Land Registry centralisation plans will put listed homes at risk and destabilise housing market

Under new plans to centralise local land charge searches the Land Registry will only be responsible for digitisation of records back to 1999 which will mean that the 430,000 buildings that were listed before 1999 will not show up on searches for people buying these properties.

In fact, it is unlikely that any listed homes will show up on searches at all given that properties usually have to be at least 30 years old to be listed.

Other significant issues that may not show up if registered before 1999 include conservation areas, tree preservation orders, noise abatement orders and private sewers. The latter, if not maintained to a high standard, could cause tens of thousands of pounds of damage for the homeowner. All this could be taken on by a home owner in ignorant good faith.

James Sherwood-Rogers, chairman of the Council of Property Search Organisations (CoPSO) said:

“The very real consequence is that people could find themselves buying a listed property without knowing it as this will not show up on a Land Registry search if the listing took place more than 15 years ago.

“The result of this could be alarming – an unwitting buyer making illegal alterations, adding on a conservatory or even knocking down part of the listed building. This could be an expensive mistake when English Heritage find out and it puts at risk our most valuable and historic housing stock.”

Research by CoPSO, the trade association representing firms that carry out 80% of all searches carried out by the property search industry, suggests the government’s plans to centralise the Local Land Charges Resister will have serious implications for the wider property market.

  • The unions involved are against it as jobs are at risk and strikes and walkouts are a real possibility
  • More property sales will fall through as a result of homebuyers searches on homes taking up to 40 days to come through
  • Homebuyers will pay more for searches if the Land Registry ends up being privatised as is currently being mooted

Sherwood-Rogers added:

“The Minister, Michael Fallon, claims to be consulting on changes to the Local Land Charges Register but we believe this consultation is a sham, littered with misleading and inaccurate statements. We have written to him demanding he withdraw it immediately and talk to the industry direct.

“We seriously believe there is a very real risk to listed properties. The quality of searches will also diminish, leaving buyers in the dark about such things as tree preservation orders, financial responsibility for private drainage and whether a property is located in a conservation area.”