I wish to share some of my firm’s experiences with the profession. My firm acted for a Mr P. He purchased a property in Ayr. A solicitor in this firm settled the transaction and registered the disposition and standard security in July 2011. Ultimately paper land and charge certificates were issued and were sent to the lenders, Santander. These appeared to be in the correct name with the correct lender, although Santander may have mislaid them.
We received the usual reminder from Santander seeking an update on the registration process, despite the fact we had already replied to them. Santander then wrote stating our panel status had been restricted and they threatened to terminate our panel appointment and submit a complaint to the Law Society of Scotland. They had checked the Land Register and noted that no charge had been registered in their favour. The solicitor in this firm subsequently did check the Land Register online and also found that there were no registered charges at all against the property and that the property was in the name of the previous owners, a Mr & Mr T.
It would appear that the Keeper’s office had somehow or other, when dealing with the registration of two discharges, done something with the title so that it reverted to the previous owners' names and showed no charge to Santander.
The explanation from the Registers was that the examiner for the latter application of the two discharges appears to have imported from their system the version of the title which existed prior to receipt of our client’s application, rather than the version which existed after our client’s application had been processed. Quite how this could happen is beyond us. This had the effect of bringing in the previous proprietors' names with the two outstanding securities, and these securities were then removed when the discharges were registered.
The matter is completely puzzling to us and we have had correspondence with the Conveyancing Committee and the Guarantee Fund Committee of the Society.
On providing a full explanation and the Keeper’s apology, Santander immediately reinstated us to the panel.
The experience was a frightening one and it was most unpleasant to be put in the forefront of a potential negligence claim and complaint and the consequences which follow from that.
The Keeper has apologised and the Keeper has paid a fee for the time corresponding to one hour of partner’s time and two hours of an associate’s time to rectify this problem.
All is well that ends well, but the major concern is “can we rely on the Registers?” How can this sort of thing happen? Will it happen again? What would have happened if the Keeper had not owned up?
We are concerned about the accuracy of the Registers and about the quality of the service, although we are assured that the Keeper is introducing a quality management system to ensure the chances of human error are kept to a very low level. We appreciate no system can guarantee 100% accuracy, but this is the first time we have come across such a glaring and seemingly inexplicable error. Who knows what will happen when ARTL is more fully adopted (if at all).
Have any other members of the profession had similar experiences, as I would be interested to debate the issue.
Scotland has historically always had a reliable Land (Sasine) Register, but I fear that that historic situation is about to change for the worse.David Adie, Adie Hunter, Glasgow