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Property industry professionals say privatisation of Land Registry would not improve access to the 24 million titles the public body holds

At over 150 years old, the Land Registry service guarantees and protects over 85% of the land in England and Wales. There are about 24 million titles which can be used as evidence of ownership.

Central London estate agent LDG explains for people who are buying property, a search is made with the Land Registry to ensure that everything is in order, and once the sale completes the titles of the land are transferred to the new owner.

The government’s plans to privatise the Land Registry have come in for wide criticism from everyone in the industry. The proposition is to privatise the service, while giving a contract to the government or to engage in a joint venture between the government and a private company.

The British Property Federation warns against this development. It says the current Land Registry this year had a customer satisfaction rating of 94%, although there are steps that could be taken to make the service even better.
These include preventing people wanting to launder illegal money from buying land.

However, the Land Registry’s good reputation around the world is one reason why many overseas investors feel safe and secure investing in British property.

“Our concern would be that in the rush to push through these proposals important questions about the quality of service do not get the airing they deserve. Should the government go ahead with privatisation, it is critical that incentives exist for a new operator to invest in service quality and to retain the Land Registry’s deep pool of legal expertise. The Land Registry is often taken for granted but its activities facilitate important and much-needed regeneration across the country,” says BPF chief executive Melanie Leech.

In addition, the Competition and Markets Authority has warned that should the Land Registry be passed over to a private organisation, it is almost inevitable that prices would rise due to them wanting to be able to keep a commercial advantage.

It adds that any private company that gains control of the Land Registry would have a monopoly on commercially valuable data with no incentive to improve access.

The Land Registry employs more than 4500 civil servants and plays an important role in the property market.
The information about titles for the ownership of properties is available to the public at a small charge, and to businesses and other organisations, explains London Bridge estate agent Williams Lynch.

Fulham estate agent Lawsons & Daughters adds that many oppose the privatisation of the Land Registry because it will not benefit home buyers and owners.

It seems that by privatising, confidence will be lost which could affect foreign investment – which is significant in the economy of the country, as well as domestic. And rising prices can also put people off.

People only come in contact with the Land Registry when they are buying or selling property, but it is essential that they are transparent and timely. By privatising it is possible that the confidence in the Land Registry will fall and it is this situation which the property market and economists are trying to avoid.