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There has been great disdain from a whole host of sources over the Government plans to privatise the Land Registry. Many people have argued that putting the Land Registry into the hands of the private sector, whose main goal is to turn over a profit, jeopardises its main purpose whilst putting the personal data of millions in peril.

Those to voice their disapproval include the Law Society, industry professionals, the Open Data Institute, Competition and Markets Authority, the former chief land registrar and politicians who put the proposed sale on hold two years ago during the coalition government. That is to name just a few.

What does the Land Registry do?

The Land Registry holds the official records of who owns land and property in England and Wales – it effectively provides the legal confirmation that you own the land where your property resides. It’s the body that our residential conveyancing team liaise with on a daily basis to ensure that when you buy or sell a property, the rights are transferred legally.

It has been collating such data as a state institution for over 150 years and holds titles for the ownership of 24 million properties, one of the largest property databases in Europe. Although the registry is a publicly-owned body, it is a self-financing agency and takes no money from taxpayers. In fact, it returned £120m to the Treasury last year. It’s important to say that data is already sold to some commercial entities already, such as Zoopla and Rightmove, but crucially the ownership is in the publics’ hands.

Kim Lowes, a PCS Union Representative, says, “We’re not broke, so why is this government trying to fix us?”

It seems that the reasons are financially motivated with an estimated sale of proceeds raising around £1bn according to some.

What are the worries?

The main concern is in regards to the registry’s position of monopoly. Putting that in the hands of a private company could lead to exploitation. The Competition and Markets Authority have warned that a private company could seek to block or set a price for access to the public-housing registers to give it a commercial advantage; being the only player in the game, prices for consumers are likely to increase.

Other worries include the security of information of so many people living in England and Wales, and the possibility of conflict of interests putting the integrity of the register at risk.

The government thinks the registry needs modernising and that private investment is the way to do this. Of course there is always room for improvement but the introduction of new commercially-minded owners and shareholders whose first thoughts are profits, doesn’t necessarily mean that the system, efficiency or value for money is going to be improved.

Last year the Land Registry achieved a 94% customer approval rating. Two years ago when the government last consulted on this topic, 91% disagreed that the body would be more efficient under privatisation and 89% said they would be uncomfortable with the registry in private hands.

What now?

Public consultation on the plans closed on Thursday 26th May. Before the deadline a petition signed by 300,000 people opposed to the sale was handed in to the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills. It’s thought the vast majority of the responses will be opposing to the idea but we’ll have to wait with baited breath to see what the government decide and what the Land Registry model will look like for the future.

In the meantime if you would like a free quote for selling or buying a property or any other conveyancing legal service, contact our expert team. Call us on 0343 507 5151 for a non-obligation quote. You can also email your property details via our online contact form.