Opinion: Registers of Scotland should focus on timely service

Opinion: Registers of Scotland should focus on timely service

Registers of Scotland should devote its resources to addressing the backlog of applications instead of ‘Unlocking the Sasine’, writes the Scottish Law Agents Society.

Amanda Cameron of D M Hall provided a timely reminder of the Scottish government target of having all property on the Land Register by 31st December 2024.

The ‘Unlocking the Sasine’ initiative is an admission of that target will not be met. According to Registers of Scotland (RoS) it is a way of showing indicative ownership and boundaries and a first step to establishing ownership which is not yet on the Land Register.

Furthermore, RoS state it is not a property register nor a means to confirm ownership and boundaries.

RoS have a longstanding problem simply processing current applications. According to their latest own published data the oldest case they have outstanding for registration in the Land Register dates from April 2017 – that is over six years.

There are 635 cases still outstanding from 2017. At present there are a total of over 136,000 case outstanding. Subtracting those outstanding cases from the current calendar year there are still 108,000 cases awaiting completion. Over 53,000 cases are over two years old and with typical two-year fixed rate mortgage deals potential problems can arise when remortgaging.

RoS has an expedited service where the delay causes financial or personal hardship. Press comment in England recently has highlighted just those sorts of problems with delays at the English Land Registry.

This situation is not new. JLSS noted in August 2022 that the numbers had remained over 100,000 for some time. The Scottish Law Agents Society has highlighted the ongoing problem on a number of occasions.

RoS state: “Having an open case carries little to no risk. Legal protections are backdated to the day on which the Keeper receives the application. Having an open case does not impact an owner’s ability to: sell land or property; remortgage or make changes to their land or property.”

That of course presupposes that the Keeper does not reject the title for whatever reason in which situation no protections apply. It also downplays the risk of the insolvency of the granter of a deed when a title is rejected or where there has been a death of a party and some further work has to be carried out to satisfy the Keeper. Solicitors’ indemnity insurance is potentially on risk when this happens.

RoS should focus on providing a timely service to all and not rely on special expedition as a get out of jail card for delays. It would be preferable for the Keeper to devote the resources available to her to reduce the arrears rather than ‘Unlocking the Sasine’ which is little more than window dressing to try to satisfy an artificial and unachievable politically set target.

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