Stop the Land Registry being sold off

by Readers Question

10:24 AM, 29th June 2016
About 2 years ago

Stop the Land Registry being sold off

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Stop the Land Registry being sold off

In case Property 118 members don’t already know, the government has revived its proposal for selling off the Land Registry – despite having had to scrap a similar proposal made during the previous coalition government.Land Registry

If private corporations get their hands on the Land Registry, they’ll have just one thing on their minds – profits.

A privatised Land Registry would mean a hike in prices for everyone, or a fall in standards because of cost-cutting measures (or probably both!).

The Open Data Institute, a transparency body set up by the government, has warned that the Land Registry would be open to fraud and manipulation if sold into private hands.

Should this matter for ordinary property owners? After all the Land Registry is an obscure government agency so what difference will it make if its functions are taken over by a private company and the Treasury makes some money from the deal.

Most property owners have little or no knowledge of the Land Registry and its functions which is hardly surprising as owners rarely have to deal with them direct. This work is normally handled by conveyancing solicitors – although buyers will be aware that a registration fee has to be paid through their solicitor.

But the Registry has an increasingly important role in conveyancing and in guaranteeing people’s property ownership. And because homebuyers are compelled to register titles and transfers there are justifiable concerns that this monopoly function should not fall into the hands of a private company.

The Registry’s functions are often said to be of a quasi-judicial nature as its staff can determine whether or not someone’s title to land is registered. If the Registry refuses to register title to a property or register a change of ownership when property is transferred this will cause major problems for the owner. It will then be very difficult to sell or mortgage the property.

The work of the Registry is a crucial part of conveyancing and this function should surely remain in government hands in the same way as the courts.

The work of the Registry is self-funded from the fees it charges. Buyers will be aware that these fees are an additional part of the cost of buying property. Last year the Registry had a surplus of £118 million – unsurprisingly this surplus (or profit!) is swallowed up by the Treasury, rather than being used to reduce fees or invest in new equipment.

The privatisation is being debated in Parliament this Thursday. I invite Property 118 members to sign the on-line petition at this address https://secure.38degrees.org.uk/land-reg-petition-consshare and/or email your MP asking them to attend the debate.

Tony



Comments

Mandy Thomson

13:42 PM, 29th June 2016
About 2 years ago

Hi Tony

Although I have been self employed as a (small) portfolio landlord for more than 5 years, before that I worked for Land Registry for most of my career.

Many of my former colleagues (both past and current employees) are fairly left leaning in their thinking and have an inherent mistrust of all forms of privatisation. However, I take a different view.

We already entrust very important data to organisations such as Experian and Equifax, two of the 3 major credit referencing agencies. Like LR, these agencies are simply record keepers, they don't make decisions about whether an individual is granted credit, just as LR doesn't decide who owns or has an interest in a property, it simply keeps accurate records on certain aspects of this.

I believe, on the whole, that the credit reference agencies do a good job, as does LR - no organisation, whoever runs it, is ever going to be 100% perfect.

I was made redundant from LR in 2009 following the credit crunch, and in 2010 Gordon Brown's government decided to close down many offices, and sell LR's iconic and historic HQ in Lincoln's Inn Fields.

I see nothing inherently wrong with privatising LR PERSE, and in fact had LR been privately owned at the time of the credit crunch it would not have been subject to government cuts and would have been in a better position to determine its own future. For the record, LR is self financing, but pays what it earns back to the Treasury, which then pays staff salaries.

HOWEVER, Mr Osborne now wants to sell LR off quickly, and it seems he DOESN'T CARE TO WHO, or what will come of the agency, its employees and business.

I met with some other former LR employees recently, and one even said he thought the government was considering selling LR to a corporate raider - how true or accurate this is, I don't know, but it certainly sums up the mood.

Denise G

14:50 PM, 29th June 2016
About 2 years ago

I signed the petition and wrote to my MP - receiving a very prompt, but woefully inadequate fob off reply, by return e mail for my trouble (but to be fair to her she does seem to be getting an e mail every couple of days from me at the moment)


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