Industry Experts Discuss Technology, HMLR Progress And Subsidence

The future of conveyancing looks bright with a host of digital innovations leading to greater collaboration and holistic shared working, but the present is fraught with fragmentation and ill-considered technological innovation according to experts.

The Today’s Conveyancer round table was fizzing with insight at a recent event held in London with key stakeholders discussing the threat of cyber crime and the use of technology to improve the sector.

John Abbott, HM Land Registry’s (HMLR) Director of Digital, Data and Technology provided an update on HMLR, their move toward digitisation, progress on LLC1 centralisation and what the future holds for their relationship with conveyancers.

Currently, 14% of all land in England is unregistered. As HMLR moves towards comprehensive registration of publicly owned land by 2025 which will help to fulfil the housing needs and the Governmental pledge of 300,000 new homes by 2025.

Additionally, following the intense work carried out by HMLR over the past year to centralise and digitise local land charges, HMLR has recognised that this process is a lot more challenging than was originally thought. Each local authority’s local land charges data differs greatly in terms of format, standards and quantity so there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach to transforming and migrating the data. As a response to this HMLR has developed new tools to streamline the process of analysing and improving data for future migrating local authorities.

HMLR are creating a digital land register that will be easier for conveyancers to interpret, improve HMLR efficiency and provider richer data to businesses and citizens. At the same time, with over 26 miles of boxes of historic files to sift through and scan, they recognise that it’s going to be a long process.

The discussion also looked at new technology and how adoption could improve the conveyancing process. The benefits of smart contracts and blockchain were recognised as potential landmark pieces of technology to help drive conveyancing forwards.

Delegates looked at a demonstration of collaborative working between key stakeholders. Premier Property Lawyers, Michcon, Yoti, HMLR and Shieldpay have worked together to help create an automated conveyancing process which will encourage communication, enable the consumer to remain informed as well as reducing time scales and costs.

Again, whilst automated conveyancing may solve persistent issues affecting the sector, the technology is unachievable and overly aspirational in the present.

Some in attendance reminded those of Veyo and the need for all stakeholders to embrace the technology in order for it to become effective. Others suggested that clients may be reluctant to embrace changes of this magnitude if the technology is untested.

In the short term, it was agreed that the sector needs to secure the insecure. The use of portals remains inconsistent and whilst this may be fully utilised in the future, the sector needs to find a process that can securely and universally work across the whole sector.

Later sessions considered the increasing threat of subsidence unsettling the sector.

Terrafirma highlighted the fact that clay causing subsidence is an issue plaguing the entirety of London but is also a silent issue permeating and affecting the whole of the UK.

Currently, 1 in 10 insurance claims are related to subsidence and ground stability. Anecdotally, it was found that clients are reluctant to have in depth surveys carried out, surveys that could expose these issues before the potential buyer makes an offer.

Whilst coal searches are mandated, other forms are not enforced. It is thought that 1 in 50 London homes are impacted by clay subsidence and the Conveyancing Handbook and regulations should be updated to reflect this threat.

The issue of accountability was also discussed. Many conveyancers were clear that insurance issues and choosing the correct insurance rest with the surveyor. Although some conveyancers are careful to inform clients of the advice they will offer and areas they will avoid up front, it is clear that consumers would benefit from a more collaborative process.

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