March 8th, 2018
The government announced this week a phased approach to launch the long-awaited digital centralised Local Land Charges Register. This is not a simple process due to the volume of data that has to be moved online. The alpha version of the register was started in 2016. This year 26 out of the 326 English local authorities will start to migrate their LLC records to the new register. As yet there are no announced plans for the Con29 enquiries, however, there is a review in process.
We asked Jon Round, divisional director of York Place, what does this mean for the property search process and how it may affect conveyancers. Read the interview below.
Q: How will the new register affect the search process for your team?
A: At present, the main difference we envisage is that we will no longer need to attend the council to view the local land charges register. Instead, our search agents can do this remotely before they set out to gather data for the Con29 enquiries. We will also be dealing (eventually when all councils have migrated) with a single system rather than the multitude of register styles that exist at present.
Q: Will lead times be affected?
A: It is possible that delays caused by some factors may be reduced, eg the increasingly common staff shortages and absences in local land charges departments, but for the most part the delays are from building control and other departments supplying Con29 data.
Q: What are the foreseen benefits of the new register?
A: We foresee many potential benefits, not least instant access and a standardised format.
Q: Do you have any reservations regarding the digitisation of the register?
Digitisation will give the councils the opportunity to cleanse their registers of expired charges and generally verify the quality of their data which must be a good thing. Concerns have been expressed however about the maintenance of the data once it is on the central system. We must also not forget that local land charges are just one part of a local search. The Con29 questions still need to be answered and methods of access and possibly pricing is likely to come under pressure as local authority land charge departments are re-structured.
Q: Will this affect the pricing of searches?
The cost of an LLC1 search from councils ranges at present from £3 to £76. This will be standardised by the Land Registry and figures ranging from £15 to £30 have been mooted. We understand that costs for this major project have escalated and will need to be recovered within a reasonable time frame.
Councils will be able to set their own prices for Con29 ‘official’ enquiries and there is always the possibility that these may increase. I suspect the average price of an ‘official’ LLC1/Con29 search across the country will not change very much. As far as York Place Regulated Searches are concerned, we are assured that data will still be available at no charge under the Environmental Information Regulations so no change there. We do not, therefore, envisage much effect on pricing unless our costs for obtaining Con29 data increase.
Q: What is the timescale for this project?
A: The Land Registry have just announced that there will be 26 councils taking part in phase one and they have revealed 11 of these. I guess the other 15 have not yet signed the formal agreement for transfer. It is reckoned that migration of data is a process that takes between 15 and 36 months. The Land Registry said that some will be online this year and the rest of phase one in 2019. After that, there will be a further 300 councils to deal with and presumably, the 22 Welsh authorities will follow at some point. In 2015 they published a strategic case that said that 70% of Local Land Charges data would be digitised by April 2020, 80% by December 2020 and 100% by July 2023. Whether they can achieve those targets remains to be seen and there is certainly a lot of work still to be done before we have a complete register
Interview with Jon Round - Divisional Director York Place part of the Stanley Davis Group