COPSO Challenges Michael Fallon

The Council of Property Search Organisations (CoPSO) has today called for Michael Fallon to provide clarification of his long terms intentions for the Land Registry. The Minister of State for Business and Energy issued a written statement on 23rd January announcing that a consultation will be launched into a restructuring of the Land Registry. The stated intention is to create a new Government controlled company that would split the Land Registry operation from the role of the registrar.  There has been already been speculation in the media that this is just a stepping stone to selling off the Land Registry.

At the same time as launching this consultation, the Land Registry is already consulting on expanding its regulatory powers and centralising the Local Land Charges registers that are currently maintained by all Local Authorities in England and Wales. Searches of the Local Land Charges registers are an important part of the home buying process.

CoPSO is concerned that centralising the Local Land Charges Register is just a way to fatten up the Land Registry to maximise the proceeds to the exchequer in the event of a sale. Such a move could be detrimental to home buyers and involve greatly increased costs and is not in the public interest.

James Sherwood-Rogers the chairman of CoPSO said ‘it is difficult to understand why the Land Registry is so keen to take over the Local Land Charges register unless it has an eye on privatisation. The current operation of the Local Land Charges register works perfectly well for home buyers. There is a competitive market between the public and private sectors in the provision of searches for conveyancing lawyers to progress property purchases for their clients and there is no demand from those lawyers for change. ‘

‘CoPSO would like the Minster to come clean on his long term intentions for the Land Registry so that there can be an informed debate on the merits of trying to fix something that is not broken. If the intention is to privatise the Land Registry there must be a serious question about the implications of centralising the Local Land Charges register. There are many examples of the creation of private sector monopolies that have ended up with poor service and high costs for consumers. When such a privatisation would involve the smooth operation of the housing market it must be a cause for serious concern.’ 

CoPSO will be engaging with stakeholders across the home buying spectrum over the coming weeks, including Local Authorities and Conveyancing lawyers, to gauge the appetite for progressing what would seem to be a reform that is entirely unnecessary.
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