In June 2018, in response to publicity about title registration arrear, Registers of Scotland (RoS) accepted, in a post still on its website, that an arrear then standing at 40,000 was unacceptable, and indicated that the whole arrear of first registration (FR) and transfer of part (TP) applications would be cleared by June 2019. That deadline was then amended to August 2020. The Keeper indicated in January 2019 that the arrear was expected to stabilise within weeks and start moving down.
According to the latest RoS figures, the February 2020 arrear stands at 57,581, an increase of 43.95% on the “unacceptable” 2018 figure.
In the same 2018 response, RoS stated that it “wishes to reassure customers and citizens that this is an administrative process that will not impact them in any way”. This is simply untrue. Rejection of an application after two years or more could have very serious consequences and, despite its new non-rejection policy, over 200 applications were rejected in its first seven months. RoS should amend its website to give a truthful explanation of the risks of rejection.
Despite its online admission, there seems to be a deafening silence over the arrear on the part of the Keeper and RoS. The Keeper’s monthly blog covering a wide variety of subjects makes no mention of it, and the most recently published RoS board minute (October 2019) has nothing to say. The August minute noted that “backlog growth is on track to be arrested. Prior to interventions taken over the last year over 250 applications per week were being added to the arrear and this has been reduced to 4”. As the August arrear of 55,487 has increased to 57,581, arrest has clearly not been achieved, far less any progress towards the promised return of FR and TP applications to the published standards of six and nine months.
The Keeper, in her January blog, states she is “excited at being able to start to think more deeply about what RoS will become in 2025 when we have a complete land register”. Does anyone seriously believe that the register will be anything like complete by 2025, given that Keeper-induced registration has been all but abandoned for run of the mill private properties? Is it not time for RoS to concentrate on its most basic duty, the registration of title?
I call on RoS to give the profession some straight answers as to whether the August target for eradication of the arrear will be met, and if not, why not.
J Keith Robertson, Kingussie
Recently, for the fifth time in my career, I queried a title for a flat on two floors because the title deed only covered one floor. If you multiply the number of conveyancing solicitors in Scotland by five, there must be many more such defective titles in Scotland. On one occasion it proved impossible to correct the error, so the selling solicitors simply re-marketed the flat and sold it on, complete with the fundamental title fault, to some unsuspecting solicitor.
With property schedules containing multiple photographs and sometimes floor plans, the conveyancing solicitor can work out the configuration of a flat in three dimensions and then compare this with the title; but the first line of defence is to have a tickbox in your check-sheet entitled “Duplex flat?” A simple and cost free contribution to risk management.
Ashley Swanson, Aberdeen