensive registration of land in England and Wales by 2030.

Also in February the Land Registry opened a consultation on proposals to modernise its service, give customers more options in the use of the service and bring the rules into alignment with Land Registry’s digital strategy. The consultation closed on 5 April 2017.