Automating the land – Forefront

One of the cash cows of solicitors and legal practices has been the conveyancing of properties for their clients.

To speed the processes up and to reduce the costs involved, the Land Registry is automating many of its services. Here, Tim Long surveys the new facilities available.

The Land Registry in England and Wales is the government department that was created back in 1862 to register the ownership of land and property. They keep and maintain the Land Register, where currently more than 23 million titles, the evidence of ownership, are carefully documented. As land or property is entered in the register, they also record ownership changes together with any mortgages or leases that affect it.

Recently, The Land Registry has further extended their service provision by now allowing properties to be registered electronically. This is the last in a long list of initiatives by the Land Registry to improve the service provided and, of course, to cut costs for those involved.

Over the years, The Land Registry has had an excellent track record in this area and has been very technically innovative in their approach to the service they provide. Indeed, they were at the forefront of an “e-conveyancing” initiative some years ago and although it never made it into becoming a production system, it provoked a lot of thought and discussion in the industry, much of which led into other highly beneficial systems.

Inspired by the Land Registry’s creativity, new technology has been developed to help practices using the Electronic Document Registration System (e-DRS) for the Land Registry Business Gateway. The e-DRS enables conveyancing practices to communicate securely with the Land Registry’s systems via the Internet. By using the Business Gateway conveyancers can reduce the cost of registration fees payable to the Land Registry.

The automation of the registration processes is particularly useful, as it enables firms to reap the full benefits of e-DRS. This is especially important for legal practices because the automated process greatly speeds up registration and reduces the cost on average by up to 50% per application. There is also a significant increase in the accuracy of automated applications.

Such systems will likely create a highly positive impression with clients, as they incorporate a full electronic audit trail to enable easier billing reconciliation and compliance monitoring. The automation of registration systems also significantly reduces physical storage costs of paper files and related documentation.

If conveyancing is to remain a profitable business, then fully automated electronic registration will inevitably become best practice for all users. With such strong efficiency and financial drivers in play, I can see that there will be a strong demand for practices to change in the very near future. It also will add pressure to other UK government bodies to speed up their automation programs which would be great news for all of us.

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