10:24 AM, 29th June 2016, About 5 years ago 2
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.
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.
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