The legal transfer of ownership in registered freehold or leasehold title (or the grant of a registerable lease) takes effect on registration at the Land Registry. The period of time between the date of the transfer or lease and when an individual or company is registered as proprietor at the Land Registry is known as the “registration gap”. The significance of this, is that during this period of time although a new owner may have paid for and taken occupation of the property, they will only have a “beneficial interest” and the property is held on trust for them by the Seller until the date they are registered as the new proprietor.
Under usual circumstances a delay in registration should not be a cause for concern, the Land Registry will process applications received in priority order and day to day dealings with the property will be unaffected. Issues arise however where delays in dealing with applications mean that, for example, developers cannot sell new build properties or landlords cannot grant leases or serve legal notices on tenants because their legal ownership of the property has not yet been registered. A less obvious, but potentially more serious risk is where there is a chain dependent on registration and an application received by the Land Registry is defective. This may prevent registration from being completed by the Land Registry and in such circumstances, if this issue cannot be remedied, a mortgage lender or buyer will not proceed to completion and the transaction could fall apart.
The registration gap is not a new problem and has gradually increased over the years, however the Coronavirus pandemic has contributed to further delays, as the Stamp Duty Land Tax holiday and subsequent surge in the housing market has put additional pressure on the Land Registry to process an ever increasing backlog of applications.
Request an expedite
In limited circumstances the Land Registry will accept requests for applications to be expedited (fast-tracked) by the solicitor or conveyancer who made the application. This is where it can be shown that a delay is causing financial hardship or impacting another application. The Land Registry requires evidence to be submitted to show the impact of the delay.
Once a request for expedition is accepted, the Land Registry will process the application promptly however the time to process the request will invariably depend according to the complexity of the original application. In addition, any requisitions (questions) that the Land Registry may have will still need to be dealt with as usual and in the given time frames provided.
The Land Registry has published helpful guidance in relation to its service levels which can be accessed here.
In our experience, we are seeing the following processing time frames:
- requests to expedite – 10 working days;
- straightforward Assent of registered land – 7 weeks (pre-Covid we would usually expect this to be completed in 1-2 weeks);
- applications to upgrade a freehold title from possessory to absolute – 9 weeks (pre-Covid we would usually expect this to be completed in a month);
- an e-application to update the register of title and register the death of the proprietor – nearly 5 months (pre-Covid we would usually expect this to be completed in a month);
- applications to register leases – up to 8 months (and counting).
Of course, processing times may vary depending on the nature of the application itself, with some straightforward applications to register transfers taking a matter of weeks and more complex applications taking up to 9 months (or more)…
Following the launch of the Land Registry’s Digital Registration Service on 28 April 2021, it is expected that processing times will be reduced, although this will wait to be seen, as with all new systems there is always a teething stage!
How we can help
It is impossible to provide definitive timescales, however where we have made an application on your behalf we will monitor progress and keep you updated. In circumstances where it is appropriate to request an expedite on your behalf, we will do so and keep you informed of progress.
To find out how we can assist, contact our experts 0161 330 6821 or email our new enquiries team at firstname.lastname@example.org for your free initial telephone discussion. If you prefer, you can fill in our online form or alternatively, you can email us on email@example.com and we’ll call you back.