23 April 2018

Gingering Up the End User Experience

In their Business Strategy report, 2017-2022, the Land Registry say that it is their ambition to become the world's leading land registry for speed, simplicity and an open approach to data. They say that their customers "who include citizens, financial institutions, lawyers and developers" will continue to be central to everything they do and that they will transform the customer experience through their digital services and improved use of technology, making transactions instantaneous where possible. 

Gingering up processes, and simplifying them, are likely to be welcome. But the aim to extract more value from Land Registry data by "working creatively with other organisations" and publishing as much of the data as possible in a way that is easy to access would signal a new approach for the Land Registry and could prove controversial, depending on how and what data is presented and made available.

Amongst the statements of intent are some concrete aims such as to help provide a faster and simpler way to complete local land charge searches.  This would indeed be useful, especially if the results were to include answers to the local authority enquiries.

The Land Registry is creating a "Digital Street" which appears to be a prototype land registration world, limited to a small selection of properties, with the intention that the pilot register will be fully machine-readable and able to be updated instantly.  A sort of digital sand box, it seems, while gremlins are identified.

One of the project areas mentioned by the Land Registry is looking at the benefits of the Land Registry collecting additional data and exploring how their data might be linked and combined with other government data.  Their intention is that this might create a richer more useful data set of land and property information for the benefit of citizens and conveyancers and also provide banks and finance providers with greater assurance.  They say that this will demonstrate what a land information system for Britain could achieve.  It seems likely that the extent to which the implementation of this strategy proves controversial will depend on the extent to which the Land Registry`s pursuit of an open approach to data, publishing a wide variety of data for use by anyone, will be referable to individual "customers" or smaller groups. It may also depend on the government's vision of what precisely a land information system is meant to do.

Another aspect of the Land Registry`s strategy is that they say that they are looking at publishing "comparative conveyancer data to provide the end consumer with a real picture of how well their conveyancer is performing".  Wow.  What does this mean? How will conveyancers be judged, bearing in mind that it may not be in the best interests of a particular client for their solicitor to follow a particular course in all cases? 

Having decided not to privatise the Land Registry for the time being, the Government seem to have decided to transform it instead.  The Land Registry, transformed and catering for a far wider customer base, diluting the lawyers in the process, and with legislative changes which are in the pipeline, is likely to be an extremely useful instrument for marshalling information about land ownership and its ramifications. Better to build and keep this capability in-house.  A data-gathering instrument for the future, rather than a source of substantial funds now. 

John is a senior associate in our Residential Property team.

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