Will privatisation put our land registration system at risk?

Will privatisation put our land registration system at risk?

Will privatisation put our land registration system at risk? James Ferguson, a Director of X-Press Legal Services in Cornwall & Devon, examines the government’s proposals to privatise the Land Registry and gauges the reaction of the property sector.

Background

Options on how Land Registry operations could be moved into the private sector have been published for consultation by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS). In its consultation document, BIS set out its reasons for making a change and its preferred option to do so. The deadline for responses is 26 May 2016.

What is the government’s rationale behind pursuing the privatisation of the Land Registry?

The government has been upfront about their main reason for wanting to privatise the Land Registry. They have stated in the privatisation consultation document and in the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement that their prime motivation is to raise funds to pay down debt.

Their second reason is they believe that in private hands the Land Registry will have access to additional investment to drive an accelerated programme of improvements to the service.

Thirdly, they believe that private sector ownership could make the most of products based on the Land Registry data.

How would a shift to the private sector affect the operation of the Land Registry? Could the privatisation affect the role/accountability of the Land Registry?

The proposal is for a private company to make changes to the registers of property whenever a transaction occurs—whether that involves citizens, companies, lending institutions, local and central government or the Crown.

The government would retain ownership of the Land Register itself and the register would remain the only title to land recognised by law. The government would also continue to provide a state-backed guarantee to reimburse losses incurred as a result of an error in the register, but as Labour’s shadow business secretary Angela Eagle put it:

‘The government are pr

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