Growing concern about privatising the Land Registry
The Land Registry is a long established institution whose function is to register the ownership of land and property in England and Wales.
The register plays a valuable role in preventing fraudulent property transactions. Those who have bought or sold a house recently will know that registering a property or checking the Land Registry records is an everyday part of the conveyancing process.
In March 2016, the government launched a consultation setting out proposals to privatise the Land Registry’s operations. The consultation’s purpose was to:
- “set out the government’s reasons for proposing change;
- propose how a private sector Land Registry would work;
- share [the government’s] thinking on possible models for the future of Land Registry; and
- seek views on the proposals, especially on [the government’s] preferred option.”
The Law Society, which has advocated caution on the privatisation proposal since it was first raised, this week issued a press release commenting on mounting concern about the government’s proposals. Previously, in its formal response, the Law Society stressed that the Land Registry is not a commercial operation that can be easily privatised and its vital role in the smooth operation of the property market should not be underestimated. Other comments set out in its press briefing of 8 July 2016 include concerns that:
- “privatisation could hinder efforts to combat the laundering of illicit funds through the property market in England and Wales
- the risk of fee increases to generate profits for private owners, at the expense of property buyers
- the loss of the potentially huge future value of the information held by the registry
- the great difficulties in ensuring a newly privatised natural monopoly couldn't act in anti-competitive ways.”
The Law Society’s concerns are summarised in their tweets of 8 July 2016.
“The Land Registry is a vital piece of national infrastructure - the Govt must be cautious if the sale goes ahead. https://bit.ly/29k3c2d"
“With all the worries about privatising the Land Registry, we're pleased Govt says they will listen to the concerns. https://bit.ly/29k3c2d “
The consultation closed in May and we await the outcome of the government’s review to see whether they take into consideration the Law Society’s views. (The Law Society’s full response can be found here.)
Karen Piontek, head of our commercial property team, is concerned that privatisation could damage the impartial role of the Land Registry: “The legal profession and the public are happy with the role of the Land Registry – which is, after all, run by the government. We see no reason for this to be changed.”
If you would like to know more about the work of the Land Registry, contact:
Published 8 July 2016Subscribe to our newsletter
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