Unique Property Reference Numbers set to speed up property transactions

The government has shown its support for a new initiative that could help speed up property buying and selling transactions.

The new concept will see a Unique Property Reference Number (UPRN) attached to every property or piece of land which will provide estate agents and conveyancers with all of the information that they need about a particular property. For example, information such as planning permission for when the property was first built and subsequent extensions, building regulations, council tax payments, utility providers, EPCs, as well as health and safety checks on rental properties will all be available via a digital search.

The UPRN system was introduced last year and is currently managed by GeoPlace, a subsidiary of Ordnance Survey, which also adds geographic co-ordinates to each address. The Local Authorities are required to update and maintain address registers which are submitted along with the UPRNs to the central GeoPlace database, all of which ensures that there is one single, accurate record for each property.

Following the launch of UPRNs last year several estate agencies, firms and professional bodies declared their support for the scheme by outlining the benefits in a letter to the Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick. Supporters and signatories included NAEA and ARLA Propertymark, Savills, Foxtons, the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, The Lettings Industry Council, the National Residential Landlords Association, The Property Ombudsman and the Property Redress Scheme.

The Housing Minister Chris Pincher commented at the GeoPlace annual conference:

“we know that the current buying and selling process is besieged by long and arduous and byzantine processes and inefficiencies. Estate agents and conveyancers often spend an exhaustive amount of time trying to collate all sorts of relevant information… When a buyer is found, old and dusty deeds, half-forgotten documents lying in solicitors’ safes or basements of town halls – they have got to be located, they’ve got to be shared, they’ve got to be pored over by both parties in great detail.”

He continued that UPRNs would improve the current system, stating that:

“the processes can be streamlined. Information like the number of previous owners, boundaries, that can all be shared digitally at the touch of a key helping to speed the whole house buying process along.”

Pincher also commented on how UPRNs could help in particularly challenging conveyancing periods:

“with the challenges of the end of the present [Help to Buy] scheme, with the challenges of the pandemic, the conveyancing process ballooned for many, many people. Having the UPRN baked into the system, had we been able to take advantage of them more rapidly, would have helped to reduce that challenge. Crucially, they would also allow buyers to be privy to all relevant information before they purchase a property.”

The National Trading Standards Estate and Letting Agents Team also issued a statement of support when the initiative was first introduced saying: “the widespread use of a Unique Property Reference Number has the potential to deliver many benefits across the residential property market. Importantly, a UPRN can offer tenants a greater level of protection against rogue landlords and help to reduce consumer fraud when buying or renting a home.”

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