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How Long Does Land Registry Take To Transfer Ownership?

As most conveyancers will attest to, since the COVID-19 pandemic and the Stamp Duty holiday in 2022, there has been a significant increase in pressure on property applications at the Land Registry. This pressure led to delays in Land Registry registration delays throughout 2022, and this has continued into 2023. Delays in the transfer of ownership can cause uncertainty, issues with lending, an inability to grant leases, and may even result in transactions falling through. In this article, we will explain the timescales for land registry transfers, the potential issues faced due to registry delays, and when it is possible to expedite a request.

10 May 2023
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How long does the Land Registry take to transfer ownership?

According to the latest data published by the Land Registry (as of March 2023), the transfer of ownership timescales, including the registration of property transfers, updating charges against property, changing names on property, and transfer of ownership after death are split as follows: 28.8% within 1 day, 8.8% within 1 week, 30.6% within 1 month, and 31.8% over 1 month. While all applications are now processed automatically within minutes, what about the other 70%? Over half of all requests to update the land register now take 4 weeks to complete, with most being completed in just over 3 months. The Land Registry also acknowledge that most complex changes to existing registered titles take 7 – 9 months to complete.

Unfortunately, initial land or property registrations are taking even longer, with most taking over 14 months to process. And when it comes to the division of existing titles (transfers of part) or the registration of new leases (dispositionary first lease), according to the Land Registry, around 50% are completed in just over 14 months and most just under 23 months.

Acknowledging the issues facing customers, the Land Registry has increased its headcount and is further progressing with the digitisation of its services. As reported in the Law Gazette, a spokesperson for the Land Registry stated back in October 2022, “We apologise for the inconvenience this may cause and appreciate your patience as we work to increase capability and capacity, to speed up processing times for customers… Usually, the time taken to register a property does not affect property transactions as registration takes place after a sale has been completed, and the property ownership is securely held as soon as we receive the application. However, improving speed of service is our top priority. Our new Strategy 2022+ sets out how we will significantly increase the use of automation to deliver a better service for our customers”. 

What are the potential issues of delayed transfer of ownership?

  • The wide gap between paying for or taking possession of a property and the eventual transfer of ownership by the Land Registry should not be a cause of concern in most cases. The issue is that, technically, the new owner only retains a “beneficial interest” in the property. In other words, it is held on trust by the seller for the purchaser until the registration process is completed. This can cause a range of issues and complications for:
  • Developers - who may be unable to proceed with the sale of newly built property
  • Borrowers and lenders – may cause problems processing new mortgages and remortgages (leading to possible financial penalties)
  • Landlords – who cannot grant leases 
  • Sale – one business partner may decide to sell their side of the business to a new partner

Depending on the circumstances of the business divorce, the business may continue to operate with a new partner in place (a technical dissolution), or the business may be wound up entirely (a general dissolution). In this article, we will focus on the process of business partnership dissolution. 

Using the expedited Land Registry service

If there is an urgent need, a written request can be submitted to the Land Registry to expedite an application. Expedited requests, if approved, will be processed within 10 working days (subject to any outstanding applications or requisitions that are required). As the Land Registry states, “The expedite process is available for applications where a delay would cause significant issues”. This means that a delay would:

  • cause problems not related to a land transaction, or
  • put a property sale or any kind of property transaction at risk, e.g. if a refinancing deal or development project is put at risk

To ensure that your fast-track application is approved, it is important to provide as much evidence as you can to prove the likely impact. This may include:

  • a copy of the sale or purchase contract or a mortgage offer letter (this should confirm the offer’s expiry date or confirmation that a transaction is being planned, which is dependent on the registration of the application being expedited)
  • details of problems or hardships (financial or personal) which means the application should be expedited.

This process can be completed by your conveyancer through the HM Land Registry portal.

Final words

The ongoing delays in the processing of Land Registry applications may have significant implications for all parties to a property transaction. It is hoped that the efforts being made by the Land Registry will see processing times reduce in the coming months. In the meantime, if you need any assistance with your transfer of ownership for any reason, speak to a property Solicitor who can advise on the best steps to take.

Guillaumes LLP Solicitors is a full-service law firm based in Weybridge, Surrey. We have a highly experienced team of property Solicitors who can assist you with any legal matter, including land or property registration. To make an appointment, please contact us or call us on 01932 840 111.