Blog post by Jennifer Henderson, Keeper of the Registers of Scotland.
I’m continuing to send you regular updates to outline the measures that Registers of Scotland (RoS) are taking in response to the ongoing public health emergency resulting from the Coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic and how these measures have been helping your businesses and customers.
The Scottish Government’s current guidance for people buying or selling private residential homes in Scotland during the COVID-19 pandemic advises people to delay moving to a new home while stay-at-home measures are in place. The Government recommends that in all circumstances, buyers and sellers should speak to their solicitor.
Ministers continue to work with the Law Society of Scotland and others to ensure that Government guidance is clear for professional advisers, including solicitors, about when they should settle transactions and when they should not.
Why it is important for RoS to remain open at this time
- To process those essential house moves that are permitted to take place under the terms of the current Government regulations
- To continue to process those transactions which don’t require physical moves, such as re-mortgages and some commercial property deals
Recognising that it is important for RoS to continue operating during this period and get, as quickly as possible, to the position where all types of transaction that need progress can do so as smoothly as possible for all parties, I am pleased to be able to tell you about the progress we have made in mitigating the impact of having to temporarily close the application record.
I told you in last week’s update that RoS had successfully launched our new digital portal for the submission of advance notices. This built on our interim process that was introduced to mitigate the impact of the temporary closure of the application record.
I am pleased to report that the digital portal for advance notices continues to perform very well. The feedback we have received from customer has been wholly positive and the Law Society of Scotland tells us that the new process is working effectively and safely for its members.
We are successfully processing up to 100 advance notices per day via the new digital submissions process.
For full details of how the digital solution for advance notices works and to watch a video demonstration, please visit the RoS website.
Excellent progress has been made this week to develop a system to enable the digital submission of actual applications and live deeds into our property registers.
The technical solution is now in the private beta testing phase and we are grateful to customers in our user (UX) panel who are engaged in this process. Other aspects which would enable us to switch this system on for all customers, such as risk mitigation and providing additional remote working capability for RoS colleagues, are also being put in place.
We are keen to launch a live version of the digital system for applications and live deeds as soon as possible but it is important for the testing phase to be rigorous and that its roll-out is aligned to the needs of our customers. With this in mind, we are working very closely with the Law Society of Scotland to agree a scheduled roll-out of the digital system.
We have also been in discussions with the Law Society over a number of issues to ensure that solicitors feel comfortable using the digital system while adhering to the latest government guidelines for people buying or selling land and property during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The development of a digital solution in this area is to meet our common objective of supporting Scotland’s property market during what is a very challenging time for everyone.
We expect to announce an update on our progress in this area before the end of this month.
In line with ongoing guidance from Government and NHS Scotland, our buildings remain closed and all RoS staff who are able to work from home continue to do so.
Our Customer Service colleagues continue to deliver expert support and advice. As of noon on Friday 17 April I am happy to confirm that we have resolved all enquiries that are within RoS’ control. A small number of unresolved cases outwith RoS’ control are for solicitors to resolve on behalf of their clients.
I would like to take the opportunity to emphasise that, for any transaction which needs to proceed and which is not covered by the provisions outlined above, or for any registration service which you need and which you believe you cannot currently access, please do continue to contact RoS Customer Services.
In many cases they will be able to solve the problem, or for the more unusual issues they will be able to arrange for one of our senior advisors to speak to you, and we will work with you to find a resolution to the issue.
We continue to update the RoS website with the latest guidance.
Reopening the application record
The introduction of the digital submission service does not constitute or indicate the reopening of the application record. This will only happen when I am confident it is the right time to do so in consultation with the Law Society.
Law Society of Scotland
Throughout this process, we continue to work closely with the Law Society to agree that our innovations, such as the digital portal and interim measures, are what their members and clients need to settle transactions.
Solicitors with any queries in respect of the Law Society guidance concerning the measures that are in place to mitigate the impact of the health emergency should contact the Law Society’s Professional Practice team by email to discuss their case.
A bespoke email address firstname.lastname@example.org is available for general questions about RoS processes and procedures during the Covid-19 outbreak.
If there are is anything else you would like to bring to my attention during this period, please email FAO Jennifer Henderson: email@example.com.
Jennifer Henderson, Keeper of the Registers of Scotland