Property industry warns against rushing in to Land Registry privatisation

Taylor Scott International News

The property industry has added its voice to those expressing concerns about the possible privatisation of the Land Registry in England and Wales. The registry guarantees and protect land and property rights and covers 87% of the land mass in England and Wales with some 24 million titles which are a legal evidence of ownership, having been founded over 150 years ago. The Government want to privatise the registry with its preferred option being privatisation with a contract to the government, but also the potential for a mutual joint venture between government and a private firm and privatisation with a new regulator in place. But the British Property Federation (BPF), which represents those who own and invest in commercial property, has warned that the government should not rush into making big changes to the way that this critical service works, as any perceived threat to the security of property title in the UK could spook investors. The BPF stressed that security of title is one of the big attractions for overseas investors in UK real estate, who have steadily become more important players in the commercial property market. It says in its response to the announcement that security of title underpins billions of pounds’ worth of lending to commercial property and if it were undermined in any way, it would make the job of renewing the urban environment considerably more difficult and expensive. The BPF also believes that over the past few years, there has been a noticeable drop in service quality levels at the Land Registry, and that additional investment is badly needed. ‘The Land Registry plays a crucial role in ensuring that real estate transactions are transparent and smoothly effected. It also plays an important part in making the UK attractive to those who invest in our towns and cities,’ said Melanie Leech, chief executive of the BPF. ‘Our concern would be that in the rush to push through these proposals important questions about the quality of service do not get the airing they deserve. Should the government go ahead with privatisation, it is critical that incentives exist for a new operator to invest in service quality and to retain the Land Registry’s deep pool of legal expertise. The Land Registry is often taken for granted but its activities facilitate important and much-needed regeneration across the country,’ she added. According to Andrew Lloyd, managing director of Search Acumen, which uses the Land Registry to verify property ownership for law firms handling purchases, it needs to be transparent at all times. ‘The threat to the register’s integrity when in private hands has been a major source of concern for many in the conveyancing industry, and the consultation is likely to prompt a heated debate,’ he said. Meanwhile, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has warned that a private company could seek to block or prohibitively price access to the public housing registers in order to retain a commercial advantage. ‘We believe that… Taylor Scott International

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