New rules mark a major step towards HM Land Registry achieving its ambition

New Land Registration (Amendment) Rules 2018 (LRR) will come into effect on Friday 6 April 2018. They mark a major step in how we, at HM Land Registry, can use digital technology to build faster and simpler services for our customers. The Government approved the changes in January, following our consultation which received 49 detailed responses.

Digital technology is a vital component of our Business Strategy for 2017-2022, which sets out our ambition to be the world’s leading land registry for speed, simplicity and an open approach to data.

We have a proud heritage of working with the conveyancing, legal and financial sectors to make conveyancing, simpler, faster and cheaper. We started in 1862 by moving from an unregistered system of ownership (based on privately held title deeds) to full registration of land. Since then, the legislative reforms which gave us new Land Registration Rules in 1925, and again in 2003 have been important milestones in our journey, as have the computerisation of the register and our development and delivery of online and automated services. These have all contributed to speeding up registration and have helped to keep registration fees relatively low (as a proportion of total conveyancing costs).

While digital technology holds the key to unlocking further efficiencies for everybody, there have been stumbles along the way – notably with the industries’ attempts at fully electronic conveyancing. However, the latest technological innovations, alongside an approach of iterative service development based on user need, are now making sure we work in closer partnership with the industry to build services and solutions that our customers need to meet a more digitally savvy consumer base.

The main purpose of the changes to the LRR, our latest milestone in the journey, is to allow for us to introduce fully digital conveyancing documents with electronic signatures in the future, after the registrar has published a notice that the service is ready for use. This will allow us to build digital transfers, other types of digital mortgages and perhaps digital leases in due course without needing rule changes each time.

These will build on existing digital developments such as our new ‘Sign your mortgage deed’ service. This will help to simplify the remortgage process, speed up registration and reduce some of the overall timescales. And like the ‘Sign your mortgage deed service’, we will work with stakeholders, conveyancers, lenders and members of the public, when developing new digital services to ensure these meet their needs, prevent errors and ensure the integrity of the register.

The early digital mortgages with electronic signatures will rely on the Land Registration (Electronic Conveyancing) Rules 2008. These Rules will be revoked on 6 April and replaced by new rules 54A to D inserted in the Land Registration Rules 2003 (the 2003 Rules) by the Amendment Rules. The new rules provide for electronic dispositions (register updates) and digital signing – in place of the Rules that are being revoked, when the registrar is satisfied that adequate arrangements are in place for dealing with such dispositions (register updates) in electronic form.

The LRR also allows more flexibility to make further changes in the future. For example, to utilise digital technology to provide copies of parts of registers, parts of documents or an improved historic information service.

Another key change is the removal of outline applications (OLAs) on 6 April. OLAs were introduced to provide a basic real-time priority system under which the applicant would have priority until the paper application was received by HM Land Registry. Business customers can now make the full application immediately online, so there is no longer a need for them.

The last day an OLA could be submitted was Wednesday 28 March 2018 as this left four business days (the reserved period) under rule 54 of the 2003 Rules before this rule is revoked.

The remaining changes include introducing two new standard form restrictions for mental capacity situations; revoking the Proper Office Order 2013, which will be replaced by a direction of the registrar as to the address to be used for paper applications and objections to HM Land Registry; changes to rule 140 of the 2003 Rules and Form CIT (which is limited to public bodies with investigative powers); and some minor improvements and updates to the 2003 Rules.

We will be updating our practice guides on GOV.UK accordingly, so you will be able to find out about changes at the point you need to know about them.

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