The Land Registry is poised to take over the so called crown jewels of property information the Local Land Charges register from over 300 local authorities and centralise it into a single repository. Is there any precedence of anything like this happening in recent times? To find an example we will need to cross the North Sea to the shores of Norway.
In this post I will be comparing what happened in Norway to what the Land Registry is proposing to do in the UK.
In the coming weeks the Land Registry is to start consultation on it centralising the Local Land Charges register, what lessons could it learn from its Norwegian counterparts?
Like the UK, Norway once had two property registers that would be consulted for property transactions.
In Norway this sat under the Ministry of Justice and was located in 87 local courts, the register was called the ‘land book’.
The Cadastre, maintained by the NMCA (National Mapping and Cadastre Authority) Statens kartverk was a centralised register located in Hønefoss.
In 2002 The Norwegian Parliament decided the transfer the Land Registry to the NMCA this took five years and was completed in 2007.
In Norway they made the transfer of the 'Land Book' (local land charges equivalent) to the Norwegian Mapping Cadastre Authority (land registry equivalent) before they changed the legislation.
They transferred the land book from 87 different court registration offices one by one, they digitised each municipalities data until it was compatible with the NMCAs systems then closed each office, typically on a Friday to be transferred over the weekend to go live on the Monday.
Once all 87 offices had been transferred, the only change to legislation they needed was a few words, changing the statutory body that was to maintain the register.
Likewise if the above happened in the UK then all that would be needed is to change the Local Land Charges act 1975 from ‘each local authority’ to ‘HMLR shall be the registering authority’.
Business as Normal had to continue until the day of transfer, the court registration offices would register as normal and then after a weekend the Cadastre took over. The Court Offices were closed down one by one.
The Cadastre had to create a new department which grew from 2 employees to 300. Less than 10% of Land Registry staff transferred from the courts and the Cadastre faced a steep learning curve and had to train the new employees who lacked experience.
The Cadastre managed to reduce fees by 85% and improve turnaround to under four days.
If the Land Registry takeover the Local Land Charges registers then a similar reduction in fee would make the price for a search in line with the land registries other conveyancing products and conceivably it may be possible to download the results immediately.
In Norway NMCA’s vision is that conveyancers could find all they needed to complete a transaction from a single online source.
If Land Registry takes on the Local Land Charges Register, the drainage search the con29r, con29m and the coal authority search they would become more than what the National Land and Information Service (NLIS) can offer now but would this make them a monopoly.
The Land Register - Registers based in 87 different Locations
Local Land Charges -Registers based in 350 different Locations
The Land Registry - expect business as normal to their existing income streams and to absorb the local land charges register with existing staff.
The Cadastre - had to take on 300 new employees.
The UK search system is more complicated and includes the CON29 questionnaire.
Local Authorities are at different stages of computerisation. All authorities need to be digitised if the transfer is to be successful.
The Court registration offices continued to register normally until they were closed one by one.
Local Land Charges offices and staff will need to be retained to ensure business as normal, however this is a big ask to the hundreds facing redundancy. Land Registry staff may need to be drafted into Local Authorities to ensure a successful transfer.
If the Norway model happended in the UK then Local Land Charges offices could be closed one by one when their data is in a suitable format for the Land Registry to upload into a central repository. Upkeep and searches of the local register would then picked up by the Land Registry the next working day, when all 350 Local Land Charges departments are transfered then the local land charges act could be ammended to make the Land Registry the statutory registrar.Keywords: land registry, local land charges, norway, takeover