E-conveyancing takes a step closer

I have just completed my first online Land Registry application. Some pilot firms have been doing this for months, but most of us have continued to submit paper applications by post or Document Exchange.

Using the online document registration service has some mild benefits in terms of speed and security, but there is certainly room for further progress.  First, the online system can (currently) only be used for applications that do not involve a plan; so transfers of part of the land in a title cannot be submitted this way, nor can searches of land defined by a plan. I expect this limitation to be removed in due course, once the Land Registry can cope with relatively large (in terms of bytes) documents being uploaded. I assume this restriction also means that the online system cannot be used for first registrations, where the risk of sending original pre-registration documents by post or DX can be significant. Again, registrations of leases are not allowed at present, but I expect will be fairly soon; whether the Land Registry has the stomach to analyse scanned copies of pre-registration deeds remains to be seen.

The other, more galling, restriction is that the online submission process is really only the online delivery of scanned paper copies of documents, including Land Registry application forms.  However, if I can get my forms software supplier to allow forms to be saved as PDFs, instead of either printed off or saved in a format, this limitation could be eased: instead of printing, scanning and submitting the application form – which is understandably required for document (such as transfers) that need to be signed before they are scanned – the application form could be completed on screen, saved electronically as a PDF and uploaded for online submission. True, the application form does, strictly, need to be signed, but I reckon the Land Registry could waive that requirement for online submissions.

It would be better still if the application form could be completed online as part of the online submission process, but that is for the future.

Meanwhile, it will be interesting to see how quickly the Land Registry deal with my online submission, compared to their already impressive turnaround time for submissions by post and DX.

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