We are currently awaiting the result of a government consultation which proposes to privatise the 150 year old Land Registry. This is highly controversial move, both with the staff concerned about job losses and those of us who deal with and rely on the Land Registry on a day to day basis. Land Registry staff are currently on a two day walkout in protest.
The consultation officially closed on 20 March and included options for the service to retain the status quo, become a government owned company or a joint venture company with a private provider. Board minutes from a meeting leaked to a national newspaper revealed that it appeared the decision to opt for the joint venture had already been made.
Handing the Land Registry to a private provider could lead to questions as to its impartiality and conflicts of interest may arise. As well as maintaining and updating the register the Land Registry also has a role in resolving disputes and awarding title and its security and independence are key.
If users, particularly lenders, are unable to rely on the integrity of the title register this could have serious implications for the property market. The Council of Mortgage Lenders in its response to the consultation said “Lenders rely on the state guarantee of title in order to confidently sell mortgages…it is crucial to the functioning of the mortgage market, and more widely, the housing market.”
The Department for Business Innovation and Skills says, notwithstanding the leaked minutes, that all options are still open for discussion. This is very much a case of watch this space.