• Extension of discount on registration fees

It’s been a while since I’ve blogged about voluntary registration in the Land Register and, with last week’s announcement that the existing 25% discount on registration fees is guaranteed until mid 2019, now seems a good time to review how things have been going.

I had a wee look at what I said back in early 2015 on the subject…

So are we any closer to completing the Land Register? Have landowners been enticed to apply for voluntary registration by the 25% discount? Are other factors still more important? Well, statistics-wise, coverage of Scotland’s land mass in the Land Register has now reached nearly 30%. Any increase is of course positive – but there is clearly a long way to go if the remaining 70% is to be registered by 2024.

Whilst we have a number of clients who have decided to undertake voluntary registrations, it’s fair to say that few (if any!) of those have done so purely on the basis of the 25% discount on the registration fees payable to Registers of Scotland. Invariably, for large and/or complex properties, the other costs resulting from registration are just as significant – if not more so. That is not to say that the continuing 25% discount is not welcome – every little helps!

Of course, Registers of Scotland have a number of other mechanisms for delivering on their target and it seems to me that they will have to look to those – increasingly – in order to get close to 100% completion by 2024.

  • KIR

One of the tools available is “Keeper-Induced” registration (KIR) which allows Registers of Scotland to move property titles from the old “Sasines” system onto the Land Register without an application from the owner . My colleague Kate McLeish looked at this last year, when Registers of Scotland were consulting on how KIR would work in practice and commented that it was unlikely to be applied in rural locations.

KIR is now operational and, as predicted, the initial phase is focusing on residential and urban areas (at present restricted to areas in the registration counties of Glasgow, Dumbarton, Midlothian and Angus, though it may spread further in due course). That being the case, it seems unlikely that KIR – in the short term at least – is going to make a material dent in reducing the extent of unregistered land in Scotland. Therefore, it seems that Registers of Scotland are still relying quite heavily on the continuing co-operation of landowners across Scotland in order to move towards their 2024 target.

  • Drivers for voluntary registration

I mentioned that the 25% discount alone is not really a material driver for voluntary registrations, based on our experience. So why are landowners across Scotland engaging in the process?

In practice the drivers tend to be more practical and include things like a desire for greater clarity on boundaries and obligations relating to land; a wish to show transparency over land ownership; and, in many cases, a commitment to “put things in order” for the next generation, working within a timeframe that suits the landowner. There is also an increasing awareness by landowners that having a registered title and plan makes land transactions simpler (and therefore, dare I say it, cheaper!) in the long-term.

If you are thinking about the pros and cons of registration on a voluntary basis, it is worth remembering that there is no one-size-fits-all answer. Registration will undoubtedly improve the quality of information held about land and property – and perhaps give peace of mind about the risks of neighbouring encroachments – but each property and each landowner’s situation is different and careful consideration should be given to the timing of an application and how best to approach issues like mapping and, for larger estates in particular, phasing.

If you have any questions about voluntary land registration then please get in touch with me or your usual Brodies contact. We will be very happy to chat through the issues with you, to help you decide the best course of action for you.