Current project status
The current status of this project is: Complete.
List of project stages:
- Analysis of responses
- Initiation: Could include discussing scope and terms of reference with lead Government Department
- Pre-consultation: Could include approaching interest groups and specialists, producing scoping and issues papers, finalising terms of project
- Consultation: Likely to include consultation events and paper, making provisional proposals for comment
- Policy development: Will include analysis of consultation responses. Could include further issues papers and consultation on draft Bill
- Reported: Usually recommendations for law reform but can be advice to government, scoping report or other recommendations
Building a more effective land registration system. We made recommendations for reform in a report and draft Bill. Government responded to our report on 25 March 2021.
An effective land registration law is essential for everyone who owns land, whether the land is a home, a business or an investment.
But dealings and disputes that engage the land registration regime can be complex and require expert advice. Uncertainty in the regime makes advising clients difficult, incentivises litigation, and increases costs for landowners.
In recent years, the landscape in which land registration operates has changed. There has been an increase of incidents of fraud relating to registered land, the legal consequences of which have been difficult to resolve. And technology has not developed in the way that was predicted at the time the legislation was drafted.
With over 25 million registered titles in England and Wales – ranging from residential flats to farms and shopping centres – any inefficiencies or uncertainties in the land registration system can also have a significant impact on the property market, and the wider economy.
Our project was designed to update the Land Registration Act 2002. This is the Act that governs registered land.
The project was not designed to fundamentally reformulate the Act, but to improve specific aspects of its operation within the existing legal framework.
The project formed part of our Twelfth Programme of Law Reform published in July 2014.
We published a consultation paper on 31 March 2016. It considered a wide range of issues including:
- the interests that can be registered
- how interests are protected on the register
- the effect of registration
- the extent of the guarantee of title that registration provides
- the development of electronic conveyancing
The consultation period closed on 30 June 2016.
Our final report was published on 24 July 2018. We recommended some technical reforms to iron out the kinks in the law, help prevent fraud and make conveyancing faster, easier and cheaper for everyone.
Recommendations that tackle fraud include:
- enabling HM Land Registry to set the reasonable steps that conveyancers must undertake to verify the identity of their clients, to help root out fraudsters
- imposing a duty of care on conveyancers with respect to identity checks, based on the directions issued by HM Land Registry
- if a conveyancer fails to meet his or her duty with respect to identity checks, ensuring that HM Land Registry has a right of recourse against the conveyancer to recover the amount HM Land Registry paid for the loss caused by the fraud. Conveyancers who follow the required steps won’t be responsible if fraud still happens
Other recommendations include:
- preventing the register from being changed once a mistake has been on the register for 10 years, to make the register more accurate and final
- requiring evidence of interests that people want to protect with a unilateral notice at an earlier stage, preventing disputes at the Tribunal
- bringing mines and minerals onto the register
- creating a new power to introduce electronic conveyancing that does not require completion and registration to happen simultaneously, to facilitate electronic conveyancing
- beefing up the powers of Land Registration Division of the First-tier Tribunal (Property Chamber) – including an express statutory power to determine where a boundary lies, so that parties do not have to re-litigate the same issue
Alongside the recommendations we also produced a draft Bill to implement the reforms.
Government provided an interim response on 31 January 2019, available here.
Government gave its full response on 25 March 2021. The detailed response is available here.
Government welcomed our examination of the Land Registration Act 2002. It has accepted 40 of the 53 recommendations, and is further considering another 10 recommendations on which it has not yet reached clear conclusions. Government has indicated that it will consider implementation alongside wider land registration policy development and HM Land Registry business strategy priorities.
Area of law
Property, family and trust law
Professor Nicholas Hopkins